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My good friend Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors, an expert at winning compensation for clients in personal injury cases, kindly agreed write a post for my blog this week.

Here Frank looks beyond the euphoria of the Chilean miners’ rescues to the serious health and safety issues highlighted by what could have been a terrible tragedy.

As a Health and Safety Lawyer I watched the rescue of the Chilean miners from a professional perspective as well as a joyful spectator.

The rescue was undoubtedly a victory for humanity and to view such a heart-warming story of human endeavor on the news was a refreshing change.

While I don’t want to put a dampener on the event, the fanfare surrounding it served to illustrate that this remarkable rescue was the exception rather than the rule.  Stripped to its bare bones, this was a workplace accident which, but for good fortune, could have resulted in catastrophic and fatal consequences.

The provisional number of workplace deaths in the UK for 2010 is 151.  This is 151 too many.  Nobody should die during the course of their employment, no job or profit-driven motive is worth such a sacrifice.

The Chile story reminded me of the less fortunate.  In this last year my firm has represented 3 separate families at separate Fatal Accident Inquiries into the deaths of miners killed in opencast mines in Scotland. 

In all of these cases a failure to follow legislation designed to ensure a safe system of working was not followed.

Health and Safety legislation continues to evolve and improve but in order for it to be effective we must lose the mindset that it ‘gets in the way’ or is prompted by the so-called ‘compensation culture’.

Lord Young must not to let his review of UK Health and Safety legislation be swayed by such myths and misinformation.

There should be no requirement for tragedy to land on our doorstep before we sit up and take notice.

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