Are we/should we be returning to Victorian values??
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Thankfully times have changed for the better.
Of course, companies in business need to make a profit. However, that profit often depends on their workers, and those workers are in my opinion entitled to come home at the end of the day alive and with all their limbs still intact.
Since those times, English Common Law gradually developed to provide protection for workers and employees who are often working in dangerous conditions. It became recognised that they should be protected against the risk of death or personal injury.
When the current Health & Safety regulations came into force throughout Europe, the regulations were largely based upon our own Common Law which already applied throughout England and Wales. However, having the regulations clarified and set down in regulations and directives certainly helped everybody to understand and interpret them, as well as giving them a thorough overhaul so that they would apply to the modern day.
Those regulations have saved countless lives and prevented countless injuries. Fatal accidents at work have fallen from just under 350 in 1992/93 to 171 in 2010/11. Non-fatal accidents have fallen from just under 1,000,000 in 2003/04 to 603,000 in 2010/11, an annual reduction of some 3-6%.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have the job of enforcing the regulations against employers who continue to flout them.
You may think that in this day and age, surely stories like those I have told above just donâ€™t happen? I receive a weekly update from the HSE website in which they report cases where companies found to be in breach of the regulations, usually following an accident in the workplace, are fined as a result.
For example in one weekly report the following breaches had occurred â€“
-Worker died after falling into liquid waste at a global steel company â€“ fine Â£500,000
-Worker narrowly escaped death in fall at construction company â€“ fine and costs Â£160,000
-Worked fractured spine in fall at abattoir â€“ fine Â£25,000
-Bricklayer seriously injured in fall at construction company â€“ fine Â£13,000
-Worker's legs crushed by cargo container at Essex port â€“ fine Â£20,000
-Construction worker exposed to asbestos ( a killer disease) â€“ fine Â£4,100
These are not just statistics; they are real people with families and lives which can be devastated by an accident at work.
The press often talk about over regulation and needing to free up the health and safety burden on businesses. Whilst I appreciate everyone wants to get rid of red tape, too much bureaucracy and over burdensome paperwork, but do we want employees to be put at risk? How would you feel if it happened to you or someone you knew? Accidents at work can have a devastating effect on not only those injured but family, friends and work colleagues. A balance needs to be struck, but surely the protection of workers should be of paramount importance.
I often read about the supposed 'compensation culture' and how the 'powers that be' want to make it more difficult for victims to bring claims after an accident. I for one will continue to be proud to call myself a Personal Injury Solicitor and help those who need it.
For further information or advice on any of the above issues, please contact Julia Prior, an Associate in our Personal Injury team, on 023 8085 7316 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, please fill in our Contact form and we will call you back.
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