EMPLOYERS face having to provide protective footwear to staff who work outdoors after a landmark ruling in a case where a care worker fell, injuring herself on an icy path outside a patient's home.

Tracey Kennedy suffered serious damage to her wrist when she slipped while working for Cordia as a home carer in Glasgow during the severe winter of 2010 while she made her way to see the terminally ill client.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh has found the company at fault for not providing Ms Kennedy with proper footwear, such a spiked snow shoes, which could have prevented her fall. Cordia failed to give proper guidance on what she should wear in the conditions to avoid slipping.

UNISON have warned that the judgement will have major implications for all firms that send their employees out of the workplace as it places the onus squarely on them to ensure that staff remain safe.

Mandy McDowall, the union's regional organiser for Glasgow City branch welcomed the ruling, saying: "At a time of major attacks on health and safety laws, this is an important decision that a wide range of public service workers should benefit from.

"We have always said that employers should risk assess everything their employees do, or workplace accidents and injuries will be an issue. We would expect employers to take this judgement on board and review their health and safety policies on provision of suitable footwear.

"This will have widespread implications for all sorts of jobs, including school crossing patrol staff, traffic wardens and many others, as well as in the health service and other areas."

Miss Kennedy is now in line for a substantial payout, although the amount will be decided at a later date.

The court heard that she and another worker had gone to the client's house at night to provide essential care services.

Conditions underfoot were extremely wintry, and the pair parked a short distance from the house because of ice on the road.

The care worker, who was wearing boots at the time, tumbled over as she made her way down a path which was covered in ice topped with snow which had not been gritted.

Lord McEwan rejected arguments by Cordia that Miss Kennedy could have made the decision not to go out that night because conditions were too hazardous, saying that she was on "an errand of mercy".

In his judgement, he said: "I have some sympathy with the defenders. They have many employees and a range of activities. They will not have an unlimited budget.

"Everyone has to live and work through winters.

"However, the modern legislation caters for all that. Safety is to be levelled upwards.

"There are, even in this strict legislation, ways for defenders to cover liability and that is to have a proper risk assessment and to properly consider other means which are equally or more effective. In this case neither of those things was done."

Miss Kennedy's solicitor, Iona Brown from Digby Brown Solicitors said: "This is a significant result for my client and for all workers who work for the benefit of others in dangerous weather conditions.

"Employers often think nothing of providing their employees with work wear that is little more than branding whilst baulking at paying a few pounds on equipment that could prevent serious injury."

Cordia declined to comment on the judgment.