Court Fines Company Over Factory Fire

A court has fined Maxibrite Ltd for health and safety violations regarding a factory fire in which two of its employees suffered burn injuries-one so severe, he needed a skin graft.

In December 2012, a fire broke out in a tower on a manufacturing plant in Llantrisant owned by Maxibrite-a coal briquette manufacturer. Several attempts were made to control the fire in the tower-which held a rotary drier-all of which failed. After these failed attempts, a Maxibrite work manager-Simon Gillbody-and another employee-Carl Lewis-went to the tower to attempt to open an inspection hatch at the bottom to release any obstruction.

Carl opened the inspection hatch, causing burning cinders and hot coals to fall down on him. These caused burns to the necks, faces and chests of the two employees. The emergency services were notified, and they were transported to hospital. Carl required a skin graft operation due to the severity of his burns. Simon was treated to by the emergency services, as his burns were not as serious as Carl’s.

The Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation into the accident which caused the two men to be injured. It was discovered that Maxibrite had neither carried out a risk assessment for the possibility  of the rotary dried starting a fire, nor instructed the employees on the procedures to follow in the event of a fire. It was further revealed that no training had been provided for employees who may be using fire-fighting equipment if a fire were to break out.

The HSE prosecuted the company for breaches in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. At Pontypridd Magistrate’s Court, the company pleaded guilty to both of the charges against them. The Magistrates fined the company a total of £20,000 for their negligence which caused the injuries, and ordered the company to pay £5,115 in costs.

Speaking after the Magistrates had announced the fine, HSE inspector Steve Lewis commented that Simon and Carl–the two employees burned in the accident–could have suffered far worse injuries because of Maxibrite´s negligence. He urged all employers to inform staff of the proper procedures to follow should a fire break out at work.

Chef Settles Claim for Broken Wrist Against Employer

A chef who was participating in a team building exercise during which he broke his wrist has settled his claim for compensation against his employer, Carton House.

In October 2006, Cathal Kavanagh (54) of Ongar, Dublin, was employed by the Carton House Spa and Golf Hotel in Maynooth, County Kildare, as the executive head chef. Cathal was attending a team-building exercise event with his colleagues in the Riverbanks Art Centre in Newbrifge when he was involved in an accident that resulted in him breaking his wrist.

Cathal and his colleagues from the hotel participated in a series of events and games during the day. One of these events was a relay race, in which Cathal was required to hop forwards and then run backwards. During the race. Cathal slipped on the surface and fell, breaking his wrist due to the impact of the fall. Cathal was transported to hospital, where his injury was treated.

Cathal sought legal counsel, and made a compensation claim for an injury on a team building exercise against the Carton House Spa and Golf Hotel-a four star facility-and the organisers of the day-JikiJela Ltd of County Sligo. He made a further claim against the owners of the Riverbank Arts Centre-Kildare County Council.

In his action, Cathal claimed that all three parties had been negligent in ensuring his safety as they had not ensured that the activities were safe for this who participated in them, and they hadn’t ensured that there was no danger present in the location of the event. All three of the defendants denied liability, and Cathal sought Authorisation from the Injuries Board for his claim to go to court. The Injuries Board granted this application.

The case was scheduled to be heard at the Circuit Civil Court by Mrs Justice Mary Irvine. However, following the first lunch break of the case, the judge was informed that Cathal’s compensation claim for an injury on a team-building exercise had been settled and that case could be struck.

British Rail Pays Compensation to Worker for Loss of Hearing Claim

British Rail has paid compensation to a former worker who made a claim for loss of hearing, as a result of being in a noisy work environment for 17 years.

Between the years of 1956 and 1973, Aubrey Akers (72) of Swindon, Wiltshire, worked in the Swindon engineering works for British Rail. As a part of his job, he was constantly surrounded by up to three hundred machines. The noise of hammering and riveting was constantly surrounding him as the trains were stripped and rebuilt.

British Rail had been made aware of the dangers of excessive noise in the workplace from 1955, yet they failed to provide Aubrey or his colleagues with any ear protection or warn them about the risk of working in a prolonged noisy environment. Due to his employer’s failure to adequately adhere to safety regulations, Aubrey lost his hearing prematurely.

Aubrey was made aware that a former colleague at British Rail received compensation from his former employer for their failure in duty of care that caused his lack of hearing. Aubrey then sought legal counsel, and made a claim for loss of hearing at work against British Rail. The defendants initially denied liability for his loss of hearing. Just prior to the case being heard in court, they agreed to an out-of-court settlement amounting to £8,500.

