The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issues a weekly bulletin summarising reports of prosecutions of employers following accidents at work.
All areas of the UK are represented.
The bulletin for 15 March 2015 contained a report of an injury to a Polish worker employed by Macduff Shipyards Limited.
In our experience, the significant number of workers from Eastern Europe in North East Scotland are at disproportionate risk from serious injury in the workplace.
This is probably due to a combination of inexperience of Scottish working practices and language difficulties.
The problems are compounded where employers fail to follow basic health and safety guidance, including the need for risk assessments, training of staff and a common sense approach to working practices.
The Moray coast workplace accident reported by HSE, resulting in a prosecution at Banff Sheriff Court, illustrates these issues.
Injury at work
Mariusz Toporek (aged 23), a Polish worker living in Macduff, was, arguably, lucky to escape with strained tendons in two fingers and a fractured bone in his hand, resulting in four weeks’ absence from work.
He was working in the precision engineering department of Macduff Shipyards Limited, operating a lathe, when he was injured in March 2013.
Using a computer, the lathe had been set to the correct diameter from a remote location. However, Mr. Toporek had switched the machine to manual mode.
He was using emery cloth to finish off the pins he was working on, when the cloth caught in the machinery, pulling his gloved right hand into the mechanism.
The investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered a number of failings in the systems operated by Macduff Shipyards Limited:-
- The company had not carried out any risk assessments relative to the use of any of the machinery within the precision engineering department;
- The day to day operation of the workshop had been left to the operations manager, but he had limited knowledge and experience and he had received no training;
- The use of emery cloth in the circumstances was not a good idea;
- Safer alternative practices were available but they had not been investigated;
- Working with a lathe while wearing gloves was a well-known hazard but no one had told that to Mr. Toporek.
Dangerous workplaces a concern
The changes brought about by the Enterprise Act have generally made it more difficult for workers to claim compensation for injuries sustained in the workplace.
However, as Mr. Toporek’s case illustrates, employers are still exposing their employees to considerable risks by failing properly to plan work, assess risks and train their employees.
The common law – dating back to the foundation of the modern law of negligence in the case of Donoghue –v- Stevenson – is still worryingly appropriate for accidents in the workplace.
The common law duties on employers – to provide a competent workforce, safe plant and machinery, and a safe system of work – are still regularly ignored in many workplaces.
Mr. Toporek was not provided with a safe system of work.
How we can help
If you have any queries regarding this article or any aspect of our personal injury claim services, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We are best placed to help you if your accident occurred in or around Moray.
We will do our best to help you whether we do that directly or by referring you on to someone else who is better placed to help you succeed with your claim.