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Health and safety violations no longer guarantee accident claims

May 30, 2013

While it’s true that new laws make it harder for injured workers to bring accident claims against their employers, many business sectors have already decided to clean up their act.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill has now been enacted into law complete with clause 70 intact – a controversial amendment that strips away the right of an injured worker to initiate a compensation claim on the grounds that their employer was found to be in breach of Health and Safety rules.

Employees can still start litigation proceedings against their employer for personal injuries sustained at work, if it can be can proved that not enough reasonable care was taken on behalf of the worker’s safety. This means that those suffering work-related injuries aren’t completely out of luck in the wake of the new legislation, but the evidentiary thresholds are much higher than simply pointing to a guilty plea at a Health and Safety hearing.

This could lead to many injured employees finding it significantly harder to successfully make a claim for compensation. In fact, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers estimates as many as 70,000 work accident cases may be affected by these new legal developments.

Health and safety is clearly a growing concern amongst many industries, including the oil and gas sector. A recently published report by Ernst & Young placed environmental and health and safety concerns at the very top of the sector’s risk factors for 2013, outstripping issues such as energy policy uncertainties, inflation and cost increases, regulatory compliance, and price fluctuations.

The new legislation may indeed provide some relief to firms regarding potential health and safety violations, and subsequent personal injury claims. However, it’s important to remember that the Health and Safety Executive prosecutes violations quite aggressively, routinely resulting in fines and court costs in the tens of thousands of pounds for any company found guilty of regulatory breach. This alone makes it in any firm’s best interest to remain in full compliance with the HSE’s many rules and regulation,  even in the face of reduced exposure to civil liability.

Perhaps this is why the oil and gas sector in particular is now so focused on mitigating it’s exposure to health and safety violations by reducing environmental risk factors. In fact, raising safety standards was cited by Ernst & Young as one of the industry’s core targets in 2013.