Aubrey´s legal representative commented that many people who previously worked in excessively noisy environments develop premature deafness and tinnitus, and wrongly believe that it is attributable to old age. She recommended that anybody who was not provided with hearing protection contact a solicitor to see if they are eligible to make a claim for a loss of hearing at work.

HSE Apologises for Fatal Negligence After Birth

The HSE has apologised to the family of a woman whose care after the birth of her child was described as “negligent”, leading to her death.

In September 2010, Dhara Kivlehan (29) was admitted to Sligo General Hospital to deliver her first child. Dhara had been experiencing painless contractions for two days before she was admitted. She was two weeks past her due date, and on examination, it was revealed that she was exhibiting high blood pressure and fluid retention around her ankles (oedema)-signs of pre-eclampsia.

Dhara had blood taken, and tests of the blood that she had abnormal kidney and liver function (which further suggested that she was pre-eclamptic). No action was taken by the medical staff due to the results of these tests not being communicated to Dhara’s doctors for twelve hours. The morning following her admission, Dhara had an emergency Caesarean Section performed to deliver her son-Dior. She was later transferred to a side room off the main Maternity Ward.

Dhara’s condition began to deteriorate, but it was not until 4:45pm the following dat that she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Sligo General Hospital. At 11:00pm that evening, Dhara’s condition was considered critical. She was air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to receive specialist treatment.

Dhara experienced multiple organ failure secondary and HELLP syndrome-a variant of pre-eclampsia, and as a result died four days later. Both the Belfast coroner and the Sligo coroner have declined requests to conduct post-mortems to investigate the incident.

Dhara’s husband-Michael-believed that the symptoms of haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and a low platelet count were not identified and treated in time to prevent his wife’s death. He made a compensation claim for fatal hospital errors against the Health Service Executive (HSE)-alleging that the Sligo General Hospital had breached its duty of care and that the care that Dhara received was negligent and inadequate.

The defendants denied that there had been a failure in the duty of care by the hospital, and a court hearing was scheduled to determine whether the HSE had a case to answer. Just prior to this case was due to be presented in court, the HSE acknowledged shortcomings in the care provided for Dhara both before and after the birth of Dior. An €80,000 settlement of compensation for fatal hospital errors was negotiated between the parties.

At the High Court in Dublin, the family heard a statement read to them in which the HSE apologised for the errors that had been made which led to Dhara’s death, and offered their condolences to Michael and Dior.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement, and criticised the HSE for “holding out until almost the bitter end” before admitting liability, and consequently causing the Kivlehan family unnecessary distress.

Injuries Board Reveals Huge Increase in Burn and Scald Accidents in Workplaces

A report has been released by the Injuries Board which reveals that there has been a huge increase in the amount of burn and scald accidents that have occurred in Irish workplaces. 

The Injuries Board has released a report which reveals that there had been a 50 percent increase in injury claims for burn and scald accidents in Irish workplaces. The Director of Corporate Services at the Injuries Board-Stephen Watkins-has described this increase as “worrying”, and compared figures from 2011 and 2012. This comparison revealed that during this time, the number of accepted Injuries Board assessments in respect of claims for burn and scald accidents at work increased from 28 to 42.

Mr Watkins stated that assessments with a total value of €1.33 million were accepted by plaintiffs over the two year period, and that the average amount of compensation awarded was €19,066. He also listed the most frequent causes of accidents in the workplace which resulted in burn and scald injuries:

-An overflow of hot or boiling water

-Splashes from hot sauces and liquids

-Acid and chemical burns

-Clothing catching fire

-Electrical scalds from faulty equipment

The highest individual assessment accepted over the two year period was €106,949. This related to a plaintiff who had been badly injured in an acid spill. Mr Watkins commented that the highest frequency of injury claims for burn and scald accidents at work were made by plaintiffs working as caterers and cleaners.

The press release also highlighted that tasks that were seemingly straightforward-such as making a hot drink-could result in a burn or scald injury at work. Mr Watkins urged for employers and employees to be vigilant when in the presence of any substance or equipment that could result in a painful injury.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) published the results of their “Chemical Usage Survey” earlier this year, which revealed that two-thirds of companies in Ireland who use chemicals which are capable or delivering a burn or scald had no formal training program in place to train employees how to handle such dangerous substances.

