Lord Young of ‘Gaffem’…

So farewell then Lord Young of Graffham.

You resigned after you made a gaffe.

You claimed that most people had ‘never had it so good.’

Unfortunately this just isn’t true,

Like much of your ‘Common Sense Common Safety’ review.

Adieu.

‘Bananas’ Bus Slips Up In Bridge Crash

A passenger had a lucky escape when a bus hit a low bridge and had its roof sliced off in Edinburgh yesterday afternoon.

The double decker crashed into a rail bridge near Murrayfield Stadium and fortunately the man on the top deck suffered only minor injuries after being thrown into the stairwell by the impact.

Thankfully, the driver and three other passengers on the Go Bananas bus – which is hired out for stag and hen parties – also escaped unhurt.

This incident serves as a prime example of the need for the proper risk assessment of business activities involving members of the public and highlights the dangers of the wholesale watering down of safety standards recommended by Lord Young in his recent ‘Common Sense Common Safety’ report to the government. In his report Lord Young proposed to remove the burden on business by removing the statutory requirement for formal risk assessment across a wide range of commercial and not for profit enterprises because he believed the they were not inherently dangerous and that a proportionate response to health and safety risk was needed.

If a group of guys or girls had been upstairs on this bus at the time of the crash there would have been multiple fatalities and the tabloid press, quick to demonise accident victim compensation claims, would have been clamouring for evidence of route planning, driver training and of course, risk assessment…

Let’s hope the lesson has been learned by all concerned with this incident and that other private and public operated bus operators in Scotland take note that the health and safety of their passengers has to be their prime responsibility. Health and safey legislation is not a burden on enterprise it is a positive engine of business value, not least because the costs to the insurance industry are reduced if we all take care on the roads and elsewhere. At least on this ocassion we are not looking at wrongful death claims in addition to bus and bridge repair costs.

If you have been hurt or injured in an acident on public transport in Scotland within the last three years, please contact us for a FREE no obligation legal review of your case on 0800 163 978.

Cuts to legal aid bill deny workers access to justice says TUC

Major government reforms intended to cut the legal aid bill by £350m a year by 2015 will deny many workers injured or made ill by their work access to justice, unions have warned today.

The proposals announced by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke will dramatically reduce access to legal support, with employment and personal injury costs on the government hit list. Mr Clarke said: ‘I believe that the taxpayer should continue to provide legal aid to those who need it most and for serious issues.’ Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly was left to spell out changes to make life easier for defendants. ‘One of our key proposals is reforming the current ‘no win no fee’ regime,’ he said, adding the ‘proposals are designed to prevent the situation in which, regardless of the merits of their case, defendants are forced to settle for fear of prohibitive costs.’

Forgive me if I’m missing the obvious here, but don’t the defendants have their own legal team who fight for their interests? Who, pray tell, is forcing these poor, maligned, fearful and mercilessly bullied corporate behemoths into coughing up when there is no case to answer ‘regardless of the merits of the case’? It certainly isn’t our clients.

Mr. Djanogly’s statement epitomises this government’s attitude to the rights of disadvataged people seeking justice for personal injury. He seeks to demonise and bully accident victims whilst pedling the myth of a nation under seige from legions of fraudulent and spurious compensation claims.

Mr. Clark would appear to have so little faith in the justice system that he thinks the defendants, aka the insurance industry, need a little bit of help to keep their costs down, bless ’em. However, being a man of the people he wants to keep legal aid for those who need it most – well here’s a headline Ken – it’s only those who can prove they need it most, ie. people on very low incomes, who have even the slightest chance of getting legal aid for a personal injury action today.  

TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said the personal injury system already worked in favour of defendants, pointing out claims had fallen dramatically in recent years and only a minority of those with a genuine case actually pursue compensation. He added: ‘Workers rights to compensation are being attacked on all fronts. When ‘no win no fee’ arrangements for personal injury claims were introduced the government slashed access to legal aid, saying that it was no longer needed. Now, however, they are both reducing workers ability to access no win no fee arrangements and at the same time cutting legal aid even further.’

Rachael Maskell, Unite national officer for the not for profit sector, said what Kenneth Clarke had done was ‘silence the voices of the weak in British society in a brutal bid to reduce his department’s budget by 23 per cent over the next four years.’ She added Unite would redouble the efforts of its Justice for All campaign.

Hear, hear.

