The prevention of accidents and claims for injury in the work place

The importance of complying with Health and Safety Law is vital to prevent avoidable accidents in the workplace. Ultimately compliance will reduce personal injury claims made by employees and visitors to the premises for injury which in turn will lead to the smooth running of your business.

One of the most important considerations to ensure the safety of your employees whilst performing their job is to ensure you provide suitable personal protective equipment to them. Whilst this may seem obvious, suitable protective clothing is often inappropriately addressed.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require every employer to;

“…..make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed to whilst they are at work….”.

The risk assessment must identify any hazard, who may be harmed by the hazard, how that individual may be harmed and how the hazard/ harm can be reduced. Steps must then be taken to reduce any harm that may be caused.

In a manufacturing setting, personal protective equipment is of paramount importance and can protect an employee from injury provided appropriate consideration has been given to the type of protective equipment provided.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 state;

“…..every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health and safety while at work…..” and;

“…...before choosing any personal protective equipment…….an employer or self-employed persons shall ensure that an assessment is made to determine whether the personal protective equipment he intends to provide will be suitable….”.

Failure to provide personal protective equipment, or appropriate personal protective equipment, can have serious consequences for the business and life changing consequences for the employee.

The case

We have previously acted on behalf of an employee who worked on a production line and whose job involved layering fibreglass sheets, which were glued by a machine, and then hand manoeuvred to a racking area for drying and storage.

The employee was provided with personal protective equipment, namely a disposable plastic apron (which was disposed of at the end of each shift) gloves and safety glasses for use on the production line.

The fibreglass sheets exited the machine on conveyor ropes and, unbeknown to the employee, the ropes were coated in caustic acid to prevent the fibreglass sheets becoming stuck to the conveyor ropes.

As the employee manoeuvred the fibreglass sheets, the bottom of the sheets rubbed against the plastic apron and burnt through it. The acid also burnt through the employee’s clothing.

The employee suffered with severe caustic acid burns to his stomach. His skin became necrotic and extensive excision surgery was required to remove dead tissue and a skin graft had to be harvested from his thigh.

The manufacturer had clearly acknowledged the need for some form of personal protective equipment. However they had not considered the appropriateness of the personal protective equipment provided and whether it was sufficient for the task in hand.

Businesses are required by law to report injury, diseases or dangerous occurrence’s (Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence’s Regulation 2013) to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and depending on the seriousness of the occurrence the HSE will then determine whether to investigate and prosecute a business if there have been serious failures.

The cost

In the case cited above, the HSE did investigate and the company were prosecuted for their failings. The employee also successfully brought a claim for injury against the business.

The lesson learned

It is therefore of great importance both for the business themselves and also their employees to ensure strict compliance with all Health and Safety Law to avoid unnecessary accidents and to ensure the safety of their employees, and hopefully avoid a HSE prosecution and/or fine.

About the author

Rachael Flanagan Legal Executive

Rachael deals with various types of personal injury accidents ranging from road traffic accidents, accidents at work, trip and slips and claims involving animals.