Accidents at work
Employers are required to comply with health and safety legislation, and as a result, workers are entitled to assume that they the environment in which they work is safe. However, accidents in the workplace, which are often very serious, do still happen.If an employee suffers from accidents at work , they may be able to bring a personal injury claim. Like in any other personal injury claims you need to be able to show that the defendant (in this instance your employer) owed you a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty and that the breach has then caused loss which is reasonably foreseeable.
Duty of Care
Within the work place the employer is under a duty to take reasonable care of his employees’ health and safety. This means in practice that the employer needs to provide health checks if dealing with hazardous work, supplying safety equipment (gloves, masks, ear defenders etc) to protect employees from injury and medical equipment to mitigate any potential injuries. The care that has to be provided is reasonable and not absolute. There are three particular areas which should be considered in particular when looking at the next area which is a breach of duty.
Breach of Duty
As mentioned above there are three main areas which should be considered when looking if the duty has been breached, they are competent staff, adequate plant and a safe system of work.
The employer is under a duty to ensure that reasonable care is taken to provide competent fellow works to other employees. If the employer has employed an incompetent employee and another employee is injured because of their actions then the employer may be personally liable. When looking at this duty the Courts will consider the extent of the knowledge that the employer will have when employing someone with regard to their ability.
This means anything used in the course of work. From the large machinery to basic equipment. The employer has to take reasonable steps to provide adequate equipment to do the job and then maintain it. If you then suffer accidents at work because the equipment is inadequate then the employer may be liable.
If they do provide adequate equipment they do have to ensure that it is kept in good working order. The court will consider current practice when looking at what is considered adequate maintenance. They will consider depending on the equipment inspection and service records, reports of defects, replacing worn out parts, steps taken to repair equipment and cleaning rotas as well as anything else which applies to the individual case.
The duty with regard to adequate plant also applies to provision of safety and protective equipment.
Safe System of Working:
This is a very wide duty and again the Courts will consider the facts of each case. They cover things such as the layout of the plant, the order work is done in, the method that it is done, provision of instructions and provision of proper warnings and notices. So continuing with our asbestos example if the employer was to fail to provide proper warnings about the risks of working with the tools or fails to supply proper instructions with how to deal with it then it’s possible that the employer may be liable.
How reasonable does an employer have to be?
When employers want to avoid liability for accidents at work you must consider what steps would be considered reasonable. The first thing that should be noted is that it is not an absolute duty of care but in general a high standard is required. The Court will consider certain factors when considering whether the steps the employer took was reasonable. This includes the cost and effort of adopting precautions to overcome the risk and the seriousness of the injury risked, current trade practice, knowledge of the risk and existing disability of the employee. Obviously the greater the risk the greater the level for what is considered reasonable. In the case of machinery that could cause serious harm then the employer is likely to be found to have a high burden when it comes to protecting his employees from the risks.
Remoteness of Damage and Causation
The final factor that has to be considered to establish your employer is liable for the damage is that the damage or illness that you are suffering from was foreseeable. You can recover for damage which is reasonably foreseeable or damage can be shown to flow directly as a consequence of the breach.
Causation is normally fairly clear cut in standard work accident claims. However problems can emerge when considering occupational illnesses. Especially if you have worked for two or more companies who may have exposed you to the risk of the illness you are now suffering from.
FAIRCHILD V GLENHAVEN FUNERAL SERVICES
Fortunately a 2002 House of Lords case has clarified the matter somewhat. They held that if there has been employment with more than one employer and:
(a) both employers had a duty to take reasonable care to prevent the Claimant from inhaling asbestos dust, and
(b) both were in breach of that duty, and
(c) the claimant did subsequently suffer from mesothelioma
then the claimant was able to recover from both employers. All the Claimant had to prove was that a defendant had materially increased the risk of injury/illness
To help put this in perspective we will run through a small example:
John works in a factory in which he has to use a saw.
The employer is under a duty to take reasonable steps to protect the employees from harm. This includes supplying him with the correct protective equipment safeguard the employees.
However when they purchased the saw they failed to purchase a guard that would protect the employees from harm. These guards are inexpensive but would cut the risk dramatically.
John goes on to lose several of his fingers using the saw as there is no guard to protect him.
There is a duty of care from the employer, it is likely that he breached the duty by failing to purchase the guard and it is reasonably foreseeable that there was a risk that he could lose his fingers because of the breach.
More Information on Accidents At Work
Irrespective of where you work, your employer is required, by statutory law, to make sure that your working environment is safe.
As well as being protected by a common law duty of care, workers are also protected by a raft of statutory law covering every type of potentially harmful situations workers find themselves in at work.
- The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover general accidents in the workplace such as trips and slip and traffic routes, accidents caused by poor lighting and ventilation;
- The Work at Height Regulations 2005 ensure minimum safety standards are in place to cover workers who undertake such a dangerous activity;
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations cover the training and use of potentially dangerous equipment in the workplace and;
- The Manual Handling Directive 1990 ensures that employees are protected from lifting injuries in the workplace.
These are just a few examples of an array of Health & Safety legalisation designed to ensure that people stay safe in the workplace.
For expert advice on the application these laws, please contact professional team on 0800 014 8727. The call is free and we are more than happy to discuss the details of your case with you and discuss the possibility of dealing with your case on a no win no fee basis. Alternatively fill out the form to the right and we will call you back at a time suitable for you.