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The Telegraph's legal expert, Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors specialises in winning compensation for clients in personal injury cases. This week he explains why much maligned Health and Safety legislation is a vital part of workers' rights.

It is likely at some point in the last few years you will have heard a story of what would seem to be an example of 'health and safety gone mad'.

Stories of children being banned from playing conkers in school and firemen's poles having to be removed due to the risk of firemen piling up on top of each other are extreme examples and exaggerated by folklore.

So where is the balance between living and working safely and walking around wrapped in cotton wool?

Firstly we must recognise that people have to face difficult choices in their working lives and that it is possible to provide them with the right equipment and the right training, so that sensible, balanced decisions can be taken.

The basis of British health and safety law is the Health and Safety at WorkAct 1974. The Act sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.

These duties are qualified in the Act by the principle of 'so far as is reasonablypracticable'. In other words, an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Every year, around two and a half million people are injured or made ill because of work. While this number will never be zero almost all work-related illness is avoidable, most of it through forward planning and good safety practices.

If you have been injured at work it is important to contact a solicitor who specialises in health and safety law.

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