Health and Safety – It's Not "Something Dumb"


Over the weekend, Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling announced new legislation regarding health and safety in the workplace.

Worker Disappointed with New Legislation

He described how employees who do "something dumb" would no longer be awarded any damages if they hurt themselves, as long as their employers had taken "sensible steps" to ensure safety. Emma Roberts, Partner in Simpson Millar LLP's Personal Injury team was eager to rebut these comments:

"Mr Grayling has once again shown his total disregard and misunderstanding for the importance of Health and Safety consideration at work and in public places. I think it is also extremely telling of his motive that he once again wants to "send a message" to the Trade Unions with his comments in the Telegraph suggesting that they simply chase every opportunity to win compensation for their members who have just done something "dumb".

Short Sighted

"He seems to always overlook the benefits of looking after employees' health and safety and how this has, since the First World War, not only increased productivity in the workplace but shown us as a country that cares for the wellbeing of those who contribute to its success. So much effort has been put in to build up laws that offer the right level of protection, and actions like these really run a risk of knocking that wall down.

"Employee deaths in 2013/14 were still at 133, surely even one is too many?

"Whilst I appreciate that the proposed Bill, which just seems costly and unnecessary in its content, does not remove all responsibility for health and safety, it offers another sharpening of the knife to those who feel that cutting through the so called "red tape" will not cost lives. I would like to know on what evidence he relies upon, that heroic actions are prevented by health and safety laws? The circumstances surrounding an accident are already considered when a court hands down a judgment and his suggestion that they are not makes a mockery of the judiciary he purports to oversee.

Tarnished with a Dirty Brush

"All too often are those who bring successful personal injury claims as a result of a negligent action or a breach of statutory duty tarnished with a dirty brush. No reference is ever made to the conduct of the insurance industry when handling these matters or the costs built up by their defence of cases that involve clear health and safety breaches on the hope that the injured party will be put off of in fear of the prospect of attending court. He references to claims for "minor" accidents being one of the problems. The trouble with this is what is minor to him and his peers may not be minor to someone else.

"A postal worker or shop assistant losing 4 weeks of pay or overtime through no fault of their own won’t consider their loss minor, and a loss in wages of that level can impact on their health and home life for months to come."

Compensation for situations and losses such as these can be a lifeline.

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