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It’s over 180 years since the UK Government began to make law to improve the health and safety of workers. The Factories Act 1833 saw the appointment of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Factories, comprising four inspectors who were mainly assigned to preventing injury and overwork in child textile workers in over 3,000 textile mills up and down the country. Yes, you read that correctly – once upon a time, there were four inspectors safeguarding children working in over 3,000 mills!  It sounds like a horror story. A sign of the Dickensian times, perhaps.

Ever since – with the notable exception of the present government’s removal of certain direct rights to compensation - there has been a relatively steady improvement in the legal health and safety protections provided to workers by law and relative to their rights to obtain compensation if injured or made ill by work.  Despite this progressive health and safety agenda, even now workplace injuries remain commonplace in the UK.

Statistics compiled and published by the Health and Safety Executive – the modern day incarnation of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, reveal that in the year beginning 1 April 2012, around 646,000 workers were injured at work. Tragically, in 148 of these cases, the injuries proved fatal.

And make no mistake, despite the stereotypical view that rural communities are less affected by workplace injury or disease and so should be less concerned about workplace health and safety, the evidence suggests this assertion is fabled, not factual.

This is best illustrated by consulting the same Health and Safety Executives statistics, and particularly by consideration of the ‘Total Injury Rate’ by Scottish Local Authority area. This reveals that, on average, there were 334.9 injuries per 100,000 employees in the Scottish Borders, compared to 274.8 injuries per 100,000 employees in Glasgow, and only 193 injuries per 100,000 in Edinburgh. A Scottish Borders worker is therefore 1.7 times more likely to be injured than an Edinburgh worker, and 1.2 times more likely than a Glasgow worker.     This is even more stark when one considers that well over half of the working population in the Scottish Borders are employed in ‘Public Administration, Education and Health’, ‘Distribution, Hotels and Restaurants’, and ‘Manufacturing’ – on the face of it hardly dangerous or even physical occupational sectors.

What does this tell us? It tells us firstly that we should all be vigilant about health and safety at work. No occupation, employment sector or region like the Scottish Borders is completely protected. Workplace accidents and ill health caused by workplace conditions can have severe consequences physically, emotionally and, of course, financially. We should always work to protect ourselves and protect others.

It also highlights that when an accident does happen, it’s vitally important that the injured person forgets about stereotypes and social attitudes and obtains advice from a specialist personal injury lawyer right away. It could be the difference between obtaining compensation, thereby allowing money to try and restore you to the position you were in before the accident as best as it can, or not and suffering the consequences.

The recent government led removal of certain direct rights of compensation means it’s more important than ever that evidence about workplace accidents is ingathered as quickly and comprehensively as possible. You are likely to be successful if you can show that someone – usually your employer – had a duty to do something or avoid doing something in order to take care of you, that they breached this duty, and that this breach of duty led to your injuries.

In our new office in Galashiels we will bring our dedication, knowledge and strength to represent the people of Scottish Borders region who are affected by workplace accidents or ill health caused by working conditions. So, ignore the myths and the stereotypes, and contact us for specialist personal injury advice as soon as you need it. We will do all we can to give every health and safety horror story a happy ending.  

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