Concern over new health & safety law. Do you feel safe at work?

New law came into force on 1 October 2013 that will make it more difficult for employees to claim compensation if they have an accident at work which was not their fault.

For the last century, employees have been able to rely on health and safety regulations and have been able to claim against their employer if there has been a breach that has resulted in injury.  This includes, for example, regulations that require an employer to ensure that workplace equipment is maintained in efficient working order and in good repair.  Until the recent enactment, if there was a breach of a duty, the employer would be liable.

The law has changed.  Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Act 2013 means that breach of health and safety regulations alone will no longer entitle employees to compensation if they are injured.  It will be necessary to prove negligence.  Many people will think this is a good thing but it isn’t if you have suffered injury in a workplace accident    The Government has argued that health and safety legislation has gone too far and that this reform is necessary to stop “compensation culture” in its tracks. However, figures published by the Health and Safety Executive cast doubt on this.  There has been a strong downward trend in workplace accidents over the last 10 years and a decline in fatal accidents.  Rigorous health and safety law has helped to achieve this.

The new law raises concerns.  Failure to comply with health and safety law involves a simple test.  Proving negligence is much less clear and will make it more difficult to bring claims.  Insurers are more likely to dispute claims following this change in the law.

This will cause difficulty for the injured person.  More often than not information that is required to prove negligence is in the hands of the employer.  The employer will have in their possession all of the documentation that is relevant and necessary to establish negligence.  This will include accident report forms, details of previous accidents and risk assessment documentation.  Key witnesses are likely to be still working for the employer and reluctant to give evidence fearing that they may lose their job.  This is why health and safety regulations were introduced in the first place, so that a clear framework existed to establish whether an employer was liable and to prevent employees having to rely on information held by the employer to establish a claim against them.

These changes will have particular impact in cases involving fatal accidents and where a victim is so seriously injured that they have no recollection of the events that led to the accident.  In cases such as this, it will be especially difficult to establish negligence and hence to recover compensation.

The Government hopes that the introduction of this legislation will reduce the burden of health and safety on business and make it easier to compete.  The risk is that it will undermine a health and safety system that has achieved a substantial reduction in workplace accidents and fatal accidents.  Will the encouraging trend towards safer workplaces be reversed?

Following these changes, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer an accident at work, it is all the more important to seek advice from a lawyer who specialises in accidents at work, who recognises negligence and who knows what documentation an employer should disclose that will help to prove your claim.  Here at Wolferstans we have a team that specialises in work place claims.

For a free no obligation initial discussion please contact us on 01752 663295 or visit

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