Hospital Worker’s Claim Against HSE Settled in Court

A hospital worker who sustained a lasting ankle injury has won their claim for compensation for accident at work against the HSE.

In November 2012, Ann Groves (58) was walking at the back of the Baltinglass Hospital, where she worked as an assistant in the kitchens. As she was walking, she slipped on some wet leaves and fell to the ground, injuring her ankle. After applying an icepack to the wound, she visited her GP, who diagnosed her with a soft tissue injury. He bandaged the area, and Ann went on her way.

Ann was unable to sleep, walk, or stand for long periods following the incident. Eventually, Ann sought further medical attention from a number of different specialists. She attended physiotherapy and acupuncture sessions, which offered limited relief. Eventually, she underwent surgery to have a spinal cord stimulant surgically implanted in 2014. Although this did help Ann with the pain, she still suffered complications from the injury.

Ann sought legal counsel, and made a claim for slipping on wet leaves at work against her employer-the Health Service Executive (HSE). The defendants denied any fault for Ann’s injury, claiming that they had a rigorous cleaning system in place. They stated that Ann had been the sole contributor to her accident, and that the injury was entirely her fault.

Ann sought authorisation from the Injuries Board to pursue her claim in court, which was granted after no agreement of liability could be made between the two parties. Judge Barry Hickson of the Circuit Civil Courts heard the claim early this month. The judge was informed of Ann’s circumstances, and of the continual discomfort that she still endures. The judge was further informed that the day on which the accident occurred was a Monday, following a particularly stormy weekend. A maintenance engineer testified that the maintenance team at the hospital started work after the kitchen staff, and thus the path had not been cleared for use.

After hearing the evidence, Judge Hickson found in Ann’s favour, and dismissed the HSE’s claim of contributory negligence following the engineer’s statement. Ann was awarded €25,879 in compensation for her injuries.

Judge Finds Woman Innocent of Contributory Negligence for Waitress Hand Injury

A judge has a denied allegations that a woman was guilty of negligence, which resulted in her sustaining an injury to her hand while she was working as a waitress.

Sophie Caillaud (42) was working as a waitress at the Lough Rynn Hotel in Mohill, County Leitrim, when a glass jug that she was filling shattered in her hands. She suffered a deep laceration to her thumb, and required surgery to treat the soft tissue damage to the area. However, in spite of the surgery, she never fully regained use of her thumb. She was unable to continue her work as a waitress, and the continued discomfort impedes her daily activities.

Sophie sought legal counsel, and made a complain for compensation against the two companies who had manufactured the jug and supplied it to the hotel for which she had been working-Bunzl Outsourcing Ltd and Utopia Tableware Ltd.

Both companies protested the amount which Sarah was claiming for her injuring, and denied having full liability for the accident. They claimed that Sarah’s own negligence had contributed to her injuries, and that she should not receive the full sum that she requested.

Due to this dispute over compensation and liability, Sarah was issued with authorisation by the Injuries Board to pursue her case in court. It was heard in the High Court by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. The judge was informed that staff members had previously reported injuries to their employees as a result of glass jugs shattering in their hands, and Sarah’s accident was not unique.

An expert testimony was read in court, who explained that the rapid cooling and heating of the jugs as they were put in a dishwasher and weakened the join between the jug’s handle and its main body. As a result, the jug was rendered unfit for purpose, and posed as a danger to those who used it.

The judge dismissed all allegations on contributory negligence, and agree with Sophie that she was not exaggerating her injuries. Commenting that he found Sophie to be “entirely genuine”, the judge awarded her €500,000 in compensation for her waitress hand injury.

HSA/ESRI Study Reveals Groups Most Vulnerable to Workplace Accidents

The HSA/ESRI has published study of workplace accidents which has revealed data which indicates that new employees are four times more likely to suffer workplace accidents due to inexperience in the first six months of a new job. The research was based on workplace injury and illness figures over a 12 year period from 2001 to 2012.

The study found that employees which were recently hired–and not just younger ones–were at a much higher risk of being involved in workplace accident due to a lack of training, experience and supervision, a reluctance to question instructions for fear of being seen as incompetent, or a lack of safety knowledge about their workplace.

The study has further revealed that risk of injury and the incidence of workplace accidents decreases with age and experience. The HSA/ESRI report attributes this as being due to lower risk-taking and a reduction in the involvement of manual tasks.

The Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority-Martin O’Halloran–expressed concern that employers should be aware their new employees are a group more vulnerable to accidents. He said:“It is vital that new workers are given adequate training and supervision. This means showing a person the correct way of doing a task and making sure that they can carry out the task correctly and safely. This is particularly important in sectors like construction and agriculture where hazards such as machinery, work at height and manual-handling are common.”

Mr O´Halloran continued: “When we inspect a workplace we are looking for signs that the employer is actively managing safety and health. We find that the good employers are aware of their obligations and have a strong focus on induction training.”

The awareness campaign will run on the radio until March 18th. Its primary goal is to raise awareness of workplace accidents due to inexperience by reminding employers of their duties in relation to new employees.

Employee at Manufacturing Plant Awarded Compensation for Crushed Leg Injury

An employee who was forced to stay in hospital for 10 weeks after an incident in the plant resulted in his leg being crushed by heavy concrete objects has received compensation for his injuries.

Bendcrete Leisure Ltd of Stalybridge in Manchester is a manufacturer of concrete sports equipment such as climbing walls and skate parks. The company also manufactures concrete table tennis tables for outdoor use.

In February 2015, five of the concrete table tennis tables were being prepared for transportation – the first four having been balanced on top of two half-empty resin barrels. As the fifth one was lowered, the weight was too much for the resin barrels and the entire stack collapsed.

When the stack collapsed, the tables fell on top of the employee who had been operating the lifting crane-who wishes to remain anonymous. The weight of the concrete objects crushed his legs. Colleagues were able to free the employee and he was taken immediately to Wythenshaw Hospital by ambulance.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSE) conducted an investigation into circumstances surrounding the crushed leg injury at work and found that the task of manoeuvring the concrete table tennis tables had not been planned, supervised or carried out in a safe or appropriate manner.

The HSE subsequently prosecuted Bendcrete Leisure Ltd for breaches of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and, at Trafford Magistrates´ Court, directors of Bendcrete Leisure Ltd plead guilty to the charges.

After hearing that the employee had spent ten weeks in hospital recovering from his crushed leg injury at work and has been unable to work since, magistrates fined the company £12,000 for the health and safety breaches and ordered the company to pay an additional £3,495 in costs.

HSA Reports Same Number of Workplace Related Fatalities for 2015 as 2014

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has released their annual report including the details of workplace related fatalities for 2015, which shows that the overall number of workplace related deaths has remained constant from 2014.

In contrast to this consistency, there was a noticeable change seen in the proportion of fatal accidents at work accounted for by different industries. Two-thirds of work-related deaths occurred in businesses with fewer than ten employees or where the victim was self-employed – mainly in agriculture, construction and fishing.

Construction workplace fatalities in Ireland increased from eight in 2014 to eleven in 2015 and the fishing industry also saw an increase in fatal accidents from one in 2014 to five in 2015. Fatalities in agriculture accounted for eighteen reported deaths compared to thirty deaths in 2014 and included the deaths of three children who were struck by falling objects or moving vehicles.

Just under half of the of the workplace fatalities in Ireland were related to accidents involving moving vehicles (21 deaths),  and a further fifteen employees were killed as a result of a fall from height. Thirteen workers died as a result of being crushed or trapped by machinery. Of the remaining workplace fatalities in Ireland, the majority were attributable to drowning.

Brian Higgisson – the Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority – said the Authority will be looking for further improvements and reductions in accidents during 2016. He said in a press release: “All work-related deaths are tragic and while we must cautiously welcome the reduction in agriculture fatalities, it is still the most dangerous occupation and that needs to change. There are high levels of safety and health awareness in Irish workplaces and we must ensure that this translates to changes in behaviour and fewer accidents in all the sectors this year.”

Mr Higgisson continued: “We will continue to direct resources to the high-risk sectors, but health issues such as those caused by exposure to asbestos, dust, noise and manual handling are also major risks in the workplace. These hazards account for more working days lost than injuries and we intend to increase our focus on these topics during 2016.”

Flight Attendant’s Case Against Aer Lingus Heard at High Court

A flight attendant who made an injury claim as a result of a rough landing at Dublin Airport is facing her employers Aer Lingus at the High Court in Dublin.

In November 2009, Cassandra Reddin of Ratoath, Co. Meath, was employed as a flight attendant for Aer Lingus. During flight EI582 from Malaga to Dublin, the Airbus 320 on which she was working started swaying from side-to-side as it approached Dublin Airport. Upon landing, it bounced three times before eventually stopping much further down the runway than would be typically expected.

