We have come to expect the coalition government to be hell bent on a crusade to reduce worker safety, fuelled by a spurious political dogma that a reduction in the regulatory burden will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of British industry, thus solving all our economic woes at a stroke – and the Queen’s Speech on 8th May didn’t disappoint…
ZUMA / Rex Features
In the week we commemorate the lives of workers worldwide who have died in the course of their employment we ask this question of government.
What links multiple deaths, horrific injuries and destruction on a massive scale?
In the aftermath of the Luxor balloon tragedy, I looked at the Guardian Online edition which chronicled the troubled and troubling history of hot air balloon accidents over Luxor and Karnak.
The article noted that in June 2008 four Scottish holidaymakers were injured when the balloon in which they were travelling crash landed. Bonnar & Co. acted for those holidaymakers. I remember thinking how terrible an ordeal it must have been for them and a number of points occurred to me as I looked at the terrible recent news.
1. The tabloid press and some broadsheets routinely scoff over health and safety (“Elf ‘n Safety”) bureaucracy. They long for a return to light touch regulation where everything is just common sense. Light touch regulation of dangerous activities inevitably turns into casualties, particularly where a profit motive is concerned. This is not opinion, it’s arithmetic.
2. The persons we acted for had booked the trip of a lifetime to Egypt using a highly reputable adventure travel company. The balloon trip had not been pre-booked. Instead they had signed up during a welcome meeting organised by the travel company with a person whom they believed was an authorised representative of the adventure travel company.
This is a very common scenario, and I suspect one which involves a money inducement. Following the accident the travel company did everything possible to distance themselves from the excursion. It was not part of the package, the persons had booked independently, and the claim should be directed against the Egyptian balloon company care of some street in Cairo.
The victims would have to proceed via the Egyptian courts. Every lawyer who does this kind of case will know what a familiar tactic this is. They wanted to argue that the person who appeared at the function organised by the travel company and taking bookings for the balloon flight had suddenly become a completely independent contractor for whom the company bore no responsibility.
3. In particular they wanted to claim that the Package Holiday Regulations 1992 did not apply as the excursion was not part of the “package.” Technically they might have been right about that. However, it is useful to remember that the normal law of agency applies in these situations and the company can be held liable for someone whom it may have held out as an authorised representative and agent.
In the event court proceedings had to be raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh before the case could settle.
These kind of tactics represent our common experience when dealing with the travel industry. Matters never settle without litigation and the industry itself uses every possible loophole to evade responsibility. This is in the hope that persons injured on holiday give up or are otherwise deterred from going to court. Our invariable experience is that it is naïve in the extreme to expect the travel company to do the decent thing.
If something does happen to you on holiday, you are going to have to prove it.
Take photographs, get witness details including mobile phone numbers.
You will almost certainly have to rely on these holiday acquaintances to prove your case.
You probably won’t see this on the holiday brochures, but it is something you should bear in mind.
Written by April Meechan, Associate Solicitor, Bonnar Accident Law.
Staffordshire bull terrier
In post Control of Dogs (Scotland Act) 2010 – yet another attack by a fearsome dog on a defenceless child makes the headlines…
Why do some people insist on keep these types of animals and why can’t they control them?
The litany of dog attack victims in this country is long and shameful and we make no apology for highlighting the all too familiar pattern of family ‘pet’ savages daughter / nephew / neighbour / family friend…
We wish this little girl a full recovery and our sympathies go to her mother.
Surgeons at Glasgow’s Sick Kids Hospital at Yorkhill battled to save a toddler’s eyesight after she was mauled in a horror attack by her grandad’s dog.
The terrifying dog attack happened just before midnight on Friday at a flat in Possil,
Glasgow.Millie’s 21-year-old mum Jamielee Bennett is the daughter of the dog’s owner, Joe Bennett. The dog involved – along with another of the same breed owned by the grandfather – has been seized by police.
A police spokesman said:
“An 18-month-old girl sustained serious facial injuries after being bitten by a Staffordshire bull terrier in a house in Glasgow at around 11.40pm on Friday. She was taken to Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, where she is presently detained.
Hospital staff describe her condition as serious but stable. The dog, plus one other of the same breed, has been seized by officers and inquiries continue.”
Our views on dangerous dogs and the responsibilities of dog ownership:
Written by Andy Thorogood, Business Development Manager, Bonnar Accident Law.
