Days after Lord Young’s report found that British industry is ‘burdened by unnecessary health and safety laws’, we are astounded and dismayed to learn that a Lancashire company has been fined just £1 over the death of a worker who fell 20ft when faulty scaffolding collapsed.Peter Walton’s widow Christine said the punishment was ‘an appalling joke’. Mrs Walton is also unhappy that Howorth’s has been allowed to pay back the fine at £1,000 a month to ‘allow the company to exist’. After the sentencing she said: “To say that I am appalled and shocked with the sentences is an understatement. Just £1 for my husband’s life is awful. Not only are the fines pitiful but it sends the completely wrong message out to the construction industry. In my opinion the system has shown that more worth has been put on preventing the firms going into administration than on my husband’s life, by imposing pathetic fines which in no way reflect the seriousness of the situation.” The scaffolding at a development in Altham collapsed because a nut had not been tightened correctly. The court heard that other blunders included the scaffolding being erected on broken concrete, being too far from the building and not having a guard rail. Gordon Birtwistle, Burnley MP, backed Mrs Walton and said: “The fine is an insult and makes a mockery of the prosecution. Mrs Walton has been left without a husband but this company has barely even been given a slap on the wrists.” Glen Mill was the principal contractor at the site and the scaffolding contractors were Howorth’s. Mr Walton, 55, of Thorton Cleveleys, had been employed by another sub-contractor, New Look. He suffered severe head injuries in the fall in May 2006 and died in the arms of his wife in hospital five weeks later. Mr Walton had been in a coma and never regained consciousness. Last month Glen Mill managing director Peter Shearer appeared at court with Ian Howorth, boss of Howorth Scaffolding, to admit health and safety breaches. Both firms had earlier pleaded guilty before magistrates to a charge of exposing to risk persons not in their employment, in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive. Judge Woolman said: “Glen Mill had been hit by the recession, had no real assets and had hardly traded since 2007. I am satisfied that the company does not have ready money to pay a large fine and that any fine will have to be paid out of future profits.” The judge allowed Howorth’s to pay at £1,000 a month, to “allow the company to exist”. After the case, HSE Inspector Ian Connor said: “This is an extremely sad case which once again shows how important it is to follow health and safety regulations. It’s vital that construction companies do more to prevent deaths and injuries in the future.” This tragic case is a reminder that construction sites are inherently dangerous, not inherently safe and that constant care and vigilence is needed to safeguard lives. Not only did Mr Walton die as a result of someone’s negligence, we are very concerned that the court was minded to ‘excuse’ the failures to ensure his safety at work on commercial grounds. It is extremely worrying that this attitude chimes perfectly with the approach taken by Lord Young in his report on the so-called ‘Compensation Culture’ in which he seeks to reduce industry’s ‘cost burden’ of compliance with UK health and safety legislation. In our opinion this judgement could be the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ if courts rush to embrace the mantra that our hard-won health & safety legislation can be set aside to suit employers’ financial constraints. If this is indeed the shape of things to come, then all construction site workers in the UK are going to be placed at greater risk in the future as the industry struggles to deal with public sector budget cuts and the increasing pressure to get the job done. When we factor in a 35% reduction in the HSE budget, which will result in fewer site inspections and therefore greater risk of cost cutting by employers, the message being sent out here is that not only can the construction industry duck its responsibilities by pleading poverty, the chances of being caught breaching the regulations are set to reduce significantly. Bonnar & Company specialises in personal injury claims on behalf of all construction workers. We help direct employees, sub-contractors, the self-employed and apprentices achieve justice and financial compensation. For a free, no obligation review of your claim please contact us today on 0800 163 978.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), has today warned Lord Young to keep the emphasis on safety, not cost cutting, when he starts consulting on the implementation phase following his recent report, published on 15th October.We are pleased to read that in response to Lord Young’s report Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive, echoed the views of trades unions and health and safety professionals that accident prevention not only saves lives but it saves money – a point hopefully not lost on the noble peer as he seeks to reduce the ‘burden’ on industry of complying with the nation’s health and safety laws. Mr. Mullarkey said: “We welcome the opportunity provided by Lord Young’s review to open debate into how accident prevention can contribute to the wellbeing of the nation and reduce costs. There is a great opportunity here for the Government to come up with something progressive and positive – this is a rare silver bullet moment with the opportunity to save lives, reduce injuries and cut costs. As we have said many times, good health and safety is good for everyone. And we’re not just talking about health and safety in workplaces, we are urging the Government to see the bigger picture of accident prevention; for example, if we can save one small child from being seriously burnt that will save the tax payer £250,000 as well as a lifetime of suffering for the child.” Despite RoSPA’s warning shot we are sorry to say that we are not at all encouraged that Lord Young is aiming to focus on the economic benefits of robust health & safety legislation. The evidence of the report points to an entirely different mindset. Lord Young panders to the myth of a compensation culture and then, bizarrely, perfoms a