Health and safety and common sense

Health and safety should be common sense

Our Government is very concerned about health and safety, as well as the compensation culture, claims management companies, and no win no fee advertising.

In a review published as “A report by Lord Young of Graffham to the Prime Minister following a Whitehall‑wide review of the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture” the only statistics shown told us major injuries at work are declining. The only graph in the report is at page 44.

The report is extraordinary in many ways. It is “a Whitehall-wide review” based more on perception than fact, and we would like to tell you more.

Here are some quotes:

“Despite the success of the (Health and Safety) Act, the standing of health and safety in the eyes of the public has never been lower, and there is a growing fear among business owners of having to pay out for even the most unreasonable claims. Press articles recounting stories where health and safety rules have been applied in the most absurd manner, or disproportionate compensation claims have been awarded for trivial reasons, are a daily feature of our newspapers.”

Health and safety is designed to prevent accidents and injury. Health and safety is not meant to be a rod to beat an employer. If employers ignore the need to apply best practice then they will of course face claims for compensation.

“Businesses now operate their health and safety policies in a climate of fear. The advent of ‘no win, no fee’ claims and the all-pervasive advertising by claims management companies have significantly added to the belief that there is a nationwide compensation culture. The ‘no win, no fee’ system gives rise to the perception that there is no financial risk to starting litigation; indeed some individuals are given financial enticements to make claims by claims management companies who are in turn paid ever-increasing fees by solicitors. Ultimately, all these costs are met by insurance companies who then increase premiums. However, any employer not covered by accident insurance faces bankruptcy, which encourages them to follow every recommendation of their health and safety consultant, no matter how absurd.”

An employer must have employers liability insurance by law. The approach is back to front. Why not operate a reasonably safe working environment and avoid injury to and compensation claims by your workforce.

“The incentives for claiming compensation have to change. The system must be fair and proportionate without placing an excessive financial burden on the losing party. Claimants have a legal right to make fair and reasonable claims without undue bureaucracy. I propose that the scheme recently introduced for road traffic accidents be extended to cover straightforward personal injury claims. This will deliver a simple, cheaper and quicker resolution of claims. I also propose tighter regulation of advertising by claims management companies.”

Concentrating on making the compensation process cheaper seems to be the answer. Why not concentrate on the cause of accidents and injury?

No research quoted, just comments. What people think, and what the newspapers say. Not a great foundation for reducing the teeth of a health and safety system which has produced a reduction in accidents in the workplace. By all means tidy up round the edges, but don’t add to regulation, and don’t try to reinvent a wheel which is doing fine, except of course for what people and the newspapers say.

One of the themes of the report is the amount paid out in compensation and costs for negligent treatment in the NHS. The complaint is that claims are being paid because of the fear of legal costs, not because the treatment was below standard in the first place. The same is said of companies. This is the mentality of the Victorian mill owner of yesteryear complaining he can no longer send children under the machines to grease them.

Carelessness and the lack of forethought cause accidents and poor medical treatment, not compensation.

Call for help without obligation on 01392 314086

About Mark Thompson

Personal injury and accident specialist solicitor
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