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.”

Compensation Awarded to Ex-Firefighter for Fall Injuries

An ex-firefighter has received compensation for injuries he sustained while taking part in a training exercise during which a ladder snapped, causing injuries that ended his career.

In May 2011, Michael Hollings (46) of West Yorkshire was partaking in a training course in Ilkley Fire Station. Michael had been working as a fireman for eight years at the time of the training course. While participating in various training exercises, a 13.5 metre ladder that he was climbing with two of his fellow firefighters snapped. Michael, who was high up the ladder, was attached to it with an “improvised chest harness”.

When the ladder fell, the force of it hitting a solid fence caused communicated fractures in both of Michael’s forearms, and dislocated both of his elbows. Michael’s right foot was also broken on impact. The emergency services were notified, and Michael was transported to hospital, where he was also diagnosed with a concussion.

Michael had to undergo two operations on each of his arms, and was forced to wear a metal brace for several months following the incident. He still attends physiotherapy twice a week to help his arms recover, but he has been informed by medical professionals that he may never recover full use of either arm. As a consequence of his injuries, he was forced to give up his career as a firefighter. He also had to quit his part-time job as a HGV driver.

Michael sought legal advice from the Fire Brigade Union, and claimed injury compensation for his fall. He alleged that the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services (WYFRS) had supplied a ladder that was not fit for the purpose of the training exercise. The defendants accepted liability for the claim, and offered an interim settlement of compensation so that Michael could buy an automatic car and pay for his physiotherapy sessions.

An investigation into Michael’s future needs was conducted, and a final six-figure settlement of compensation was agreed upon. Michael stated that he was grateful to the Fire Brigade Union for its support during the ordeal, and it was still not clear why the ladder snapped during the exercise.

Paraplegic Awarded Compensation for Theatre Fall

Compensation has been awarded to a woman who fell through an open stage door in a dark theatre, leaving her paraplegic.

In June 2012, Rachael Presdee (38) was working as a stage manager for a production of “Boy’s”, run by the Headlong Theatre Company is the Soho Theatre in London’s West End. While she was working one night, she arrived to the theatre to find that all of the lights were off. In an attempt to locate a theatre employee to turn the lights back on, she ascended a spiral staircase backstage. As she walked through a black curtain-which she believed to be a light blocker-she fell through an open backstage door and landed on the open stage, three metres below her.

The emergency services were notified, and Rachael was immediately rushed to hospital. She was diagnosed with spinal injuries, and she remained in hospital for six months receiving treatment for her injuries. When she was discharged, she was confirmed as a paraplegic, and now must remain in a wheelchair for life.

Rachael sought legal advice, and made a claim for compensation for a fall from a stage against the Headlong Theatre Company and the Soho Theatre. Both defendants admitted liability, and they negotiated £3.7 million in compensation to be awarded to Rachel. The HSE also persecuted the Soho Theatre for health and safety violations, ordering them to pay a total of £30,000.

Following the proceedings, Rachael expressed her gratitude to the actor’s union Equity. She urged all theatre operators to take the proper precautions to ensure that nobody else would suffer injuries similar to her own. She expressed regret at the fact that her own accident could have been avoided in “simple, cheap and obvious steps”.

In a statement released by management, the Soho Theatre has also expressed their regret at the accident. They stated: “we have done as much as we can to ensure that Rachael received the best possible care after the accident”. They also expressed relief at the fact that to claim for compensation has finally been settled.

Asbestos to Blame for Elderly Man’s Cancer

Asbestos have been found to be the cause of the death of a sixty-five year old man, after he was exposed to the cancer-causing material as a teenager.

In September 2013, Charlie Glass (65 at the time) died at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin of mesothelioma cancer. He had been diagnosed with the disease in 2009, after receiving a CT scan. Charlie had fallen at work and injured his ribs, attending a VHI Swiftcare Clinic for treatment. X-rays were taken, which revealed more fluid on his lungs than what would have been expected. The fluid was drained, and the CT scan was taken-detecting the cancer.

Charlie required radical intervention, and was flown to London to receive chemotherapy and undergo surgery. After treatment, he returned home to Ireland and had several years of good health before the cancer eventually returned.

