Partner and Head of Wills & Estate Planning at Andrew & Co Solicitors Helen Newson writes...
Businesses Urged to Take Workplace Safety More Seriously
- AuthorMichael Pace
The Health and Safety Executive has issued an appeal to employers in the East Midlands to strive towards making the workplace safer. They quote their own statistics showing that in the year 2013/14 there were 1,552 injuries reported in Nottinghamshire and 1,252 injuries reported in Lincolnshire. Regrettably there were also two deaths at work in both counties.
Of course these are only the serious cases and do not include all the other accidents where no report was made.
As a solicitor dealing with personal injury claims I see a lot of clients who have been injured at work. Very few of these injuries have been reported to the HSE. This is very often down to the employer having poor systems in place and sometimes not even knowing what the reporting requirements are or deliberately turning a blind eye in order to avoid an HSE investigation.
Any HSE investigation is costly to the employer in terms of both time involved in having to answer questions and also lost production while employees are spoken to or giving a written statement. On top of this, if the HSE decides there has been a ‘material breach’ of any regulations then the whole cost of the investigation is levied on the employer. This is quite often a bill for many thousands of pounds.
I also come across clients who tell me that their place of work is so badly managed from a health and safety point of view that an accident is simply waiting to happen. This is not always, as one might expect, in smaller workplaces, but often in large manufacturing businesses which have a lot of people working on the shop floor.
Problems arise in not having a safe place of work, with clearly marked out pedestrian and vehicle routes which are kept clear of debris and stock, to allow free and safe movement about the shop floor.
Occasionally, it is down to a failure to supply appropriate gloves for the job in hand and to have a supply available when new ones are needed. I have seen cloth and woollen type gloves being supplied to workers exposed to and handling toxic materials, when rubber gloves are required. These would have ensured no skin contact occurred and thus prevented injury and long-term skin problems. Also, short gloves allowing exposure of the wrist and forearm have been provided by the employer when gauntlets or longer gloves are necessary for full protection.
I also see cases where cheap dust masks are provided when a proper ventilator type mask should be used owing to fumes, which can easily penetrate a dust mask. The wrong type of mask can lead to lung disease and chronic illness, resulting in a claim against the employer.
Employers should ensure that their staff are properly trained and assessed in the use of machinery and should not take the employee’s word. The courts have made it very clear that responsibility lies with the employer in this scenario.
Of course, some accidents will occur no matter what safety regime is in place. However, proper training and regular safety checks will mean that accidents are kept to a minimum and the cost of a visit from the HSE is avoided.