If you have been hurt or injured in an accident or have been diagnosed with an industrial illness or disease, you can discuss your case FREE OF CHARGE with a personal injury specialist at Bonnar & Company on 0800 163 978. We will advise you of your rights and give you impartial expert legal advice.

BP now under attack for a ‘culture of complacency’ in oil spill hearing

In stark contrast to the views expressed on Monday by Fred Bartlit, the panel’s chief investigator, new attacks were launched yesterday against BP and the other leading companies implicated in the April oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bill Reilly, a co-chairman of the presidential commission investigating the accident said:

“They all suffered from a ‘culture of complacency’ about safety. There was not a culture of safety on that rig. BP, Halliburton and Transocean are in need of top-to-bottom reform.”

The remarks from the panel’s chief investigator, Fred Bartlit, on Monday suggesting that greed had not been a factor in the tragedy and that BP, contrary to the assertions of some Democratic members of Congress, had not cut corners to save money, sparked wonderment and anger in some quarters yesterday.

Most controversial were Mr Bartlit’s comments repudiating the allegations of cost-cutting. “To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favour dollars over safety,” he told the hearing.

“Absolutely absurd,” declared Daniel Becnel, a lawyer suing BP and others over the spill, upon hearing of Mr Bartlit’s assessment. “The reason is it so absurd is because BP is known to paste over safety, especially if it involved money and downtime. They couldn’t afford any more downtime on that rig.”

The presidential commission will present its final report to the White House in January. It is seeking subpoena powers to oblige some key figures to testify, but some Republicans are objecting. The main focus of its probe is the apparently faulty cementing process that was the responsibility primarily of Halliburton and the failure of engineers properly to heed warning signs from a key pressure test that was conducted just prior to the explosion.

The more critical comments from Mr Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, yesterday were echoed by another co-chairman of the panel, Bob Graham, an ex-US Senator from Florida. “There were a series of almost incredible failures in the days and hours leading up to the disaster,” he told the hearing.

From the comments now emerging from the presidential commission, it seems that the panel is divided on the key issue of cost v safety.

Mr Bartlit’s views have been seriously undermined by the contrasting opinons of Mr. Reilly and Mr. Graham, his co-chairmen, which at least auger well for a full and detailed review of each company’s approach to safety management procedures and the actions of all three in the days leading up to the disaster.

£20,000 asbestos fine imposed on John Lewis ‘low hazard’ workplace

High street retailer John Lewis PLC was yesterday handed a fine of £20,000 for failing to do proper checks for deadly asbestos while carrying out refurbishment work at a city department store.

In a case which gives the lie to Lord Young’s recent assertion that offices present a low hazard risk to health and safety, Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard renovation work was being carried out over four days at the management suite of the retailer’s store at the city’s St James Centre in July 2008 when asbestos was discovered at a board between two radiators.

Workers covered it in a bag and reported it to management before a check was carried out. The board was sent for analysis but work was allowed to continue when the site should have been shut down. It was only when the results came back positive that the project was halted. The court heard around 15 workers could potentially have been exposed to the harmful substance.

Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie QC today also fined contractors Morris and Spottiswood Ltd £20,000 and added that she had reduced both fines from £30,000 to reflect the guilty pleas. However, she went on to say: “This was a serious and disturbing case but in any event no-one sustained any harm. As soon as discovery was made effective and immediate action was taken by the companies.”

Fair enough?

Well sorry no, not really and here’s why. Far from ‘no-one sustaining any harm’, the reality is that asbestos is an invidious, invasive and life-threatening substance which, if even a single fibre is inhaled, can cause cancer in the victim, a fact borne out by the 4,000 plus deaths from asbestos-related cancer each year in the UK.

Are we missing the point here? Lord Young has chosen to completely ignore the fact that ANY WORKPLACE HAS THE POTENTIALTO BE HAZARDOUS OR INJURIOUS TO HEALTH.

It is quite astonishing that a government funded report can blandly state that: ‘low hazard workplaces are those where the risk of injury or death is minimal. These include shops, offices and classrooms…’

Perhaps the HSE should have made Lord Young aware of its own research on asbestos-related deaths before rushing to endorse his various ill-judged pronouncements on the relative dangers of ‘low hazard’ workplaces.

John Lewis PLC and Morris and Spottiswood each admitted three charges under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

If you have been exposed to asbestos or any substance injurious to your health and wish to discuss your case, please contact us on FREEPHONE 0800 163 978.