It's always good to see an example of health and safety law in action as it reminds me that the work we do as personal injury lawyers can influence safety procedures in the construction industry.
Over the last few months we’ve seen almost non-stop construction work being carried out in Chancery Lane to the extent that we’re all now pretty used to the noise of building work filtering through our office windows as well as the sound of drivers sounding their horns in frustration at being brought to yet another standstill by construction vehicles blocking the road.
Where there was previously a large hole between the two Slater and Gordon Chancery Lane offices, there is now a rather nice looking new building at what is the new number 40 Chancery Lane. It isn’t quite finished yet and whilst walking past the site the other day, something caught my eye. I even took a photo.
It was the safety precautions in place for two construction workers who were working on the back of a lorry. They were both wearing hard hats which isn’t exactly surprising but they were also wearing safety harnesses that were attached to a rail by a wire to prevent them falling from the lorry.
The Work at Height Regulations came into effect in 2005 and although the Government has reduced their potency in terms of how far personal injury claimants can rely on them, they are still important to PI lawyers. When the regulations first came into effect, we noticed that work at height was defined as “work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
It became clear that employers would have to take steps to reduce the risk of injury to employees working at height, even if the ‘height’ concerned was not particularly high. This was obviously sensible as even a fall from a modest height can still clearly cause serious injury.
I remember wondering what kind of steps employees would need to take to minimise any potential fall distance for people working at height. Well, as you can see from the photograph, this is how you do it. This is the often derided concept of ‘health and safety’ in action.
Near to where I live, I saw a sign aimed at deterring children from entering and playing on construction sites. The potential dangers listed are numerous and include warnings about electric shocks, falling in holes, playing on scaffolding, and playing with tools such as nail guns and power tools.
The effectiveness of signs like this, warning people about the risks of serious injury or even death should never be underestimated. Having such signs on display in the workplace act as a simple reminder that certain dangers exist and to avoid any risk of accidents and injury at work, employees and contractors should follow safety procedures rather than taking potentially dangerous shortcuts.
Believe it or not, as personal injury lawyers, we don't actually want to see people get injured! Unfortunately, not all employers take the health and safety precautions they ought to take in order to prevent work accidents from happening. When accident prevention strategies are ignored, it is always nice to be in a position to help injured people and their families recoup any losses and rebuild their lives.
John Reeder is a senior personal Injury lawyer at Slater and Gordon in London.
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