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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.

£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.

RoSPA warns Lord Young to focus on safety not cost

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.

A bad seven days for health and safety, says TUC

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.

It’s official – there is no compensation culture (unless you edit a tabloid newspaper)

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