Clarkslegal LLP - Solicitors in Reading and London

Health & Safety Law

We are well-known for our ability to handle extremely complex cases at the cross-over between health and safety and employment law. This includes advising both employers and employees on work related stress and depression claims, as well as advising on the health and safety aspects of employment tribunal claims and health and safety related unfair dismissal claims.

The team has experience of assisting its clients through investigations, interviews and subsequent prosecutions by the Health and Safety Executive and other regulatory bodies. We have represented clients’ interests in the Magistrates Court, the Crown Court, the Administrative Court and at Coroner`s Inquests, and we have years of experience in defending Employers and Public liability claims.

Our reputation for assisting clients in their defence of asbestos related claims is confirmed by comments in the Legal 500. These claims often date back many years and require detailed investigation, not only in relation to potential liability but also in respect of the company history and insurance cover at the time of employment.

Claims that date back decades are often very difficult to defend and in these situations we help negotiate settlements that are fair to all parties. In addition to personal injury claims, we can also advise on asbestos in the workplace and the measures and precautions to be taken.
It is no longer the case that only small owner-managed businesses can be prosecuted following a death in the workplace. The offence of Corporate Killing now casts the net much wider.

An organisation can be guilty of a criminal offence if it is responsible for a gross breach of a duty of care that causes a person’s death and a substantial element of the breach lies in the way that the senior management organised its activities. All organisations need to be aware of the duties they owe to both employees and third parties and what they should do to discharge those duties. Organisations found guilty of the offence of Corporate Killing can face an unlimited fine, not to mention adverse publicity.
Health and safety legislation is enforced through Local Authorities and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and inspectors from these bodies have very wide powers to enter your premises and carry out investigations. You need to know what to do when an inspector calls and what you can do in the unfortunate event that they decide to prosecute your organisation for a health and safety breach.

A successful criminal prosecution can result in fines for the company and custodial sentences for directors and senior managers. Employees can also be prosecuted if they fail to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others. We have vast experience of advising our clients in this area and were involved in the defence of a health and safety prosecution following a workplace death. The case against our client was discontinued and almost 100% of its costs were recovered after a six week trial in the Crown Court.
Health and safety must be seen as a priority at the top of any organisation. The HSE guidance “Leading Health and Safety at Work” sets out an agenda for the effective leadership of health and safety. It is designed for use by directors as well as other senior employees such as governors and trustees and sets out a 4 point agenda: Plan, Do, Check and Act.

We can advise you on how to comply with this agenda, what systems and practices need to be in place and how directors can discharge their legal obligations. Directors need to be aware that if a health and safety offence is committed with their consent, connivance or as a result of their neglect, they can be prosecuted personally and can be fined, imprisoned and disqualified as a director.
This area of law can be minefield as employers need to balance their health and safety obligations against their employees’ rights under the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act. Employers need to know when they can carry out random drug and alcohol testing and when they can discipline or dismiss an employee for their behaviour both inside and outside work.

It is important to have a drug and alcohol policy and we can hep you to draft this and roll it out among your staff. Addictions to drugs and alcohol do not constitute a disability but employers need to be aware that they may be a symptom of another problem such as depression. Such cases need to be handled carefully to avoid claims. We regularly advise employers on these issues and have also provided training on Drugs and Alcohol in the workplace.
Every employer is under a duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. They must also ensure that persons not in their employment are not exposed to risks to health and safety. This is a very wide ranging duty which requires employers to provide a safe place of work, a safe system of work, adequate equipment and materials, appropriate warning signs etc. Failure to comply with these duties could well result in a personal injury claim and/or a criminal prosecution.

For many years we have been advising employers on their health and safety obligations and how to fulfil them. There are numerous regulations to be aware of and every business will have different considerations. Do please call us if you need advice on how to comply with your duties. It is better to pick up the phone now than wait until you are in receipt of a claim.
Employees are more likely to be killed through work related road traffic accidents than for any other reason. The risks are present in all type of businesses, from employees driving public transport to employees driving to meetings.

