Legislative change has led to workplace deaths

Heather Tierney

Scotland has been revealed as one of the most dangerous places to work in the UK with an average of one death every two weeks, according to new figures.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive have shown that Scotland is one of the deadliest parts of Britain with 231 workplace fatalities since 2009.

Jobs in construction and agriculture are among the most dangerous with a total of 1,540 work-related deaths in the UK over the period.

Heather Tierney, a senior solicitor at personal injury firm Watermans, believes the figures could be down to employers taking a more ‘lax approach’ to health and safety in the workplace.

She said: “It is extremely worrying that Scotland is now considered to be one of the most dangerous places to work in the UK.

“Accidents of this type usually occur as a result of negligence and a lack of attention being given to reasonable and sufficient health and safety procedures. These accidents are entirely avoidable and employers need to do more to prevent them.

“I note that since 2013 workers in the construction industry have suffered an increasing number of injuries resulting in death. This date coincides with a major change in the law which may provide an explanation. Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 amended Section 47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It completely removed any civil liability arising from a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

She added: “In laymen’s terms, from the act coming into force onwards it has made pursuing a civil claim as a result of an accident at work far more difficult than it was previously. This means the deterrent for employers of being pursued for a civil claim has been significantly lessen since 2013.

“This major shift (which favoured employers/insurers and not employees) may have resulted in some employers taking a more lax approach to health and safety in the workplace generally.

“This in turn could partly explain the awful rise in the number of accidents and deaths at work. The removal of safeguards like this for employees is very concerning and ought to be addressed by government urgently with a view to reducing these numbers going forward.”