‘Occult futurists’, Prime Minister David Cameron (Dave) and Business Secretary Vince Cable (Vince), have together developed a secret plan ‘The Dave-Vince Code’ which is designed to dismantle health and safety legislation in the UK on the spurious grounds that less regulation will free up business to create jobs and grow the economy.
We believe that this Code is an invidious and systematic assault on the right of workers and the general public to expect the highest possible standards of protection from hazards and threats to health and the right to fair compensation if accidents occur.
We shall lay bare some of the key tenets of the Code as illustrated by the pronoucements of Dave and Vince and demonstrate the flawed thinking and (sometimes) blatant subterfuge employed to bolster party political dogma and the vested interest of the insurance companies.
Dave – 1st Dec 2009, interview in The Telegraph:
“I want to exempt entire categories of workers and organisations from the fear of litigation or prosecution because of ‘over-the-top’ health and safety rules.”
“A Conservative government would amend the Compensation Act to abolish negligence claims for activities where it should be obvious there is a risk-for example, sport and adventure training.”
It is only some organisation’s fear of litigation that keeps many workers safeand we know how often THAT works.
Thus the early clues to the Code were embedded back in 2009. What the then future PM was saying loud and clear was that he would abolish negligence claims for dangerous activities.So, the activities known to be dangerous will remain dangerous,and if you participate in any of them and get injured – tough luck. Tell that to Sarah (see video testimonial: http://www.bonnarandco.com )
Dave – 10th July 2010, commenting on Lord Young’s report, ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’:
“It is is clear from Lord Young’s work that there was ‘too much intrusion’ into everyday life from health and safety bureaucracy.”
“He has done a brilliant job helped by members of the public who have been sending in examples, including a schoolteacher who sent in a ten-page form that has to be filled out when you do any sort of school trip.”
The only thing that is clear is that the PM has swallowed the potion concocted by the insurance industry and tabloid press that has made him immune to rational thinking on health and safety matters and oblivious to the concerns of the public.
Dave – 5th Jan 2012 in repsonse to the Lofstedt report, ‘Reclaiming Health & safety For All’:
“Health and safety can too often sound farcial or marginal..so there is something else we are doing: waging war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses.”
“So one of the Coalition’s New Year resolutions is this: kill off the health and safety culture for good. I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or Diamond Jubilee year, but the year we banished a lot of this pointless time-wasting from the economy and British life once and for all.”
‘Farcical and marginal’ – ironic or what? Now it’s all out war on the nation’s health and safety infrastructure. An invidious mantra indeed for a nation’s leader…made more invidious by his hi-jacking of Professor Lofstedt’s report and crass manipulation of it’s findings – see below.
Dave – 14th Feb 2012 insurance industry summit, 10 Downing Street:
“I am determined to tackle this damaging compensation culture which has been pushing up premiums. I want to stop trivial claims, free up businesses from the stranglehold of health and safety red tape and look at ways we can bring costs down.”
“The insurance industry plays such an important part in all our lives – it is there to help when we are at our most vulnerable and at greatest need. But I want to ensure that we all do what we can to help people through this difficult time.”
The PM’s psychophantic eulogising of the insurance industry illustrated his total conversion to the ‘dark side’ of the health and safety debate and his refusal to meet with the Unions or APIL, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, confirmed his intention to ignore the legitimate concerns of millions of ordinary people.
Note to PM and ABI – injured people and their families are voters too and they pay insurance premiums.
Vince – Federation of Small Business Conference, 23 March 2012:
“…But there is another issue that blights your working lives and stands in your way as you strive to grow your business – and that’s the burden of red tape and regulation. So I would like to say a little about that before I close.”
The one true blight of working lives in this country right now is not the ‘red tape’ restricting growth but the coalition’s determination to roll back 175 years of progress and take working conditions back to Victorian Britain.
Even the entrepreneurial Americans don’t buy the argument that health and safety regulations damage jobs ( http://news.bonnarandco.com/us-health-and-safety-laws-are-good-for-busine). So just what book of alchemist spells are Dave and Vince reading?
Vince – 10th September 2012, announcing ‘bonfire’ of health & safety regulations in parliament:
“Businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than “being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.”
“From April 2013, only companies operating in high risk areas such as construction or with a track record of poor performance will face regular visits from safety inspectors.
