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.

What to do if you’re injured at work

For the vast majority of us, our job takes up a large chunk of our life. If you have a full time job, the chances are that you work around 40 hours a week. Considering that we spend a lot of the rest of the time asleep, it can feel like work takes up every waking moment of our time. Taking the average life expectancy into account, the average worker in the UK will spend a whopping 128 months at work.

With so much time spent at your job, it is important that you are kept safe and secure so you can work to the best of your ability. This means you should be able to carry out the tasks required of you without risk of injury or threat of illness. Of course, accidents can happen wherever you are, regardless of how many safety precautions are in place.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 171 people were killed at work in the UK between 2010 and 2011. While this is at the extreme end of the scale, work injuries are not as uncommon as you might think. The HSE also found that more than 115,000 reported injuries were sustained by people at work over the same period. Having an accident or getting injured is never a nice experience but when it occurs at work there are certain things you should do afterwards. So what should you do if you’re injured at work?

Seek medical attention

This may seem obvious but seeking medical attention is something not everyone will immediately do if they are injured at work. If your job is high pressured, it can be tempting to complete the task at hand, or send one last email before seeking help. Some people will even wait until the end of the working day before getting medical attention.

If you have an accident at work, no matter how trivial it may appear, put medical attention at the top of your to-do list. Your employer will understand that you were not able to complete a task because of injury.

Tell your employer

More often than not, your employer will automatically know that you’ve had an injury as you may have needed the rest of the day off, or longer. However, it is still important that you record the injury in your employer’s ‘accident book’.

All employers, with the exception of very small companies, are required to keep an accident book to help them keep a record of what’s happened and prevent accidents in the future. Recording your accident will also be useful if you need time off work or want to claim compensation.

Consider making a claim

Accidents can occur any time and are often nobody’s fault, but if you think your employer is at fault you may want to make compensation claim. The best thing to do here is talk to a no win no fee lawyer to find out if you have a chance of successfully claiming compensation. If you want to make a claim, remember that you need to have had the accident in the last three years in order to be eligible.

Contact InjuryLawyers4U today for no obligation advice on your claim.

New Workplace Injury Rules Puts Employees at Risk

The government is currently cutting back on Health and Safety regulations and it will no longer be assumed automatically that a company is to blame for many work related injuries.

The newly planned changes to the Health and Safety regulations announced by David Cameron will mean that the ‘strict liability’ rules, whereby companies are assumed to be responsible for workplace injuries, will be relaxed.

Currently strict liability means that a company can be held responsible for personal injury to its workers even if the prosecution is unable to prove that the company had either intent in disregarding safety issues or that it at least foresaw that there was an avoidable risk. In law this is refereed to as “mens rea”.  Even if a company argues that that it is not at fault and that it has taken reasonable care to protect its employees, under “mens rea” it can still be held responsible.

An example of this is if a ladder used by a worker was inadequate under the work at height regulations. If this was the cause of an injury, under strict liability there is no need to prove that the ladder was inadequate. The fact that a worker was injured is sufficient in itself for the worker to make a compensation claim.

If the strict liability rules are removed then it will be necessary for the prosecution to prove that the company is at fault. The dangers are that some companies will take advantage of this and that the risks for employees will increase, also it will be considerably more difficult for employees to gain compensation for work related injuries.

Currently there is no time frame for introducing the new regulations; however Downing Street has indicated that they will be announced in the “near future”.