It was also revealed in the HSA’s “Summary of Workplace Injuries”-published in 2012-that female workers are three times more likely to sustain burns and scalds in the workplace than their male counterparts, primarily due to the higher percentage of females employed in catering and cleaning.

Injuries Board Releases Annual Report Online

The Injuries Board in Ireland has released its annual report online, detailing statistics comparing claims to those made in the first half of this year to the same period in 2012.

The Injuries Board have released a report on their website-injuriesboard.ie-that shows that the number of claims and applications for assessment of personal injury compensation have risen by 10 percent in the first six months of 2013 in comparison to the same period in 2012. The government body received 14,685 cases in the first half of the year in 2012, which increased to 16,162 this year.

The total value of assessments that had been accepted by the board rose by 8 percent between 2012 and 2013. The average value of Injuries Board claims also rose, by 4 percent. These changes have been attributed to a small number of exceptionally high claims assessments-one in particular, for €976,000, is on record as being the highest-ever assessment of personal injury compensation made by the Injuries Board.

The number of Injuries Board claims assessments accepted by plaintiffs also increased from 5,180 in 2012 to 5,286 in 2013. This represented a substantial decrease in the percentage of Injuries Board assessments accepted; in 2012, 37.2 percent were accepted, whereas in 2013 32.7 percent were accepted. This indicates that more claims for personal injury compensation are being resolved by direct negotiation and court action.

Road traffic accidents accounted for the highest proportion of applications for assessment submitted to the Injuries Board (75.5 percent). This trend continues on from previous years. The proportion of claims for injuries sustained at work continued to decline (8.1 percent). The balance of Injuries Board claims was in respect of public liability claims and product liability claims.

The CEO of the Injuries Board in Ireland-Patricia Byron-commented that the higher volume of claims and increased value of accepted compensation assessments did not provide an excuse for insurance companies to increase the premiums they charge. She said that, as the Board´s processing fee to respondents had been reduced from €850.00 to €600.00, the savings made by insurance companies should counter the increased value of Injuries Board claims.

Woman Awarded Broken Chair Injury Compensation

A woman who sustained irreversible damage from a broken chair accident has been awarded compensation for her injuries. 

In June 2002, Terry Anne Downie (now fifty-one years old) was employed as a team leader for the Community Information and Referral Service in the Australian Capital Territory. She purchased furniture for her office from an ex-government furniture outlet-Fyshwick-to decorate her office with. One of the items that she purchased was a chair to use at work.

In October later that year, Terry Anne was on the chair in her office when two legs of the chair snapped, causing Terry Anne to fall to the floor. A co-worker who witnessed the accident stated that she heard a loud crack, and then witnessed Terry Anne struggling to get up.

The woman was immediately transported to hospital, and scans were taken of her back. They revealed a building disc inflamed by the accident was in contact with a nerve root. Despite their best efforts, doctors were unable to fix the injury and Terry Anne suffers from ongoing pain, mental illness, sexual dysfunction and a permanent sensation that she said could be described as ants under the skin of her legs.

Terry Anne was awarded Au$190,000 in compensation for an injury caused by a broken chair at work in 2005. She also made a private claim for personal injury compensation against the chair’s importer-Jantom-claiming that the product was faulty when it was supplied to Fyshwick. Terry Anne’s employers also made a claim against Fantom to recover the amount of worker’s compensation that they had paid her as a result of her injury.

Judge Master David Harper heard the case at the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. He found in favour of Terry Anne and her employer after hearing expert evidence that the plastic moulding on the base of the chair had failed catastrophically, as two of the five supporting spokes snapped.

The judge said “Terry Anne has many years ahead of pain and depression. Her life is very different to the life she could have expected if it had not been for her injury. Her enjoyment of life, and the kind of life she is able to lead, have been altered immeasurably.”

Terry Anne was awarded $933,030 in compensation for her injury, and a further $112,000 in special damages to cover her medical expenses. Terry Anne’s employer was also awarded compensation for the money that they had paid to Terry Anne.

HIQA Report Shows Poor Hygiene Standards in Irish Hospitals

A report recently released by HIQA has revealed that Irish Hospitals have a low standard when it comes to hygiene-particularly in relation to hand hygiene. 

The Health Information Quality Authority-an independent body which surveys the quality and safety of the health service in Ireland-has published several reports that were the result of unannounced visits by their inspectors visiting Irish hospitals. Five hospitals were subject to such inspections during June and July of this year, and the report revealed that there was a general lack of hand hygiene in each of the facilities.

