New research suggests more than a quarter of employees in the UK feel their bosses are failing to maintain high standards of health and safety in the workplace – leaving them at an increased danger of suffering an injury.
Despite health and safety being blamed for creating a ‘nanny state’ in some quarters – seven in 10 UK workers say they recognise its importance to protect their health, and that of their work colleagues.
Four in 10 people surveyed said they knew of someone who had been injured in an accident at work, with it is estimated that a total of around 611,000 injuries occurred in UK workplaces in 2014/15.
Of those, 142 people were killed whilst doing their jobs.
Now, according to those questioned in a recent survey for personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors, employees at many firms feel not enough is being done to make them feel that their health and well-being is a priority.
The research showed;
• More than a quarter of workers feel their employers fail to meet high Health and Safety Standards
• 4 in 10 people know of someone who has been injured in an accident at work
• Almost half would worry about the repercussions of taking legal action against their employers should they suffer an accident at work (45.8%)
• 84% of people don’t realise claims for loss and injury can be made up to three years after accidents at work – even if they have long left the company responsible.
‘Staff are taking risks – and employers are letting them’
Matt Tuff, a specialist in handling compensation claims for people injured in an accident at work at Hudgell Solicitors, says the research suggests many workers employees feel unable to voice their concerns should their working practices not meet Health and Safety requirements, leaving them taking risks.
“It is a situation we see all too often. Employers expect their staff to go to extra lengths to get the job done, at times using equipment which hasn’t been properly maintained or checked, or on which the worker hasn’t been specifically trained. People come and go at businesses, and sometimes these things are overlooked over time,” said Mr Tuff.
“We see many situations where staff take risks simply to get the job done, risking injury to themselves. That could be by working without the relevant safety equipment, or by using tools which are known to be faulty.
“On other occasions, health and safety regulations will be breached on a daily basis, often with staff saying it has ‘always been done that way. These situations can simply be missed by people in positions of seniority, or even ignored.”
Mr Tuff says he has not been surprised by those who were surveyed saying they may be reluctant to pursue legal action against their employers due to fear of repercussions, something he hears as the primary concern from many who contact him for advice after injury.
“The simple fact is that an employer has a responsibility to its staff to ensure their safety at all times, and injuries suffered can have a long-term impact on an individual’s health, and their family life if they are unable to work and earn for a significant amount of time,” Mr Tuff added.
“We know some people fear possible repercussions, but companies have to do all they can to protect their staff from injury or illness. They have liability insurance and, for the most part, an accident at work is likely to be covered by their policy.
“We have had many cases where companies have fully accepted their responsibilities, compensated their employee, made changes to working practices as a result of the legal case, and the employee has then continued to work for the same company into the future.”
Scaffolder suffered bleeding on brain after fall from stepladders
Matthew Burke was doing a job he had done many times before when he fell off stepladders at work and suffered a head injury causing bleeding on the brain – and almost costing him his life.
He had been manually lifting scaffolding onto shelving at his workplace – a job he had done almost every day. However, it was a work practice which broke health and safety laws given, the height and weight of objects being lifted without support or machinery.
Falling from the stepladders, his head felt the full force of impact with the concrete floor, leaving him having to learn to walk again, unable to work and unable to socialise. He was left scarred for life, and facing a battle for survival.
Matthew received a six-figure damages settlement after being represented by personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors, a settlement which enabled him to access vital rehabilitation and counselling support, as well as buy his own house for the future.
“I was doing something I did day in, day out at work, but it almost cost me my life. From being a fit and healthy 28-year-old man I went to being at death’s door in a matter of seconds, and that really brought it home to me how fragile life can be.”
“There were some dark days where I felt down after my injury, and I admit that I felt isolated. It was my counselling that helped lift my spirits, kept me positive and gave me some focus to where I was heading. I was calmer and more relaxed, and focussed on the end goal.”
Four years after his injury, Matthew is now back working in a less physical job role and competing in sports and marathons.
Factory worker left unable to work after injury awarded £100,000 damages
Factory worker David Warburton, 49, found himself out of work after being left unable to use his left following an accident at Warrington-based Avdel Metal Finishing, where his hand became trapped in machinery.
The accident happened when Mr Warburton was called to help by his junior colleague as a furnace machine he was operating, but had not been trained in using, had jammed.
Mr Warburton said it was common practice for either he or the shift manager to repair machine faults if no fitters were available, despite not having had any training in machinery repair. He suffered a severed nerve and tendon in his index finger, and a ruptured tendon in his middle finger.
As part of the legal case, it was claimed the company had been negligent and in breach of its duty of care by failing to ensure equipment was suitable for purpose. It also faced allegations of failing to ensure work equipment was maintained and inspected at regular intervals, and failing to ensure all people who used work equipment had received adequate training.
Mr Warburton received damages of £100,000 to reflect his pain and suffering, and loss of earnings into the future, after being represented by Hudgell Solicitors.
Mr Tuff added: “Accidents at work have a major impact on the lives of many people we represent. It can be a major worry to find yourself unable to work and earn for your family, and that can place a lot of pressure on family life.
“We are passionate about ensuring people injured at work, through no fault of their own, aren’t left on the scrapheap or made to be the scapegoat.
“They deserve our support and legal expertise, and the best outcome is us securing them full compensation for their loss and suffering, and our legal case resulting in standards of health and safety being improved at the company involved.
“Hopefully, this research helps to highlight that many employers still have some way to go when it comes to protecting their employees from injury.”