Living is dangerous for your health
In the last year, the Health and Safety Executive has produced a new publication every month except February. Personal injury law specialist Nick Richardson, who acts in many cases of accidents in the workplace, has dutifully read and digested the material and reports on his findings.
The year’s worth of booklets cover such arcane topics as child safety on farms, offshore installations and using electric storage batteries safely. According to Nick, there is a much greater danger with electric storage batteries than he realised – he thought they simply exploded if you threw them in the fire!
Many of the publications, which are available in a mind-boggling 28 languages, are advertised as ‘essentials’. This suggests we cannot hope to carry out our daily work without the essential guide to ‘elastomric seals for rapid gas decompression applications in high pressure services’.
“Most sane people would agree that we are over-regulated and would probably cite the proliferation of this type of publication as a good example” comments Nick. “However they exist for a good reason. Employers are not good at keeping up to date with health and safety developments and there are persistent breaches of basic and common sense safety issues in addition to failings in specialist and high tech areas. During last year these failings contributed to 220 fatal accidents, 30,203 major accidents (not involving a fatality) and 120,346 minor accidents.
“Putting these statistics into context, records kept by the European Agency for Health and Safety at work reveal that every 5 seconds an EU worker is involved in a work-related accident and one worker dies in an accident at work every 2 hours.”
It is essential for employers to be fully aware of the regulations that govern the business they are involved in, and to put into force and monitor systems designed to ensure compliance with the best practice identified in those regulations. The aim is to make the work place as safe as reasonably practicable while still allowing business to be conducted in a cost-effective way. Striking a balance is difficult but not impossible.
Nick reminds employers that they owe a duty to their workforce. He says: “All too often systems are put in place and recorded in the employer’s health and safety manual, but without any attempt to ensure that those things happen. It is not enough for workers simply to be given the manual to read.
“For the human cost in every industrial accident there is a cost to the employer in terms of disruption, lost production and the cost of supporting the injured worker and hiring a temporary replacement. These human and financial burdens could be greatly reduced if care was taken. Accidents will still happen but we must all work towards eliminating those that stem from a failure to take care. All businesses would be well advised to look carefully at their practices, systems and paperwork and seek expert help as necessary.”
Associate Nick Richardson is an expert in personal injury law and a long-standing. member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Panel. Contact email@example.com