Winter Woes – Claiming Compensation For Workplace Injuries
Sir Ranulph Fiennes famously quipped “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. As a personal injury solicitor, I can also add to this “and inappropriate health and safety risk planning and management”. Yes, I will admit, it is far from catchy, but workplaces can be particularly hazardous places when bad weather hits. From slipping on icy and/or wet surfaces to falls from heights and vehicle accidents, there are several different ways bad weather increases your risk of receiving a workplace personal injury.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reports around five million productive days are lost each year through workplace injuries, costing the UK economy billions of pounds. Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, section 2 to ensure employees are as safe as reasonably practicable. There is also a duty under common law to exercise a duty of care. The statutory and common law duty extends to those visiting the workplace such as suppliers and members of the public who may be entering or passing the premises.
Slip, sliding away
Slips, trips and falls account for a third of workplace accidents. Snow, wet and ice can raise the risk of a slip, trip or fall occurring; in fact, 50% of incidents occur during winter. Inclement conditions can also result in severe injuries being sustained due to slips and trips, such as broken bones and head trauma.
Employers have a duty under the to ensure their employers are safe from slips, trips and falls. If weather conditions have made surfaces slippery, extra precautions should be taken. For example, areas where there is a lot of foot traffic should be cleared of snow and gritted. An employer must undertake a risk assessment of duties being carried out by employees and eradicate or at least minimise any chance of an injury occurring. However, research by the British Institute for Facilities Management found 25% of its members did not have a winter maintenance plan in place.
When the Beast from the East and Storm Emma hit the UK in early 2018, many motorists were stuck on the motorways overnight in freezing conditions. One of the worst affected regions was Scotland, and the M80 quickly became clogged. Despite a ‘red alert’ being issued, meaning there was a ‘danger to life’ due to the weather and people being told to stay off the roads, hundreds of motorists had to spend the night in their vehicles, some trapped for as long as 13 hours, after lorries jack-knifed in the blizzard conditions.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon hit out at certain haulage companies at the time, stating there were “far more HGVs on that road than there should have been when a red warning was in place”.
It is often forgotten that drivers of vehicles, whether they be HGVs, taxis or delivery vans have a right to enjoy safe working conditions. If your employer asks you to drive in unsafe weather, leading you to suffer an injury, compensation may be sought.
How do I bring a personal injury claim against my employer?
If you have been injured in the workplace, the most important first step is to ensure your own health and wellbeing. Seek medical attention, even if initially, the injury does not seem too serious, as complications can develop later. Ensure you keep copies of the medical reports.
It is imperative you fill in your workplace ‘accident book’. This ensures there is a record of the incident. For serious injuries such as burns, amputations and crush injuries, there is a legal requirement to make a report under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
Seek expert legal advice
As soon as possible, you should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury solicitor. They will assess your injuries and the circumstances in which they occurred and tell you whether you have a chance of successfully claiming compensation. To succeed, you will need to prove the following:
- your employer owed you a duty of care
- they breached their duty
- their breach resulted in you suffering a personal injury
Your Solicitor may send you for an independent medical assessment and call in expert witnesses to provide evidence. In addition, they will work with your employer’s insurer to organise rehabilitation for you as soon as possible.
Many people are concerned they will lose their job if they make a claim against their employer for a personal injury received at work. However, this is very unlikely to happen. Your employer will have insurance to help cover any claims made by employees, so they will not be paying your claim our of their own cash-flow. Also, any disciplinary action taken because of you bringing a claim in compensation may be deemed ‘unfair’ and give rise to a separate claim in employment law.
If you have been injured at work, it is important to claim compensation for the sake of your own recovery. Money can never fully compensate for a serious injury, but it can ease the financial pressure whilst you recuperate.
Saracens Solicitors has a multi-lingual and highly experienced personal injury law team who have the expertise required to advise and represent you if you wish to claim compensation. For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.
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