Serious injury and fatalities in the workplace – Workers’ Memorial Day 2024 | Bolt Burdon Kemp Serious injury and fatalities in the workplace – Workers’ Memorial Day 2024 | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Serious injury and fatalities in the workplace – Workers’ Memorial Day 2024

Workers, families and workplace unions around the world will unite to recognise and remember colleagues who have been killed, seriously injured or have become ill whilst at work on Workers’ Memorial Day.

Employers have a duty of care to create and maintain a safe working environment for their employees. However, sadly, we continue to see people being injured or killed as a result of accidents at work.

What is Workers’ Memorial Day?

Workers’ Memorial Day takes place annually on the 28th of April. It is an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, injured, or made unwell by their work.

The origins of International Workers Day can be traced back to 1984 in Canada where the Conventions of Canadian Labour Congress agreed this date would be known as the National Day of Mourning to honour those who had been injured, killed and disabled at work or those who suffered from occupational diseases. Today, the day is recognised in dozens of countries across the world, including the UK which officially recognised it in 2010.

To commemorate this day of remembrance, events are held by trade unions and organisations across the UK. A one-minute silence is held at 12pm during meetings and vigils, both in person and online, and awareness is spread through various social media channels. Every year Workers’ Memorial Day has a different theme to highlight the various different aspects of health and safety at work and the issues surrounding this. In 2024 the theme is “climate risks for workers”.

Workers’ Memorial Day is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of workplace accidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead – Fight for the living.

Although the 28th of April is used as the focal point for remembrance and a day of international solidarity, campaigning and other related activities continue throughout the year right around the world.

Why is health and safety at work so important?

The latest statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show 135 workers were killed in workplace accidents in the UK in the year 2022/2023. The construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries account for the greatest number of workers killed in fatal accidents each year.

Workplace accidents can happen in a variety of different ways but HSE found the main types of fatal accidents involved falls from height or being struck by a moving object or vehicle.

Although these recent statistics do show a decrease in the amount of fatal accidents at work which have occurred, it simply will not be enough until fatal accidents in the workplace are as low as they possibly can be. In an ideal world, these would not exist at all.

HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon said: “Any loss of life in the workplace is a tragedy. While these figures show Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, safety must continue to be at the top of everyone’s agenda. Our mission is to protect people and places and we remain committed to maintaining safe workplaces and holding employers to account for their actions.”

Why are people injured at work?

Negligence in the workplace can arise in many different ways depending on the workplace in question. Often the overarching issue is a lack of or failure to produce risk assessments of sufficient standard highlighting general and specific risks as well as identifying preventative measures, then communicating these to workers.

A lack of or insufficient training also plays a part as does the provision of defective work equipment and failure to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Unless employers implement safe systems and discourage shortcuts they are leaving their employees in a vulnerable position.

Many different industries are subject to different common workplace accidents. Some of the most common accidents that occur include:

  • Overexertion, such as when lifting or moving an object;
  • Falling objects which can strike an employer;
  • Collisions with equipment such as vehicles or fork lift trucks;
  • Getting caught or trapped in machinery;
  • Slips, trips and falls;
  • Falls from height such as from a ladder, roof or scaffold;
  • Chemical exposure;
  • Workplace fires;

The types of injuries that can be sustained are of course wide-ranging and can include fractures, crush injuries, amputation, smoke or chemical inhalation, burns, scarring, psychological damage, spinal injuries and brain damage for example. Sadly fatal injuries do also occur.

What can be done?

As well as being a day of remembrance, Workers’ Memorial Day aims to encourage better safety regulations in workplaces around the world by raising awareness of the issues that are still continuing to put many employees at risk.

All employees are owed a duty of care by their employer who must adhere to workplace regulations to ensure, in so far as they are able, the safety of their employees. Employees also have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure their own safety, as far as possible in the workplace.

Employers should consider the policies and procedures in place and see how these can be improved or more efficiently complied with moving forward.

There are several common mistakes and themes that personal injury solicitors see time and time again when an avoidable accident occurs in a workplace. To counteract these the following areas should be considered:

Health and Safety Training: Effective induction and refresher training should be in place which employees should endeavor to attend and engage with. This can discourage shortcuts and make sure workers are aware of the best way to carry out any particular task.

Assessment of risk: Risk assessments relating to the overall operating of the workplace and to specific tasks and work processes that are carried out should be produced and copies provided to employees.

PPE: Employers should provide PPE unless otherwise arranged and usage should be enforced. Employees should make sure they wear this at all relevant times.

Reporting: Employers should encourage those working on-site to report anything they see that might endanger the health and safety of themselves or others.

Holidays and rest breaks: All workers are entitled to rest breaks and paid holidays. Employers should make sure employees take what they are entitled to.

Culture: Employers should promote a strong safety culture in the workplace with positive reinforcement and reward for employees committing themselves to safety practices.

You can also contact HSE for help and advice. If you think someone is breaking the law and you can’t get anybody in your organisation to take action, you can tell HSE which can investigate matters and the law will protect you from victimisation.

Making a claim

Unfortunately, accidents at work do occur. If you have had an accident at work, then you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against your employer. A civil claim can compensate you for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity and any associated financial losses you have incurred.

If you have been injured in a workplace accident and would like to make a claim then you need to do so within three years of the date of your accident. Court proceedings must be issued ahead of this deadline in order to protect any right to compensation that you may have. Whilst there may be some exceptions to this rule, it is very important to take legal advice at as early a stage as possible.

Whilst you may be hesitant or anxious to make a claim, rest assured you can speak to a specialist personal injury solicitor in confidence to see whether you have a personal injury claim. If you do have a claim and would like to pursue this then they will be able to put your mind at rest in relation to the legal process and what will be expected of you as a claimant. A successful legal claim could help you get your life back on track and may help prevent future accidents from occurring.

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