Just a few more weeks before those eggs are hurtling down the hill and we all race round the garden hunting for chocolate. We hope you are staying strong and refraining from whatever you gave up for lent. You will recall at the beginning of lent we urged employers to give up indifference to Health and Safety. Indifference to Health and Safety is a terrifying and contagious disease which can prove fatal. Fortunately it is curable and the cure is cheap and simple.
We all see those signs outside building sites. “X days since the last accident.” Sadly all too many of them are in single figures. Many jobs are inherently dangerous but in the vast majority of cases accidents can be prevented by a bit of thought and at very little expense. “Health and Safety” has become associated with a “killjoy” attitude. It is cited as the reason there is so much red tape or the reason nobody has any fun. It is this attitude that leads to indifference and to a culture where the rules are ignored. This culture can be fatal.
Just last week Jedburgh Sheriff Court heard how a young man working for Seamore Farming in Hawick was killed whilst clearing a grain bin. The bins were cleared when moving from one grain type to another. The task was done 4 times per year. The young man attempted to clear the blockage from within the large bin. The bin still contained grain and the young man suffocated when became immersed in the grain.
The HSE found that the system in place for clearing blockages was “inherently and obviously unsafe.” The farm plead guilty to breaching s3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £45,000. The Inspector noted that “This was an entirely avoidable tragedy which resulted in the death of a young man”.
Most accidents are avoidable. The solution would not have been expensive or complicated. The risk was well known within the industry. Farmers must have a safe system in place which avoids the need for anyone to enter the grain silos. The HSE spokesperson advised that “this can be easily achieved by making some minor modifications to working practices to enable the task to be completed from outside the silo.”
Employers often just want employees to get on with it and play down Health and Safety. This sort of attitude leads to employees taking unnecessary and unacceptable risks. Employers should take Health and Safety seriously and ensure their employees do as well. A simple risk assessment can save a life. The proper tools can save a life. The loss of life due to indifference is shocking and we are staggered things like this are still happening.
Thompsons Solicitors one of Scotland’s leading law firms, only representing claimants - never working for insurers or in defending big businesses. If you have suffered an accident at work we are here to help.