Cassandra informed Mr Justice Michael Hanna that the rough landing had caused her emotional shock, and resulted in her going home from work and experiencing extreme distress; she was rendered tearful for the whole evening. Cassandra also sought medical attention for soft tissue neck and back injuries, akin to what would be expected from whiplash. Cassandra sought legal counsel, and made a claim for compensation for injuries sustained during a landing at Dublin Airport against her employer, Aer Lingus.

The rough landing had caused luggage in the overhead storage departments to open, and for items to fall on top of passengers. According to Cassandra’s testimony, several people on board the plane are screaming with fear. “Safety documents shot out of their pockets; duty free broke in the overhead baggage and alcohol leaked into the cabin. There was a degree of chaos and stress on board,” she told the High Court during the testimony. She further claimed that the rate of descent into the airport was three or four times the normal safe limit.

The defendants denied liability for Cassandra’s injuries, stating that the co-pilot had not been negligent in failing to adequately supervise the landing of the plane. Consequently, when Cassandra applied to the Injuries Board for compensation for injuries during a landing, Aer Lingus refused to give its consent for the assessment to proceed.

The hearing at the Four Courts continues later on this week.

Employee’s Claim Against Irish Rail Settled in Out-of-Court Agreement

An employee who suffered from back and shoulder pain after changing the sign on a DART has settled his claim against Irish Rail in an out-of-court agreement.

In February 2012, Padraic Reddin of Donaghmede, Dublin, was working as an electrician for Irish Rail. As a part of his job, he was assigned the task of changing a front destination school on a DART train. As he was lifting the scroll, preparing it to be fitted, he felt a sharp pain across his shoulders and upper abdomen. He ceased working and rested before resuming his job later that day.

However, Padraic’s pain did not stop, and started to interfere with his everyday activities. He suffered difficulty sleeping, and at one stage he felt discomfort in his shoulder while he was making a cup of tea. In spite of visiting his GP for treatment of the pain, his troubles continued for several months.

Padraic reported his injury to one of his superiors. However, as it had been two weeks since the accident when Padraic finally reported the injury, the superior refused to complete an accident report form.

Padraic sought legal counsel, and made a claim against Iarnrod Éireann for a shoulder injury and applied to the Injuries Board for assessment of his claim. The defendants refused to consent to this assessment, causing the Injuries Board to issue Padraic with authorisation to pursue his claim for compensation through the court system.

Earlier this week, the hearing to establish liability for Padraic’s injuries took place at the Circuit Civil Court by Mr Jusitce Raymond Groarke. At the hearing, the judge was informed that the scroll which Padraic was carrying weighed approximately 10kg, and was to be lifted 2 metres above the ground.

The plaintiffs argued that the scroll should have been lifted by two employees to avoid any possible risk of injuries. Before any further evidence could be presented to the judge, the parties requested a brief adjournment. When the court met again, Judge Groarke was informed that the claim against the travel company for a workplace injury had been settled for an undisclosed amount. The case was struck from court records.

Recycling Plant Fined £15,000 After Worker Involved in Machinery Accident

Rotherham Magistrates have issued a fine of £15,000 for health and safety violations to a recycling plant after one of its workers was involved in a serious accident with one of its pieces of machinery, sustaining serious damage to his arm.

In December 2013, Ryan Jackson (25) from South Yorkshire was working alone in the metal recycling plant. Ryan had only been recently employed by the plant when the machine he was working on stopped suddenly. Ryan investigated the cause of this, and found that there was something blocking the machinery. He attempted to remove the cause this blockage, not realising that the machine would start to function immediately after it was cleared.

As a result of this oversight, Ryan’s arm was caught by the cutting mechanism, and he suffered severe injuries to the area including a cracked shoulder blade, a shredded radial nerve and three different breakages to his arm. He was immediately escorted to hospital where his injuries were treated.

Ryan had to have a nerve removed from his calf and implanted into his shoulder to replace the one that had been destroyed by the machine. He was unable to use his broken arm for several months after the accident occurred. Ryan is still on a course of pain medication to help him with the pain he endures from the accident.

An investigation was launched, and it was revealed there had been a failure to replace a guard that had been placed over the tail drum after it was removed. The absence of emergency stop button near the area of the machine that had been blocked was also noted. The report concluded that the guarding that had been around the conveyor belt leading into the cutting mechanism was inadequate. Therefore, the area in which Ryan was working was not compliant with health and safety standards.

