I was greatly saddened over the last two weeks to read of two separate instances of workplace fatalities in Aberdeen and Boddam. The circumstances of these tragic accidents are not yet known, but it caused me to think about the extent to which employee safety is affected by the downturn in the local economy.
The economy of Aberdeen is unquestionably in downturn. It is difficult find someone who has not, either directly or indirectly, been affected by the falling oil price, and the resulting redundancies and reduced productivity of the Aberdeen oil industry. This has also had a devastating impact on businesses outwith the oil industry. Local businesses are reporting decreased turnover, saying that people are less inclined to spend as much as they previously would have done. Indeed, I was informed today that other Aberdeen law firms are having to order more “For Sale” signs. They have run out, in the face of unprecedented volumes of people trying to sell property, with nobody looking to buy.
Faced with such difficult economic conditions, it is understandable that local businesses are seeking to cut costs wherever possible and do more with less in an attempt to stay afloat. These exercises in cost-cutting cannot, however, be allowed to affect the safety of employees.
The health and safety of employees must not be endangered by deficient safety practices put in place by parsimonious employers. Ensuring the safety of employees is not an unnecessary cost. It is not a hassle. It is not an inconvenience. It is of vital importance.
The laws on workplace safety do not change when there is an economic downturn. It is still the duty of every employer to provide their employees with a safe place of work. We at Thompsons will continue to fight and win cases where the negligent practices of employers have caused injury to employees, and we will continue to campaign for safer workplaces.
Every employee deserves to come home safely from work.