By ensuring regulation becomes a last resort, we will create an environment that frees business from the burden of red tape,helping to create the right conditions for recovery and growth in the UK economy
Despite the evidence of decades and a litany of public and private tragedies – Aberfan, Flixborough, Piper Alpha – plus countless unpublicised avoidable accidents, are we to simply believe that cutting back on health and safety regulation will make our economy stronger and our living and working environments safer?
We’d sooner believe that Dave and Vince can create gold from base metal.
FOOTNOTE TO THE SNEAKY AND THE SCURRILOUS:
How this government is blatantly ignoring its own commissioned research and is actively engaged on a process of regulatory vandalism which WILL result in loss of life, serious injury and long-term health problems for this nation’s workforce.
If anyone is unfortunate enough to get injured at work or to contract an occupational illness they can look forward to a very difficult AND GROSSLY ONE-SIDED fight for justice and fair compensation.
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE AND A SCANDAL, PERPRETATED BY A GOVERNMENT THAT HAS TOTALLY BOUGHT INTO THE DECEITFUL AND VINDICTIVE APPROACH OF THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IN ITS EFFORTS TO CUT ITS COSTS AND BOOST ITS PROFITS.
IS IT REALLY TOO MUCH TO EXPECT BETTER FROM A GOVERNMENT?
HERE’S THE TRUTH …
In October 2012 the government announced an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The new Business minister, Matthew Hancock, told MPs this was based on Professor Löfstedt’s recommendations and would remove the concept of “strict liability” – whereby companies are liable for injuries regardless of negligence if certain health and safety rules are breached.
“The fear of being sued drives businesses to exceed what is required by the criminal law, diverting them from focusing on sensible preventive health and safety management and resulting in unnecessary costs and burdens,” he said.
However, the Löfstedt review did not call for the blanket removal of strict liability. Instead it called for a review of where strict liability was necessary. “These proposals were sneaked into the Bill at the last possible moment after the legislation had been through committee.”
What Professor Ragnar Lofstedt really thinks about the removal of strict liability.
‘Reclaiming health & safety for all: a review of progress one year on.’
Page 11, paragraph 30:
An amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012-13 is being used by the Government to deliver the recommendation on strict liability. The amendment has proved to be highly controversial and has provoked much debate, including amongst the members of my Advisory Panel.
I have also been lobbied by many interested stakeholders including personal injury law firms and trades unions.
My understanding is that the proposed amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act reverses the current position on civil liability. This means that, unless exceptions apply, claims for compensation in relation to breaches of health and safety legislation will need to prove that the employer has been negligent.
The approach being taken is more far-reaching than I anticipated in my recommendation and, if this amendment becomes law I hope that the Government will carefully monitor the impact to ensure that there are no unforeseen consequences.
What Professor Lofstedt really said about the EU and health & safety legislation in his original report.
Page 4, paragraph 9
Many of the requirements that originate from the EU would probably exist anyway, and many are contributing to improved health and safety outcomes. There is evidence, however, that a minority impose unnecessary costs on business without obvious benefits.
What Professor Lofstedt really said about health and safety regulations in his original report:
Page 7, para graph 2:
The general sweep of requirements set out in health and safety regulation are broadly fit for purpose.
..and in repsonse to government spin:
“I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to suggest that there is a case for radically altering or stripping back current health and safety regulation.” In general the regulations are “fit for purpose.”
What Professor Lofstedt really said about Health & Safety Executive inspections in his original report:
Page 79, paragraph 2.
The evidence suggests that businesses can benefit from and value inspections, with SMEs welcoming the constructive, reasonable advice and guidance that it can provide to help them improve health and safety in the workplace 200. Nearly nine out of ten employers who have had contact with HSE see it as a ‘helpful’ organisation.
What Lord Young really said about the ‘compensation culture in ‘Common Sense – Common Safety.’
Britain’s ‘compensation culture’ is fuelled by media stories about individuals receiving large compensation payouts for personal injury claims and by constant adverts in the media offering people non-refundable inducements and the promise of a handsome settlement if they claim.
It places an unnecessary strain on businesses of all sizes, who fear litigation and are subjected to increasingly expensive insurance premiums.
The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is, however, one of perception rather than reality.
Written by Andy Thorogood, Business Development Manager, Bonnar Accident Law.