This article was published on March 22nd, 2013
The government’s plans to remove civil liability for employers that have breached their health and safety duties were defeated in Parliament earlier this month. Peers voted in favour of keeping the current regulations as they are, which means that companies could still be forced to pay work accident compensation to staff who staff suffer injuries in the workplace.
Statistics provided by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show that standards are improving in the UK and that we have a favourable record when compared with most countries in Europe.
However in 2011/12, 173 people did not return home from work, while thousands of employees suffered serious injuries, which in some cases had life-changing consequences.
The number of workplace fatalities in 2012 fall by 12 per cent when compared to the five-year average, but more still needs to be done to protect employees, especially in dangerous professions like construction, manufacturing and agriculture.
One area that is of particular concern is falls from height, as this type of accident still accounts for the majority of workplace accidents.
Already this week, the courts have had to deal with a number of work accident compensation cases where companies that have failed to safeguard their employees when working off the floor.
A self-employed worker was given a £1,250 fine after a friend who was helping him on a job fell through the roof of a disused factory. The man only fell from a height of three metres, but he still suffered painful injuries, including a broken elbow.
The HSE insisted that the work was not planned correctly and the accident could have been easily prevented.
In a similar case, a local council was given a £7,000 fine after a caretaker fell from a shed roof at a school. The 61-year-old had not received any training on how to work safely at height, despite the fact he had been employed by the school for six years before the accident.
HSE inspector Sue Adsett reiterated just how dangerous this type of work can be.
“Falls from height are the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry but proper planning and simple precautions, such as working from platforms below when possible and using edge protection, can reduce the risks,” she remarked.
“Working on roofs is potentially dangerous and must be approached in a professional way.”
Figures show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011/12.
With the government’s plans to remove public liability for companies that breach health and safety laws being thrown out, firms will continue to face expensive claims if they do not adequately protect their staff.
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