Approximately 600 Employees thought to have caught Covid-19 at Work in Scotland

Employers have a legal duty to report cases where there is evidence which suggests that an employee diagnosed with Covid-19 caught it whilst at work.  According to data published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a total of 594 reports were made to them by employers in Scotland concerned that employees had contracted Covid-19 at work.

The figures released show:

  • 373 of the cases were in the residential care sector;
  • 32 were healthcare staff;
  • 146 were classified as working in “personal services” such as hairdressers or funeral directors; and
  • 43 worked in “other industries”

Hand sanitizer bottle

It has also been reported that the HSE has made inquiries into 5 reported deaths in Scotland.  They concluded that in 4 cases there was insufficient evidence to confirm they were the result of work related exposure to coronavirus.  The 5th case is still under investigation.

The figures have been criticised by Trades Unions across Scotland.  The secretary of the GMB, Gary Smith stated that “the events of the last 6 months simply do not give any confidence in these figures”. 

Roz Foyer, the General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress was a highly critical of the Government:

“These figures are almost certainly the tip of the iceberg.  We suspect that there has been significant under-reporting, not to mention a significant incidence of transmission from workers without symptoms.

Even taken at face value these figures shine a light on the failures we have witnesses in the delivery of adequate PPE and the slow response to the provision of testing for suspected Covid infection. 

Now more than ever, Government and every employer have the responsibility to get things right.”

Employers must continue to monitor government and industry body advice to show, on balance, they are complying with their legal duties to ensure their employees are safe in the workplace.  If employers do not take the risk of transmission seriously it is possible that there will be a rise in workplace related claims.

Walker Laird’s experienced personal injury lawyers in Glasgow and Paisley advise clients all over Scotland in respect of accidents at work.  Offering funding on a No Win No Fee basis our personal injury lawyers are on hand to provide pragmatic expert legal advice.

Contact us today and a member of our team will be in touch.


scottish government

HSENI receive 336 Complaints for Alleged Breaches of Covid-19 Guidelines

According to the Health and Safety Executive in Northern Ireland (“HSENI”) there were 336 complaints made against companies for alleged breaches of Covid-19 guidelines between 5th May and 17th July 2020.

Up until 4th May 2020 HSENI were dealing with complaints remotely and had faced criticism about workplace inspections after the death of a poultry worker who had contacted Covid-19.

From 5th May until 17th July 2020 the HSENI carried out 372 unannounced inspections reporting a high level of compliance.  Interestingly, not one company was required to stop work due to breaches and most issues were resolved by way of correspondence with action points and timescales or verbal instructions.

In Scotland, non-essential businesses are still waiting for the Scottish Government to announce a re-opening date.  The HSENI response in Northern Ireland shows that employers in Scotland need to treat the Covid-19 situation seriously and monitor all advice carefully, whether that be from the Government or industry bodies.

 

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Employers will be required to risk assess to ensure they are taking all the necessary precautions when reopening to ensure that their employees are safe in the workplace.  If they don’t take the necessary precautions it is possible that employers could face personal injury claims being raised against them for employees contracting the virus.

It should be noted that due to the nature of the virus and the multiple sources of infection it would be difficult, but not impossible, to prove that an employee contracted the virus at work.

At Walker Laird our personal injury lawyers in Glasgow and Paisley regularly advise clients throughout Scotland about accidents at work.    If you have had an accident at work within the last 3 years that wasn’t your fault contact us today.


Covid-19 – Employers’ Duties and Personal Injury Claims

The world is currently facing arguably its greatest crisis since the Second World War. The Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) that is sweeping the world has sadly seen thousands of deaths and resulted in stringent lockdowns being enforced in an attempt to try slow the spread of the virus. The situation in Scotland is no different with businesses closed, employees being furloughed and people working from home. 

The question now is how does the Government get people back to work but more importantly, how do they get people back to work safely?

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their employees are safe in the workplace. In light of Covid-19 employers will be expected to closely monitor the advice from the Government and industry bodies to be able to properly risk assess and take any necessary steps to keep their employees safe. Employers that monitor this advice closely and implement the appropriate recommendations will be suitably placed to successfully defend any claims brought against them.

This Government advice will likely include advice about:

  • Suitable facilities for washing hands;
  • Appropriate social distancing rules;
  • The regular cleaning of work premises; and
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

It should be noted that not only would an employee have to prove a breach of duty but they would also have to prove causation, that being that the breach resulted in the injury sustained. Given the spread of the virus and the multiple potential sources of infection it would be very difficult for an employee to prove, on balance of probabilities, that they contracted the virus at work. However, it is not impossible. 

One consequence of people returning to work may be an increase in claims for psychological injury. A number of employees who the Government determine are most vulnerable may not be able to return to work as they have been instructed to “shield”. This could result in an increased workload for the remaining employees. Mental health in the workplace is of particular importance and employers will have to monitor this situation closely to ensure proper plans and ongoing reviews are in place to mitigate the risk to their employees.

With the possibility that employees will be subjected to increased workloads this also brings the risk of physical injury. One could see employees taking on more responsibilities to fill in for absent colleagues. Are the remaining employees suitably trained to work with certain machinery? Are the remaining employees suitably trained to carry out certain tasks? These are pertinent questions for an employer and risks that they should be assessing and planning for.

One must bear in mind that employees working from home are entitled to exactly the same level of care as those that are working in an office or a factory for example. Employers have a duty to ensure those working from home are provided with suitable equipment to carry out their duties. They must also consider the increased stress on employees and ensure that their workstations are appropriate to avoid the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

It’s likely that the Government will provide more details and advice for employers in the coming weeks with a view to a gradual reopening of businesses. This advice will be, quite rightly, scrutinised by Unions throughout the UK. To ensure they continue to comply with their legal duties employers will require to consider this guidance carefully and implement changes where necessary. One thing that is certain is that working, as we know it, will be considerably different. 

Walker Laird regularly advises clients in respect of Accidents at Work and should you have any queries whatsoever please contact our Michael Wilson on 0141 887 5271.  Alternatively, please complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch.