The State of Britain’s Construction Sites

A bit of history

In January 2011 a 31 year old Romanian man, Silviu Radulescu, suffered fatal head injuries after a 2.5 tonne lift he was standing on plunged five stories.  He had been working at the building site on John Islip Street in London for one week and had not received adequate training for the task he was assigned to.  After a five day inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court, the jury found Mr Radulescu’s death had been unlawful and the family has demanded that his employers be prosecuted.

Jump forward to November 2013 and another labourer, Richard Laco, 31, was killed on site in north London when piles of concrete and steel came crashing down on top of him as a stairwell was being raised.  In March 2014 a 46 year old man was killed on the Docklands Light Railway site in Stratford after being struck by a piece of machinery.

These are just three examples of recent deaths in the construction industry. Although the number of deaths has fallen overall, it still remains one of the most dangerous professions to work in.

Current Health and Safety Standards

As the economy grows ever stronger and the embattled construction industry of the last six years starts to flourish again, are the health and safety standards on British construction sites up to standard?

In 2011 the Health & Safety Executive which monitors standards within all industries had its funding cut by 35%.  This caused concern among health & safety campaigners, with one calling the situation “a ticking time bomb”.  The reason for the concern is that many attribute the relatively low injury figures of 2012 and 2013 (357 and 307 respectively, per 100,000 workers) to the economic slump which had a very negative effect on the construction industry.

However, as the industry comes out of the downturn, Heather Bryant, the Health & Safety Executive’s chief inspector of construction warned that there was “definitely a risk that injuries and fatalities could increase”. A cut to the HSE’s funding now may result in an inability to monitor standards across the industry at a time when it’s most needed.

The future

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has stated that 182,000 new jobs will be created in the industry over the next five years. However, to avoid an increase in injuries and fatalities, it is vital that the people employed are suitably qualified and properly trained. Small to medium size businesses account for around 70% of fatalities in the industry, and around 40% of workers (rising to 90% in the London area) are self-employed and hired on a casual basis.

As the industry grows this can create a potentially dangerous situation as smaller firms are potentially more likely to cut corners with regards to health & safety and a casual worker is less likely to speak up about unsafe practices because he or she knows they can be let go at a moment’s notice.

The casual nature of employment within the industry also makes it difficult and often uneconomical to implement and deliver long-term training programs to ensure every worker is adequately trained and prepared for the work required.  Building a strong, safety-conscious work culture in such a casualised industry is also challenging, as work colleagues and foreman can change from job to job. Therefore solid, best practice knowledge and formal work-safe practices and procedures are very difficult to put in place.

While an increase in construction work is welcome and extremely good for the British economy, companies need to ensure that their health and safety strategies are firmly implemented now in order to prevent a future increase of lives lost or damaged forever due to preventable workplace injuries.

If you have suffered an injury at a construction site and you believe it was someone else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation – for more information see our construction injury claims page. If you wish to talk further about your situation contact us on 0845 345 4444 or fill in our contact form, and our friendly advisers will discuss your situation with you.

Living with Industrial Deafness

The ability to hear sounds and share them with others is something most of us take for granted. However, in 2011 there were more than 10 million people with hearing loss in the UK and this is expected to grow to 14.5 million in 2031.

The biggest cause of hearing loss is old age.  By the age of 80 the majority of people will experience significant loss of hearing.  However, hearing loss often develops from being exposed to loud working environments over a long period of time.  This is often referred to as industrial deafness.  And it is not just manufacturing workers who are at risk. In findings released in May this year, professional musicians were found to be four times more likely to suffer hearing loss and 57% more likely to develop tinnitus than the general public.

Duty of employers

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 requires that employers either eliminate workplace noise at the source, or where this is not reasonably practical, reduce noise to as low a level as possible.  However, many employees still suffer hearing loss when exposed to a continuous level of noise over a long period of time.

Living with the problem

So what is it like to live in a world that is partially or completely silent?  “It has definitely affected my social life”, explains former Senior Constable Mike Stephens, who suffers from partial hearing loss after participating in firearms training with the police force.  “I don’t like going out much anymore because I can hear next to nothing when I am in a crowd of people, it makes it impossible to try and hold a conversation”.