While being consulted on his cancer, Charlie was made aware of a link between exposure to asbestos and the type of cancer that he had. Aged 14 years old, Charlie was employed cutting asbestos sheets for use in fire doors for Brook Thomas Building Supplies. No protective clothing was provided for the workforce, and they often ate their lunches in the area where the asbestos was being stored. In the 1960s, when the work was being carried out, there was little public knowledge of the risk of exposure to asbestos.

The Dublin Coroner investigating the death-Dr Brian Farrell-was told at the inquest that when Charlie was initially diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he could possibly only have eleven months to live. In spite of this, he survived four more years. Dr Farrell was also told that both of Charlie’s siblings had previously died to asbestos related cancers, but had been exposed to the material in different incidents.

An autopsy of Charlie’s body was conducted, revealing “numerous asbestos bodies were identified in the lungs”. This confirmed the diagnoses of disseminated mesothelioma that had been given to Charlie. Dr Farrell returned the verdict that Charlie had died due to the asbestos related cancer, further commenting that it was an unfortunate coincidence that all three of the siblings had died from such a rare disease.

Actress Receives Undisclosed Sum as Whiplash Compensation

A former actress has settled a claim for compensation for whiplash injuries against her former employers for an undisclosed sum.

In November 2008, Rebecca Smith of Killiney, County Dublin, made a whiplash injury claim against RTE after claiming that the had sustained soft tissue injuries while filming a scene for “Fair City”. Rebecca-who played the character of Annette Daly-was filming a scene while in the passenger seat of a car being operated by a stuntman.

As a part of the scene-being filmed in the Mount Merrion Area-the stuntman was required to brake sharply on several occasions. This jolting movement caused Rebecca to be thrown backwards and forwards in her seat while filming the driving sequence. Rebecca claimed that immediately after the scene finished shooting, she felt pain in her neck and upper back.

The actress was transported to the nearest VHI Swiftcare Clinic. The pain eventually migrated down from her neck and back to her right arm and her fingers. Rebecca claims that she had trouble moving her neck for a week after the incident, and couldn’t sleep because of the discomfort and tingling feeling in her right arm and pain in her neck. She claimed that due to the extent of her injuries, she was prevented form working for a week.

Rebecca sought legal advice, and made a claim for whiplash injuries against her employer, RTE. She alleged that they had been negligent by failing to use a stunt double for her to film the sequence, thus failing to ensure her safety. RTE denied the claim, and as a result of the contested liability, Rebecca sought authorisation for the Injuries Board to pursue the claim in court. The authorisation was granted.

My Justice Raymond Groarke heard at the Civil Court in Dublin that Rebecca had settled her whiplash injury claim against the broadcasting company for an undisclosed sum, and the court could strike the case.

DSP Introduces Recovery of Welfare Benefits Scheme

A new scheme has been introduced by the DSP that allows for the recovery of welfare benefits from successful personal injury claims.

Since the first of this month, the “Recovery of Certain Benefits and Assistance Scheme” has been enforced. This scheme enables the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to recover welfare benefits paid to recipients of personal injury compensation.

The scheme was a result of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2013, aimed at replacing the previous practice of deducting welfare benefits from compensation for loss of earnings, and operates in a similar way to the Compensation Recovery Unit in the UK.

With the new legislation, the compensator in question-which is usually the negligent party’s insurance provider-is required to request a statement from the Department of Social Protection outlining the value of certain welfare benefits that the plaintiff has received in the previous five years which relate directly to the accident or injury for which their claim for compensation was made.

Copies of this statement will also be sent to the other relevant parties-the plaintiff and the Injuries Board (in cases where they have been responsible for completing an accepted assessment). This will detail the deductions that are to be made from compensation settlements for the recovery of welfare benefits.

The benefits which apply under the new scheme are confined to:

• Injury Benefit

• Illness Benefit

• Partial Capacity Benefit

• Incapacity Supplement

• Disability Allowance

• Invalidity Pension

Before this legislation, the welfare benefits have usually been deducted from plaintiff’s loss of earnings settlement, and therefore there will be no difference in how much personal injury compensation they receive. It is likely to take several weeks longer for a compensation settlement to be received as a result of the new process.

