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Health and Safety-who cares?

A recent report in the national newspapers of the unfortunate death of a young man whilst on an expedition on Svalbard highlighted the concerns of the author of an investigation into the tragedy. The report, which was commissioned very soon after the tragedy, highlighted a lack of proper equipment, proper staff and supervision and proper training. the report also appears to lean towards the view that had these measures been in place the young man may not have died.

Sobering news for the family especially now at a time when the inquest is to begin. The same effect would be felt by a family if someone at work were to be killed or very badly injured as a result of the same type of negligence. Too often the intentions of the Health and Safety Act are dismissed as overbearing.

This is of course not the first time a tragedy has happened due to the actions or lack of actions of a company that should have been aware of the dire consequences of working and living in such a dangerous place. At the time of this incident 3 years ago, the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 would have meant that providers of services such as this would have been under a statutory duty to ensure that equipment was up to date and training was implemented properly. In essence this would keep the companies on their toes because the ‘Claimant’ only had to prove there was a breach of that duty.

Now due to the reforms brought in 2013 the ‘Claimant’ has to prove that there has been negligence under the common law model. In effect this makes it harder for any Claimants to prove the same, with the likely result being there will be less claims and the companies affected may not be as stringent in their checks. One sometimes wonders if the government in their quest to simplify matters for business are not forgetting the wider public.

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