u-turn by dismissing it as a myth. He goes on to wax lyrical about the cost savings of REDUCING the scope of existing workplace safety regulations and ‘streamlining the bureaucracy’ associated with assuring the safety of members of the public who participate in sports and leisure pursuits. Furthermore, in a sweeping generalisation comprised of of half truths and ill-judged prejudice, he permits himself to distinguish between low-risk and high-risk situations in a rambling discourse on the perceived dangers and relative safety of industrial workplace and office environments. We wonder whether Lord Young actually read ANY of the numerous and freely available independent reports on accident cause and prevention when he was compiling his report. If he had he would have noticed that offices and shops can also be hazardous and unhealthy places if safety standards are allowed to slip. Lord Young’s report is worryingly biased in scope and worryingly short on ideas which will have a positive impact on the nation’s health and safety. Worker safety is clearly at risk during the up-coming consulting phase on the report’s implementaion. We are very concerned that the voices of reason will be drowned out by the forces of self-interest that would seek to re-create a dismissive, laissez-faire attitude towards health & safety in this country more befitting owners of ‘dark satanic mills’ where worker injury and death were commonplace and accepted norms. The British public at work and at play deserves much better than to have 150 years of hard won progress on health & safety undermined by the creation of a new mindset which empathises with employers who plead for a less ‘restrictive’ legal framework and outdoor activity organisers who bleat about cost and spurious barriers to their operation. Bonnar & Company exists to fight for the rights of hurt and injured people and we vigorously oppose any attempt to water down the standard of health and safety regulations in the UK. We deal with the damage caused by those who choose to bypass or ignore the existing laws, so heaven knows what’s in store if we allow our health and safety legislation to be pared back to suit short-term and woefully misguided commercial interests. If you have been hurt or injured in an accident at work, on the road or in a public place, or if you have developed an industrial illness or disease, you can call us FREE on 0800 163 978 for no obligation expert legal advice from a personal injury solicitor.
Cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and to local authority budgets announced in the spending review will make it easier for rogue employers to take unacceptable risks with the health and safety of thier workforce, the TUC claimed today.TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “In the last seven days health and safety has been hit by a triple whammy. The Young Review, which last week semed to rule out any commitment from the Government to the occupational health agenda, was followed this week by deep cuts to spending which will make it easier for employers to avoid their obligations under the law to keep their staff safe and well at work. More than a million workers are currently suffering from an illness or injury caused by their work and last year over 30 million days were lost due to work-related sickness absence.” It seems pretty clear to us that Lord Young’s favoured yardsticks of productivity and profitability are actually best served by a robust commitment to worker health and safety which will deliver fewer days lost to accident and injury. However, it seems that he is intent on rolling back the scope of existing health and safety regulations as part of his strategy to tackle the perceived problem of the compensation culture. If you have been hurt or injured in an accident at work you can call us FREE on 0800 163 978 for a no obligation review of your claim by a personal injury solicitor.
Lord Young of Graffam’s report on the nation’s health and safety legislation for the prime minister, unveiled last Friday, has been greeted with wild enthusiasm by the tabloid press, but are they telling the full story?.A “massive shake-up,” the Sun declared, was set to “rid Britain of its crippling compensation culture.” The Mail reckoned Lord Young had come up with “masterly plans for curbing the compensation culture and reforming our idiotic health and safety laws.” The Express heralded “the beginning of the end for the compensation culture.” The Star claimed to be in tune with the PM’s thoughts on the issue: “Cam: I’ll crush compo culture.” But what did Lord Young actually say? “The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is one of perception rather than reality…There was on overriding opinion that the health and safety agenda had been hijacked by the tabloid press, whose reports often contributed to misinterpretation and misunderstandings by regularly exaggerating and ridiculing instances which in reality have nothing at all to do with health and safety…There was a general agreement that the rise of a compensation culture is largely a myth perpretated by the national press.” So there it is then. According to Lord Young, the PM’s appointee as special adviser and the report’s author, there is no compensation culture. However, there is a lot of media hysteria around and unfortunately the tabloids, true to form, have already hijacked the report for their own ends. What we need is a strong statement from the PM’s office declaring the compensation culture to be a myth but we fear that even Downing Street is not above tweaking Lord Young’s report to suit its own agenda on the topic. Bonnar & Company fights for the rights of hurt and injured people and their families. We do not subscribe to the notion of a compensation culture and we will continue to represent the interests of our clients who have suffered as a result of others’ negligence whether at work, on the road or in a public place. Accident victims are under increasing pressure from insurance companies to settle their claim for less than its true value and that is why people seeking personal injury compensation need experience and expertise on their side. For a free review of your claim and expert legal advice , please contact us on: FREEphone 0800 163 978