Injury Claims for Faulty Work Equipment
Equipment and workplace safety
When you go to work for a living you have the right to expect that you’ll be rewarded for your labour, and that the environment within which you’re working will enable you to remain free from injury or illness. Whilst it can be tempting to take safety in the workplace for granted it’s important to remember that there was a time when employers paid scant regard to the safety of their workers, regarding them as little more than expendable parts of the production line.
The fact that employers now have a legal duty of care towards their employees is something which has come about over many years and via a gradual process, and the no win no fee system of personal injury compensation is something which plays a vital role in ensuring that this duty is taken seriously.
Compensation can be claimed if you can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that the negligence of your employer led to you being injured or developing an illness. The legal obligation placed upon employers is set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which makes it plain that employers have a duty to protect their employees and that those who fail in this duty have let the people who work for them down very badly indeed.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers with more than five employees must write down both their health and safety policy and a risk assessment of any aspects of the workplace which may prove hazardous to either employees or visitors.
The topic of health and safety is one which is often treated in a somewhat cavalier manner by the mass media. All too often, safety in the workplace or other public spaces is covered as if it is a trivial topic or one which serves merely to burden businesses with red tape. The scale of the problem, however, is captured by the latest statistics gathered by the HSE:
1.2 million working people are suffering from a work-related illness.
In 2013 2,538 people were killed by mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.
142 workers were killed whilst at work.
76,000 injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR, the system under which ‘responsible persons’ have to report certain work-related injuries. (For a list of some of the injuries covered by this law, see http://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/reportable-incidents.htm)
27.3 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.
611,000 injuries occurred at work according to statistics gathered by the Labour Force Survey.
The figures speak for themselves in terms of the scale of the problem, but what has to be remembered is that each individual case represents a person whose life has been turned upside down. Even a relatively minor injury can have long lasting consequences whilst serious or fatal accidents can impact upon the quality of life of both the person affected and their loved ones for many years to come. Compensation awards are designed to recognise the depth and severity of a persons’ suffering whilst, at the same time, ensuring that the negligence of another party doesn’t lead to financial hardship in the short or long term.
Injuries involving faulty equipment
Many of the injuries which occur in the workplace arise due to the presence of faulty equipment. Your employer has a legal duty to ensure that the equipment being used by employees is maintained in the safest possible condition. Whilst it is optimistic to completely rule out the possibility of accidents, if you can demonstrate that a piece of equipment was defective – i.e. did not operate in the manner it was intended to – and that this defect was responsible for your injury then you may well be in a position to make a compensation claim.
In the past, cases of this kind operated under a system of ‘strict liability’, which meant that an employer was responsible for the danger of defective equipment even if it could be demonstrated that they’d taken all reasonable steps to keep the equipment safe and defect free. Since the law changed in 2013, however, as part of a government drive to tackle what was seen as a ‘compensation culture’, it has become necessary for any employee making such a claim to prove that their employer was, indeed, negligent.
A successful claim for compensation will now consist of:
- Demonstrating that the fault in the equipment was brought about by the negligence of the employer
- Demonstrating that it could be reasonably predicted that this fault would lead to an injury
- Demonstrating that the injury did occur
There are specific rules pertaining to the installation and upkeep of certain types of equipment detailed in various pieces of legislation. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) relates to general plant and equipment, whilst the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) deals specifically with lifting equipment, and there are also separate regulations dealing with Pressure Equipment and Personal Protective Equipment.
The claims process for faulty equipment compensation
Most injuries caused by faulty equipment occur instantaneously following an accident, but it is also possible that faulty equipment such as breathing apparatus, could lead to a long term illness over the course of many years. In the case of accidents, there is a 3 year time limit following the incident during which you are able to launch a compensation claim. When the claim is being made due to an industrial illness, however, the 3 year period is only counted from the date upon which the illness itself is diagnosed and the link with your workplace becomes apparent.
No matter what the details of a case, however, the best advice is always to begin proceeding with a claim as soon as possible, when the details will be fresh in your mind and supporting evidence easier to gather. Amongst the details which will allow a personal injury lawyer to build the strongest possible case are the following:
- Any records detailing medical treatment provided following the accident
- An entry in the workplace accident book
- The contact details of people who witnessed the accident
- If possible, photographic evidence of the circumstances of the accident
- Any available CCTV footage. Owners of a CCTV system, such as your employer, have a legal duty to provide this footage within 40 days of you putting a request to them
Since a part of any compensation awarded will be calculated in order to ensure that your injury doesn’t lead to financial hardship, it is imperative that you keep any receipts relating to expenses arising directly from your injury. These could include medical bills or wages lost through time taken off work. If it is felt that your injury will create expenses into the future, such as a drop in your earning ability or the cost of ongoing care, this amount will also be included in your compensation. The other part of any payment will be made on the basis of the type and severity of your injury.
Our injury solicitors work on a no win no fee basis, meaning that there is no financial risk to making a claim as there are no substantial upfront legal fees to pay. If you are ready to talk about your case, you can contact us using the claim form, or the freephone number, at the top of this page.