The personal injury claims sector has grown significantly over the last few years and where in the past a “common sense approach” from employees and employers would have been sufficient, this is not always the case today. There are now specific legal requirements to protect your workforce from injury which ultimately have an impact upon future personal injury claims. In simple terms, investing in workforce protection today could save you a fortune in personal injury claims in years to come.
Common workplace injuries
While the type of workplace injuries we are talking about will vary between different business premises and different industries, there is certainly some common ground. The vast majority of these injuries could be avoided by the introduction of simple protective equipment, regular maintenance and training of employees. So, what types of injuries are common in the workplace?
Slips, trips and falls
The reality of the modern day workplace is that personal injury claims relating to slips, trips and falls are more commonplace than you might think. This type of injury can generally be avoided by ensuring that spillages are cleaned up as quickly as possible (and warning signs used), uneven floors are repaired as soon as possible and there is appropriate direction signage for stairways, etc.
This may all seem like a common sense approach but in the hustle and bustle of everyday business these things can sometimes be pushed to the back of the queue until an accident does occur.
When we think of burns we traditionally think of fires but chemical burns are a major issue for many different industries. We are not just talking about industrial chemicals as there are many burn issues with regards to beauty products and other similar treatments. There are also many claims relating to simple hot water burns some of which can be extremely distressing for the employee. In this instance it is vital that appropriate equipment such as gloves are made available, correct signage is there for all to see and, perhaps more importantly, all employees receive the appropriate training.
Repetitively strain injury (RSI)
While RSI is very prevalent today amongst office workers it has been a problem for many years. Until the term RSI was “created” this was an issue which was often swept under the carpet and ignored. The idea that this is limited to office workers is also a misconception because any equipment where there is frequent or constant motion (such as pneumatic drills) can bring about this condition.
Even though many people may see RSI as an “easy compensation claim” this is a matter which should not be taken lightly. Some of the easiest ways to reduce instances of RSI include stretching exercises, frequent breaks throughout the day and a greater understanding of what brings on the condition.
From time to time in everyday life we will all experience cuts and bruises as a consequence of accidents where there is no fault. The situation in the workplace is very different because employers have a legal obligation to look after the health and safety of their employees.
An array of protective equipment should be made available to avoid cuts as much as possible, training of employees is vital and where there are industry led guidelines these should be adhered to as closely as possible. The reality is that cuts and bruises occur on a regular basis but if the frequency can be reduced then this not only helps workforce output but also avoids any potentially expensive personal injury claims.
Damage to hearing
If you ever put your hands over your ears and try to filter out all noise you will know what a distressing experience this can be. Therefore, damage to hearing as a consequence of workplace protection shortfalls is something which cannot be ignored.
When we hear the term “damage to hearing” we automatically think of industries where for example the use of pneumatic drills is commonplace and there is constant noise. However, a gradual erosion of quality of hearing can occur in a variety of different working environments such as pubs and clubs and loud recreational areas. In order to avoid this type of injury, and prevent personal injury claims, employers are obliged to offer protective equipment, sufficient break time away from the working environment and also extensive training.
When can employees claim compensation?
While it will depend upon each individual claim as to how far it can be taken, the general consensus is that an employee may have a compensation claim if an employer has been negligent in their responsibility to protect the health and safety of the workforce. This obligation can be mitigated to a certain extent by training, protective clothing where applicable and ensuring that the workplace is as safe as possible. The use of appropriate signage is also something which is overlooked by many employers but warning of potential problems can mitigate any legal action further down the line.
It is also vital that employers learn from past experiences with regards to compensation claims. If for instance a particular process or particular part of the workplace environment has caused issues in the past, then these should be addressed. Sometimes this may need minimal or significant investment but this is more than worth it in the long-term both in terms of health and safety, possible compensation payouts and unwanted bad publicity.
When doing a health and safety review of the workplace it can be difficult to catch every potential issue without taking guidance. This is where industry bodies can and do play a major role in preventing personal injury claims because they bring together the experience of their members for the benefit of all employers and employees. If you are seen to abide by industry guidelines this can strengthen any defence when a personal injury claim is made against you.
Let’s not forget, while there are obviously financial implications in the event of preventable accidents in the workplace, first and foremost it is the health and safety of employees which comes first. The potential financial savings going forward are a win-win for all parties because they allow further investment into the business and better morale between the employer and employees.
Health and safety should be a priority
Running any business today is challenging and very often health and safety issues are put to one side when money is tight. However, it is imperative that business owners take a more long-term view of health and safety because an initial investment today can repay itself many times over by preventing personal injury claims in the future. Even though some health and safety issues may require structural changes or investment in protective clothing, the vast majority can be addressed by simple maintenance, staff training and the use of appropriate warning signage.
At the end of the day, employers and employees would rather not have the conflict which is often caused by personal injury claims.