It is important to note that plaintiffs must check their copy of the benefits statement to ensure that it is entirely accurate, and reflects only the welfare benefits that they have received in respect of their injury. If the statement is incorrect, an appeals process exists.

For professional legal advice about how to check the recovery of welfare benefits – and what to do if you consider the DSP´s figures to be incorrect – it is recommended that you consult with a personal injury solicitor.

HSL Shows Link Between Worker’s Health and Asbestos

The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) recently published a paper which demonstrates a clear link between the incidence of heart disease and strokes in workers and the asbestos they were exposed to in their workplace.

A study conducted by the HSL-a branch of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive-that was recently published in the British Medical Journal has concluded that employees exposed to asbestos are at a greater risk of heart disease and strokes than the general population.

15,557 deaths were analysed from 98,912 workers who had taken part in regular voluntary health monitoring and participated in the Asbestos Workers Survey. They compared the numbers of deaths from strokes and heart attacks among these workers with the number that would be expected to occur in members of the general population. They also found that women were more likely to be affected than men by the material.

This large difference between men and women was found to be significant. Male asbestos workers-who were usually engaged in removal of asbestos-were 39 percent more likely to die of heart disease and 63 percent more likely to die of a stroke. Women-mostly employed in the manufacturing industry-were 89 percent more likely to die of heart disease than the general population, and 100 percent more likely to die of a stroke after being exposed to asbestos.

Evidence was also presented that the longer the duration of exposure to the dangerous material, the greater the likelihood the person had of dying from heart disease or a stroke. The report concluded that cerebrovascular and ischaemis heart disease mortality rates were significantly higher when there had been exposure to asbestos in the workplace, causing concern.

Provided it can be proven that the person who was suffering from heart disease or who had experienced a stroke was exposed to asbestos at work-or due to linking environmental factors-it is possible to claim compensation for heart disease due to asbestos exposure.

The research that has been published has provided many victims of asbestos-related diseases with the information needed to claim compensation for their injuries. For cases where the person exposed to asbestos has died, families are permitted to claim compensation for heart diseases from asbestos exposure on the victim´s behalf; although the successful conclusion of the claim may depend on being able to locate witnesses who can confirm the presence of asbestos in the workplace.

Home Office Employees Awarded Compensation for RSI Claims

Two employees of the Home Office have been awarded compensation for RSI injuries to their shoulders and arms due to repetitive movements while performing their jobs, with reports of more employees coming forward to make similar claims.

Two employees of the Home Office have each been awarded up to £20,000 in compensation for RSI shoulder injuries that they developed over a period of time. As a part of their job, they had to lean out of a kiosk window to check the passports of visitors to the UK at the ferry port of Calais. This repeated action caused the RSI injuries to their arms.

Pamela Smith (58) of Dover, Kent, was one of the employees who mad the claim. After experiencing discomfort to her arm, she sought medical attention. She was diagnosed with a torn boxes and repetitive strain shoulder injury, for which she had to undergo surgery. While she was recovering, she was unable to return to work.

When she was eventually able to take her job up again, Pamela was informed that her job was being ended. Pamela sought legal counsel from her union and after speaking with her representative, she made a compensation claim for RSI shoulder injuries. Pamela’s claim was successful. Due to her continued pain in her arm, Pamela fears that she may now be unable to find a replacement job as she finds it difficult to work.

Due to severe staffing cuts, the number of immigration officers employed at Calais and other similar French ports has reduced. The remaining employees must now work longer shifts while performing these repetitive tasks. As a result, more people are suffering from repetitive strain injuries to their shoulder and arms, much like Pamela did.

The General Secretary of the Immigration Services Union (ISU) who represented Pamela and the unnamed officer-Lucy Moreton-stated: “The plight of officers working long hours in appalling conditions has been brought to management attention over and over again. The ISU hopes managers will now address these issues rather than sweep them under the carpet.”

It is understood that twelve more immigration officers based in French ports are also in the process of making claims for compensation for RSI shoulder injuries.