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.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – Suffering in Silence

Although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) did not become an official diagnosis until 1980, its symptoms and sufferings have been with us for many centuries. For example, there are the cases of ‘shell shock’ during the Great War which are now known to have been cases of PTSD. Unfortunately for its sufferers, PTSD is still seen as a weakness by some and our society expects people who are involved in or witness traumatic events to just ‘get over it’ within a very short period of time.

One aspect that contributes to society’s lack of understanding is that very few people know what PTSD actually is. There is also the question why some people suffer from it after what seems a relatively mild trauma and others can survive a major event and have no symptoms at all. To address these two questions let’s look at the definition of PTSD.

What is PTSD?

According to the NHS PTSD is “an anxiety disorder caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events”. These can include being involved in or witnessing:

• Road accidents
• Violent physical or sexual assault
• Military combat
• Terrorist attacks
• Someone’s violent death
• Prolonged physical or sexual abuse or neglect
• Natural disasters

PTSD does not necessarily develop straight after the event. There have been many documented cases where a person has been involved in, or witnessed a traumatic event, and for months or sometimes even years, they have no symptoms of PTSD. Then, without warning, they suddenly start experiencing the classic signs of the affliction such as:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks to the event
• Insomnia
• Difficulty concentrating
• Anger and irritability
• Avoidance and becoming ‘numb’ emotionally
• Feeling ‘on edge’ all the time

As scientists begin to understand this disorder, they are discovering that PTSD is nothing new and has been suffered by people throughout history. This goes some way towards dispelling the myth that people who suffer from PTSD are somehow ‘weak minded’ or ‘soft’.

For example, Thomas Heebøll-Holm, a historian at the University of Copenhagen, analysed three 14th century texts written by a French Knight called Geoffroi de Charny, who was also a diplomat and trusted adviser to King John II of France. After studying between the lines, Heebøll-Holm believes he can make a case for medieval knights suffering from some trauma due to their violent and relentlessly harsh lifestyle. Although the author showed no signs of PSTD, in his writing he often expressed concern about the mental wellbeing of other men. You can read more about his fascinating finds here.

Shell-shock is also a well known term, which was applied to soldiers during World War 1 who became hyper-sensitive to noise, dizzy, anxious and began to have tremors. It was initially thought these symptoms were brought on by neurological damage caused by exploding shells and gunfire (hence the term ‘shell-shock’). By 1916 more than 40% of all casualties were attributed to what seemed to be this new phenomenon, and around 350 men who displayed symptoms were executed for cowardice. We now know the horrors of trench warfare had an enormous emotional effect on veterans and 306 of the men who were executed received a group pardon for their alleged offences in 2006.

Why are some people vulnerable to PTSD and not others?

It is estimated around 50% of people will witness or be involved in a traumatic event at some point in their lives and thankfully, most people will cope well, even when confronted with horrendous situations. However, there are a percentage of people who never fully recover after a serious event. Many studies have been done to try and establish why some people, although they initially show some signs of anxiety, do OK in the wake of violence, natural disasters or car accidents and others develop severe, sometimes crippling PTSD.

There are biological differences between those who develop PTSD and those who do not. According to an article in the Nature Journal “functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which tracks blood flow in the brain, has revealed that when people who have PTSD are reminded of the trauma, they tend to have an underactive prefrontal cortex and an overactive amygdala, another limbic brain region, which processes fear and emotion”.

Environmental factors are also thought to play a part in people’s recovery from trauma. Study after study has shown that social and community support acts as a cushion against PTSD. Religious practice and having a strong purpose in life have also been shown to aide recovery from PTSD.

There is much work to be done to ensure people who suffer from PTSD are not dismissed or seen as defective in some way. Some have stated that even using the word ‘disorder’ in the name is offensive, as post-traumatic stress is a natural reaction to terrible events.

If you suffer or have suffered from PTSD we can offer you helpful legal advice which may assist your situation, for more information visit our Post Traumatic Stress Disorder page. If you would rather speak to someone now about your claim, call us in complete confidence on 0845 345 4444, or fill in our contact form and we’ll get straight back to you.

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.