Workplace accidents in the construction industry are often serious, given the exposure of individuals to heights, machinery, and heavy objects. Even a simple error of judgement can have very grave consequences. Despite the vast amount of preventive guidelines in place, mandated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), not all employers within the construction sector are as stringent when it comes to safety as they should be, and this leaves employees exposed to the risk of serious head injury.
Dangerous falls with serious consequences
In January 2017, Rafal Myslim suffered a hematoma to his brain following a seven-metre fall onto concrete, from an asbestos roof he was helping to replace. The contractor, Ernst Doe and Sons Ltd, had been contracted by the Dengie Crops to replace the roof – the work was sub-contracted to Balsham (Buildings) Ltd and then again to Strong Clad Limited to ultimately complete the roof replacement. All three companies were fined a total of £400K due to several breaches of health and safety regulations. According to the details of the case, 40% of the roof had no safety netting to protect employees from falling. Furthermore, the HSE explained that, “the main contractor was unable to act effectively in their role as principal because they had no experience of working in construction.”
In a similar case, Saleem Hussain was contracted to repair a warehouse roof in Manchester in November 2013. Mr. Hussain hired two men to complete the work, who themselves were not qualified to do so. No training or equipment was provided and there was a lack of proper risk assessment carried out. One of the men tragically fell seven metres to his death. Mr. Hussain was handed an immediate eight-month prison sentence.
These cases highlight a number of important points. Firstly, it is paramount that construction work is performed by fully qualified personnel, with the provision of proper trainingand equipment to undertake the job in a safe manner. Secondly, the job must be overseen by a contractor equipped to fully assess the complexities of the task, identify and mitigate risks and ensure the work is planned and completed in a safe and logical manner from start to completion. The third point is that the severity of punishment can be considerable, ranging from a very largefine, which it itself could cause a small firm to be unable to continue operation, to imprisonment, as in the case of Mr. Hussain.
Construction still has a long way to go
It is well established that across all industries, accidents have continued to decline in volume from nearly 1600 in every 100,000 employees in 2001 to just over 200 in every 100,000 in 2015. Despite this, the construction industry is still statistically one of the most dangerous in Britain, second only to agriculture.Falls account for 50% of all fatalities in construction. In terms of non-fatal injuries reported, the majority (nearly a quarter) were caused by slips, trips, and falls, 20% were caused by falls from heights, and 11% were caused by being struck by an object. Any one of these could cause a serious head injury.
Causes of head injury in the construction sector
There are many potential risks that the construction sector exposes workers to, that could result in a brain injury. The most obvious are the dangers of falling or moving heavy objects, either of which could inflict a direct impact to the head, leading to life-changing traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is also possible to receive a TBI as a result of exposure to factors such as electricity, persistent shaking (e.g. from a handheld compactor), continued or loud noise, toxic chemicals and noxious gasses (e.g. carbon monoxide).
How can the risk of head injury be reduced?
Safety equipment such as hardhatsand ear defenders can reduce the possibility of head injury. Whilehard hats themselves don’t prevent all injuries, workers should always wear one inside a construction area. Any defective or ill-fitting hard hat (or any item of personal safety equipment) should immediately be replaced to maximise the level of protection afforded.
To prevent falls from heights, adequate safety equipment including netting, harnessing or secure working platforms should be in place in accordance with HSE guidance. Before any work is undertaken, a full risk assessment should be carried out by those in control of the work to minimise any chance of injury.
Can I claim if I have been injured?
If you or a family member has been injured while working on a construction site, you may be able to make a claim for compensation if you can prove that the contractor was negligent. If they failed to follow the guidelines laid out by the HSE, and that omission led directly to your injury, you may have a claim for compensation against them.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have received an injury while working on a construction site and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.