Partial loss of hearing can affect people physically, mentally, emotionally and socially and it can lead to feelings of isolation, depression and inadequacy.  Some examples of the challenges hearing loss can bring include:

• Not hearing someone talking to you, especially if your back is turned to the person speaking
• Feeling patronised when people talk loudly or slowly
• Difficulty understanding people on the telephone
• Difficulty finding employment, or having to accept positions below an individual’s level of expertise

In order to manage hearing loss and prevent further damage, prompt diagnosis is necessary, but unfortunately, the average adult delays seeking medical help for hearing loss for five to seven years.

Delaying treatment

Delays in seeking treatment are mostly caused by an individual’s denial into how their loss of hearing is affecting their day to day life.

A common treatment for managing hearing loss is having a hearing aid fitted.  Many people are reluctant to acquire hearing aids because they feel embarrassed.  As hearing aids are visible to others, often people feel that they will be treated differently, so they continue to ‘soldier on’ and manage their life around their disability.

Fact: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global needs

Support for the Hearing Impaired

Where can a person who struggles with hearing loss go for support?  There are many organisations available including:

•  Action on Hearing Loss
•  British Tinnitus Association
•  National Association of Deafened People

The first step to finding the right support for you is to talk to your health professional.

If you have suffered complete or partial hearing loss and you believe it was someone else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation – for more information see our loss of hearing page.

If you wish to talk further about your situation contact us on 0845 345 4444 or fill in our contact form, and our friendly advisers will discuss your situation with you.

The Most Dangerous Jobs in the UK

Most of us take for granted that when we leave for work in the morning we will return safely that night. We assume our workplace is safe and we will be free from harm. And thankfully, most of the time this is the case. However, according to statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), 178 people never returned home from work in 2012/13 and a further 78,000 employees were injured. Furthermore, workplace injury and ill-health cost around £13.8 billion in 2010/11.

The industries responsible for the most accidents and injuries are:

• Farming
• Construction
• Manufacturing

So why are these three industries responsible for so many workplace injuries, and what is being done to make each industry safer for workers?


More accidents happen per head of the working population in the agricultural sector than any other industry. Just over 1 in 100 workers (both employees and self-employed) work in agriculture but the industry is responsible for 1 in 5 work-related deaths.

Many injuries in the farming sector go unreported, so it is difficult to gain an accurate picture of how the trauma rates compare over a number of years, however, there has been very little change in the health and safety statistics since the mid-1990s.

The common denominator of these three risky industries is that they all involve large, heavy machinery. However, a farmer also has to deal with unpredictable livestock, dust, vehicles, chemicals, heights, bad weather and strenuous, repetitive work.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) and the HSE are making considerable efforts to try and raise awareness within the farming industry of health and safety best practices. The NFU states that it regularly meets with its members to discuss simple safety strategies such as telling someone your plans for the day, following safe stopping procedures in vehicles, and not cutting corners when working in situations involving heights, livestock and chemicals.


In 2012/13 the construction industry was responsible for 39 deaths. Although this is a high figure, in the previous five years there had been an average of 53 deaths per year, so there has been a significant improvement in fatality rates. However, added to this figure is around 3,700 new diagnosis of (often fatal) cancer each year which can be attributed to past exposure to asbestos, dust and chemicals. The HSE has more detailed industry statistics.

Between 2004 and 2007 a number of health and safety regulations came into force which has aided the improvement of accident statistics, including:

• Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007
• Work at Height Regulations 2005
• Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
• Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Amendment) 2004
• Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

An Approved Code of Practice was also published in 2007 which offers practical guidance to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.
These regulations, combined with a greater awareness of health and safety within the industry, have all led to an improvement in the number of serious injuries and fatalities sustained.


There are approximately 2.8 million workers across a wide range of industries employed in manufacturing within the UK. According to the HSE, accident rates have improved over the past two decades with a third less fatalities in 2012/13 than 20 years ago. Food manufacturing had the highest number of recorded injuries within the sectors.

Because the manufacturing industry is so broad, the injuries sustained can range from chemical burns through to knife related accidents. However, back injury is the most common problem sustained, often due to repetitive work being performed in awkward positions and heavy lifting. The HSE and the industry itself produce many publications and offer training on how to prevent back injury when working. You can read more about recovering from a back injury here.