The inspectors identified several other issues in the hospitals. Patients with suspected communicable diseases were being treated in open bays of Accident and Emergency Departments, in spite of the obvious risk. The doors of isolation units-where patients with transmittable diseases were being treated-were left open as standard practise.

The hospitals which were visited by inspectors were as follows:

-Waterford Regional Hospital, Waterford

-St Michael’s House, Dun Laoghaoire

-Portiuncila Hospital, Galway

-Louth County Hospital, Dundalk

-Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan

The general poor standard of hygiene at the hospitals was exemplified by several different incidents discovered by inspectors. Five hygienic gel dispensers were found to be empty at the Waterford Regional Hospital. Several more were blocked up by congealed soap, and mould was found to be growing in patients’ shower units and around toilet areas.

The Clinical Director of the Waterford Regional Hospital-Rob Landers-commented on the report, stating that the hospital was “extremely disappointed” with the findings. He added that their Accident and Emergency Department was extremely busy on the day that the inspectors made their unannounced visit.

In response to the findings, he stated that compulsory hand hygiene training would be introduced for all workers at the hospital in future and that future hygiene breathes would become a disciplinary manner for employees. Mr Landers reassured patients that it was safe to attend Waterford Regional Hospital despite the finding in HIQA´s report.

Company Found Guilty for Health and Safety Violations

A company that has been prosecuted by the HSE for health and safety violations which resulted in one of its employees suffering a broken neck has been found guilty by the Magistrates’ Court. 

In December 2011, an unnamed employee (thirty-nine years of age at the time of the accident) was working for CRF (UK) Ltd in Wem, Shropshire, was working with a twin pillar drill when the sleeve on his overalls caught on the unguarded running drill spindle. As he was pulled into the rotating spindle, the man’s arm and upper body were dragged into the machine. The force of the machine caused him to break three bones in his neck, and he sustained serious lacerations and burns to his forearm.

The injured employee was immediately transported to hospital, and remained in the facility for seven weeks following the accident. He was forced to wear a neck brace after the incident to prevent further damage to the area, and had ten weeks of physiotherapy to help him regain strength in the left side of his body.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the accident, and found that the man’s employers-CRF (UK) Ltd, a steel engineering company-had not provided any guards to prevent access to the rotating spindles. There was no formal system of supervision or training in place in the company, as they relied on the experience and discretion of its operators to establish how work should be set up.

The HSE prosecuted the company for its health and safety violations, which were in breach of Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. At Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court, the company pleaded guilty to the charges, and were fined £13,000 by the magistrates for the offences. They were also ordered to pay £7,871 in costs for the trial.

Employee Awarded Compensation for Hand Injury at Work

A woman has been awarded compensation for a hand injury that she sustained at work after appealing her case, which had initially been dismissed. 

In October 2009, Carol Kennedy of Dumbarton was working at the Chivas Brother-a famous whiskey company-bottling plant at Kilmalid. She was pushing a trolley of bottle caps weighing nearly 400kg from the storeroom to the production line when one of the wheels of the trolley became misaligned and locked.

In an attempt to move the trolley, Carol moved to the front to pull it through a passageway between two “autocol” machines. As she did so, her left hand became trapped between the cage of the trolley and one of the machines, crushing her hand and causing it serious damage.

Carol made a compensation claim for a hand injury at work against her employers. She claimed that they were in breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, and that their health and safety violations resulted in her painful accident.

The defendants denied liability for Carol’s injury. They claimed that Carol’s own negligence was the cause of the injury, as she showed a lack of care when she was manoeuvring the trolley in a manner other than how she had been trained. They claim that she should have sought assistance from her work colleagues when she was in difficulty.

Carol’s claim for compensation was initially dismissed at the Dumbarton’s Sheriff Court in June 2012. Carol and her legal team appealed the decision, and the case was heard at the Court of Session.

Lord Drummond Young heard the case, and found in her favour. He stated that Carol was only 5’3’’ tall, and would not have been able to see over the top of the laden trolley. Therefore, the risk of injury for a person of that stature was “reasonably foreseeable”, and should have been avoided.

Lord Young said Carol had no option other than to place her hands on vertical bars of the trolley as there were no external handles and could not be criticised in the circumstances for failing to seek assistance from other machine operators. He concluded that Carol therefore had no contributory negligence, and found her employer entirely liable. Lord Young awarded Carol £5,321 in compensation for a hand injury at work.