Employers must assess the risks of occupational driving and this will involve considering the safety of the vehicles, the experience of the drivers, the journeys being undertaken and the working hours. We can advise you on the measures to take to reduce the risks of occupational traffic accidents as well as the current law on the use of mobile phones while driving and the regulations regarding smoking in work vehicles.
If you have the correct policies and procedures in place and are aware of the regulations which govern your business, you are a long way towards protecting your employees and avoiding claims and prosecutions. Our experienced lawyers can guide you through the minefield of health and safety law and our online HR resource www.employmentbuddy.com contains a range of health and safety related documents to assist HR practitioners.
Unfortunately, increasing numbers of employees are suing their employers following injuries sustained at work. Employers will be liable if the employee can prove negligence by establishing that the employer breached the duty of care owed to the employee and this breach of duty caused the employee to suffer recoverable loss. We can you help you defend personal injury claims and also consider whether any damages can be reduced on the grounds of the employee’s own negligence.
There are certain types of employee who require special consideration as far as health and safety is concerned, including pregnant workers and young workers. Employers need to be aware that the regulations relating to pregnant employees cover any woman of childbearing age so it may not always be enough for you to wait until an employee tells you she is pregnant. We can advise you on carrying out risk assessments for pregnant employees and what to do if that risk assessment shows that they are unable to do their current job.

Young persons require special consideration because of their inexperience and immaturity. More and more employers are taking on apprentices and work placement students and organisations need to know what they should be doing to ensure their health and safety. They also need to be aware that there are certain situations where employers are prohibited from employing young persons. Organisations have been fined for failing to safeguard the health safety of their young workers and you don’t want to be one of them.
There can’t be many employers who have not had to deal with an employee off sick with stress. It is one of the most common reasons for absence and needs to be handled carefully. If you are aware that someone is suffering from stress and you fail to anything about it, you could face a personal injury claim with damages reaching six figures.

The Health and Safety Executive encourages employers to carry out risk assessments to deal with the risks of stress, and we have helped many clients through this process. We can also help you deal with the increasing number of employees who become stressed when they are asked to attend a disciplinary hearing or a performance review meeting. We commonly advise employers in this situation and advise them on the adjustments they can make to ensure the procedures can continue without undue delay.
You must provide your employees with a safe working environment and there are numerous regulations relating to this. These range from the type of seating provided to employees and the temperatures they have to work in, to the suitability of the work equipment and the levels of noise. We have handled a substantial number of highly complex noise-induced hearing loss claims and asbestos related claims involving historic evidence going back as far as the 1960s and 1970s. This can be highly complex work, with potentially substantial financial implications for our clients.
We aim to be pro-active and place particular emphasis on helping clients to conduct effective risk assessments and provide adequate staff training on important health and safety matters, such as drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace and dealing with health and safety inspectors.

Employers are also required to provide training and this is key to ensuring health and safety at work. Employees who are not properly trained could cause an injury to themselves and others. Training should start as soon as you take on a new employee. This ensures that they work correctly from the beginning and do not adopt incorrect practices. Training should then be ongoing throughout employment and certain employees such as first aiders and those working with food will require specific training on those issues.
You may assume that if one of your employees acts in a wholly unreasonable manner, any accident he causes will not be your responsibility. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If an employee is acting in the course of his employment at the time, you could be liable for any damages arising from the incident. There have been a number of recent cases on this issue which show the extent to which employers can be liable for their employees’ actions and we can advise you on these and explain how you can limit your potential liability.
The regulations governing the number of hours an employee can work and their entitlement to holidays and rest breaks are all in place to ensure the health and safety of your employees. An employee working excessive hours or having insufficient breaks is more likely to cause an accident either to himself or others. Whilst the entitlements are relatively straightforward, they do raise a number of difficult issues such as dealing with shift workers, calculating how much holiday a pregnant employee will accrue during maternity leave, and how to treat employees who are on call. Do contact us if you have any queries about these issues.

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+44 (0)118 958 5321

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