Changes in Asbestos-Related Cancer Compensation

From April, families of the victims of Mesothelioma who are unable to trace a liable employer will be able to apply for compensation, worth on average £123,000 under the Mesothelioma Act 2014.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common type is Pleural Mesothelioma, affecting around 90% of suffers. Pleural Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelial cells, which are the cells that make up the membrane (lining) that covers the outer surface of the lungs.

A further 10% of victims are diagnosed with Peritoneum Mesothelioma which affects the peritoneum (the lining of the lower digestive tract). Most patients diagnosed with Mesothelioma are terminal and die within three years. One of the reasons for the low recovery rate is the person is usually in the advanced stages of the disease when it is discovered.

Around 2000 people are diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer every year and this number is set to increase over the next 30 years.

The law

At present, victims of Mesothelioma cancer are entitled to state benefits and can pursue a claim against the employers who negligently exposed them to asbestos. However, this particular type of cancer can take between 40 to 60 years to develop after the initial exposure to the substance. Therefore, injustice often occurs because the employer has gone out of business or has died. If this is the case victims can claim compensation from the insurance companies who provided the employer’s liability insurance. However, the insurance company has often proved difficult to trace due to lost or incomplete records.

The change in law will enable compensation to be claimed when this is the case.

Claiming compensation

To qualify for compensation applicants must show all of the following:

• They were diagnosed on or after 25th July 2012
• They are unable to trace former employers and/or that employers’ insurers
• Their former employer negligently exposed them to asbestos
• They have not already received compensation

It is important to note that this is a fund available only after all other efforts to trace former employers and their insurers have been exhausted. Payments under the Act will be on average only 80% of what is normally awarded by the courts when a personal injury claim is successful.

If you have any questions about this new award please contact one of our team who can advise you.

Common Office Injuries and How to Avoid Them

We seem to spend almost every waking hour at work, slogging away in order to pay bills, keep a roof over our heads and have a little fun now and again. It can be tough, especially in the winter when it’s dark when we get up and dark when we leave work, but it is a necessary part of life. Because we are at work for so much of our lives, staying safe in the workplace should be of paramount importance.

Different jobs will require different levels of safety precautions but accidents and injuries can occur in pretty much every job. Your employer has a legal obligation to keep you safe and while the vast majority will do just this, sometimes an accident or injury is simply unavoidable. It may not seem like there is much danger in an office workplace but injuries can still be sustained. So what are the most office injuries?

Overuse injuries

An overuse injury, such as repetitive  strain injury, is probably the most common you can sustain in an office environment. Like many office injuries, this is not something that will happen suddenly, but rather built up over time. Not only can this make them harder to notice at first, but can also mean that the injury will be harder to cure.

Repetitive strain injuries most commonly affect parts of the upper body, as this is what is used most when sitting at a desk. The hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders are the areas usually affected, with typing the most common cause. To prevent repetitive strain injuries, try to type lightly and take regular breaks where you don’t use your wrists and hands. It also helps to stretch and relax your arms to avoid injury.

Eyesight problems

Using a computer all day can have a serious effect on your eyes, as a lack of natural light combined with close proximity to a computer monitor can do some real damage. This can result in headaches, blurred vision and painful eyes. Problems are usually short-term, but they can still cause a lot of discomfort and pain. Issues are usually caused by a poorly set up work station, so there are steps you can take to prevent them.

Try to avoid natural light coming in from behind the monitor, as this will cause you to strain your eyes, and avoid sitting too close to the monitor. It also helps to place your monitor slightly below your eye line, and take time to look at objects in the distance to give your eyes a break.

Back problems

Another common problem that office workers experience is back problems caused by poor posture as a result of sitting at a desk all day. Like repetitive strain injuries, back problems are caused over a long period of time and can be difficult to cure.

If you think you are having problems, it’s a good idea to tell your employer as they will be able to make improvements to your work station. Having your work area set up ergonomically, such as using a suitable desk chair or using a foot rest will help prevent back problems. It’s also a good idea to take regular breaks, so your back isn’t in one position for too long.

If you have suffered an office related injury why not visit for some free advice.