The Health and Safety Executive charged the owners of the recycling plant for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Magistrates at Rotherham Magistrates Court were informed that the plant had no management system to ensure that the guards were in place, nor to check if suitable safety procedures were being followed. The lack of management system also meant that emergency equipment such as emergency stops or pull cords were not checked for functionality.

It brought to the attention of the magistrates that C F Booth Ltd, the owners of the plant, had been previously advised by the Health and Safety Executive in May 2013 regarding the guards of the end drums on other conveyor belts of the site.

The owners of the plant admitted that they had violated safety procedure. Such a breach was the cause of Ryan’s accident and resulting injuries. In addition to the £15,000 fine, they were required to pay costs of £1,595.

Health Service Medical Claims Nearly Double Since 2010

Figures released by the State Claims Agency indicated that, in the past five years, medical negligence claims against the HSE have nearly doubled.

The State Claims Agency have recently reported that last year, just under a thousand service medical negligence claims had been made against the HSE in the High Court. This figure is nearly double that reported in 2010. On top of these numbers, the State Claims Agency has to deal with more than 3,000 previous claims dating back from before 2014, and another 218 claims that have already been lodged this year.

However, these 936 health service medical negligence claims fails to include claims made in both the District and Circuit Courts. It also does not address public liability claims for accidents to visitors to hospitals, nor employer liability claims when employees are involved in accidents in Irish hospitals.

The number of claims is expected to rise even further following the Hiqa report into failings at the Portlaoise Hospital, and several high-profile cases involving Irish maternity care. The report caused the chief of the HSE-Tony O’ Brien- to call for a “clear-out of uncompassionate staff”. However, Leo Varadkar, current Health Minister, states that the “wall of silence” is responsible for the huge increase in the number of claims.

Leo Varadkar has previously criticised an “open disclosure” initiative in the HSE and State Claims Agency, first implemented in 2013. According to Varadkar, the initiative was failing to work, as hospital managers were neglecting to fully engage with patients who claimed to have had negative experiences while at hospital. In order to receive answers to their queries about what went wrong with their procedures, they are forced to go to court, due to this lack of engagement.

“When something goes wrong, it’s OK to say that you’re sorry about what happened”, Minister Varadkar said to the press. “It does not mean you’re accepting liability. There is a never a good reason to conceal the truth from a patient or their family once the facts are known. Aside from making sense from a human point of view, it’s the right thing to do financially”

The Department of Health is currently writing legislation to reinforce the open disclosure policy among Irish hospitals. This is hoped to help healthcare professionals engage with their patients, passing on vital information to them, without prejudicing future health service medical negligence claims.

Injuries Board Review Reveals that Number of Compensation Claims Remain Steady

The Injuries Board has recently released figures in its annual review indicating that the number of claims it received in 2014 remained roughly steady.

During the year, 31,576 claims for compensation were made to the Injuries Board, resulting in 12,420 (39%) assessments being accepted. The total value of awards granted was €281.2 million. In comparison to the previous year, 31,211 claims were made, of which 10,656 (34%) were accepted. In 2013, €243.5 million was granted in total as injury compensation.

In 2014, the higher acceptance rate was due to a large number of claims for compensation being put forward to the Injuries Board in the final few weeks of 2013 which were not resolved until 2014. The organisation’s report also stated that there had been a decrease in the amount of time needed to process and resolve a claim between the two years.

Despite the increase in the average value of a claim for an injury at work (rising from €28,886 to €32,134), there was a slight decrease overall in the average assessment of an injury claim (€22,642 from €22,847). The report also showed that the largest single assessment was for an employer liability claim, at a value of €972,898.

The Chief Executive of the Injuries Board-Patricia Byron-commented on the company’s annual report, stating: “While the volume of new claims stabilised last year, the increase in the number of awards made by the Board is a clear indication that more respondents, typically insurers, are opting to engage with our low cost claims resolution service and recognise the real value of avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation where uncontested claims are concerned”.”

Ms Byron continued: “2014 was an important year for us as we marked a decade in operation. As a result of our journey, personal injury compensation is now delivered in 7 months and at a processing cost of 6.7%, compared to almost 3 years and a cost of 58% for litigated claims. With over €1 billion in savings delivered to date and a ten year track record behind us, the benefits of non-adversarial claims resolution are unequivocal.”