Accidents in the construction sector in Northern Ireland and claims for personal injuries

Accidents in the construction sector in Northern Ireland and claims for personal injuries.

The construction industry is a major employer in Northern Ireland and has a poor accident record with 46 workers killed in accidents over the last 10 years. The statistics for 2002 – 2017 published by the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSE NI) are linked here (page 11).

This blog sets out the most common types of accidents in the construction sector and the hows’ and whys’ of compensation claims.

What are the most common accidents in the construction sector in NI?

Accidents in the construction sector in NI share similarities with those in other countries, but they can also be influenced by specific factors such as regulations, work practices, and prevailing conditions. The most common accidents in construction sector in NI include:

Falls from Height: This is consistently one of the most common causes of accidents in the NI construction industry. Workers can fall from scaffolding, ladders, roofs, or other elevated surfaces. Between 2020 and 2022, 9 workers have been killed in falls from heights in Northern Ireland.

The HSE NI have stated that suitable access equipment needs to be used by those working on platforms and edge protection by those working at height. There has been a campaign by the HSE NI to raise awareness, including on selecting the most appropriate equipment including properly erected external scaffolding when building a house, an extension or when having substantial roof or chimney works undertaken.

Other risks include internal falls, such as those from external scaffold platforms into the building or from openings, roof lights and voids.

HSE NI said it is “essential” for those in control of work at height to make sure it is properly planned and supervised as well as carried out by those with necessary skills, knowledge and experience.

HSE NI have stated that protection from falls of flat roof edges can be prevented by providing temporary edge protection, such as double guardrail and toe board around the edge of the roof installed by a trained scaffolder or other suitable proprietary edge protection systems.

Struck by Moving Objects: Workers can be struck by moving vehicles, machinery, or equipment on construction sites. This includes incidents involving cranes, forklifts, or construction vehicles.

Collapse or Overturning of Structures: The collapse or overturning of structures, such as walls, excavations, or trenches, can result in accidents and injuries, including being trapped or caught beneath the collapsed structure.

Handling and Lifting Injuries: Injuries related to manual handling, lifting, or carrying heavy objects are common. Musculoskeletal injuries can occur due to improper lifting techniques or heavy loads.

Slips, Trips, and Falls: Hazards like uneven surfaces, wet or slippery areas, and poor housekeeping can lead to slips, trips, and falls on construction sites.

Machinery Accidents: Operating heavy machinery and equipment can be hazardous if proper training and safety protocols are not followed. This includes incidents involving excavators, bulldozers, and cranes.

Electrocution: Contact with live electrical wires or faulty equipment can lead to electrocution accidents, which can be fatal.

Respiratory Issues: Exposure to dust, fumes, and other airborne contaminants can lead to respiratory problems, especially when working with materials like asbestos or silica.

Inadequate PPE: Failure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, safety boots, or high-visibility clothing, can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.

Confined Space Accidents: Working in confined spaces can be dangerous, leading to hazards like suffocation, toxic gas exposure, or entrapment.

Hazardous Materials Incidents: Construction sites may involve the handling of hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead, which can pose health risks if not managed properly.

Noise-Related Issues: Prolonged exposure to loud machinery and equipment can result in hearing loss and other noise-related health problems.

Who is responsible for ensuring safety in the construction sector in Northern Ireland?

In Northern Ireland, safety in the construction sector is regulated and overseen by several organizations and authorities. The key organizations responsible for ensuring safety in the construction sector in Northern Ireland include:

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI): HSE NI is the primary authority responsible for promoting and enforcing health and safety standards across all industries in Northern Ireland, including the construction sector. It develops and enforces regulations, conducts inspections, provides guidance, and offers training to improve safety practices in construction and other industries.

Construction Industry Training Board Northern Ireland (CITB NI): CITB NI is responsible for the training and development of the construction workforce in Northern Ireland. It offers various training programs and initiatives to improve skills and safety awareness among construction workers.

Department for Infrastructure (DfI): The DfI oversees infrastructure and construction projects in Northern Ireland. It plays a role in setting and enforcing safety standards for public construction projects and infrastructure developments.

Construction Employers Federation (CEF): CEF represents construction employers in Northern Ireland and works to promote best practices and safety within the construction industry. While it doesn't have regulatory authority, it plays a vital role in advocating for safety measures among its members.

Construction Contractors: Individual construction companies and contractors have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers and adhere to health and safety regulations. They are required to implement safety measures, provide appropriate training, and conduct risk assessments on their construction sites.

Workers: Construction workers also have a personal responsibility to adhere to safety guidelines, use personal protective equipment (PPE), and report safety concerns to their employers or relevant authorities.

It's important to note that safety regulations and oversight may evolve over time, and construction companies and workers should stay informed about the latest requirements and best practices to ensure a safe working environment in Northern Ireland's construction sector.

What are my employer’s legal responsibilities?

All employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that that they have a safe working environment. If employees are exposed to potential risks to their safety at work, then the employer must ensure that they take whatever steps are necessary to remove them from such dangers (for example by supplying personal protective equipment). Employers are expected to carry out risk assessments to determine how great the dangers are and what steps can be taken to lessen or prevent same.

If employers fail to recognise the risks employees face or fail to take steps to prevent employees being harmed, then employees will have a claim for compensation against such employers.

If an employee commits a wrongful act or causes harm to another person while carrying out their job duties or acting on behalf of their employer, the employer can be held legally liable for the employee's actions, even if the employer did not directly participate in or endorse the wrongful conduct. For instance of an employee negligently dropped a brick on another employee, then the employer will be held liable to compensate the injured employee. This is called vicarious liability.

The primary legal framework for employer obligations in Northern Ireland is the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, which has been amended and updated over the years.

Key aspects of the duty of care that employers owe to employees in Northern Ireland include:

Providing a Safe Workplace:

Employers must provide a safe and healthy working environment, including safe premises, equipment, and materials. This includes taking steps to prevent accidents and hazards.

Risk Assessment:

Employers are required to conduct risk assessments to identify and assess potential workplace hazards. They must then take reasonable steps to control and mitigate these risks.

Health and Safety Policies and Procedures:

Employers must establish and communicate health and safety policies and procedures to employees. These policies should outline safe work practices, emergency procedures, and responsibilities.

Training and Information:

Employers must provide employees with necessary training and information to perform their jobs safely. This includes training on how to use equipment, handle hazardous substances, and respond to emergencies.

Supervision and Monitoring:

Employers are responsible for supervising employees and monitoring their work to ensure that safety procedures are followed and that any issues are promptly addressed.

Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

When required, employers must supply appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees and ensure its proper use.

Consultation and Involvement:

Employers are encouraged to consult with employees and involve them in health and safety matters.

Reporting and Investigating Accidents:

Employers are required to report certain workplace accidents, injuries, and incidents to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI). They must also conduct investigations to identify the causes and implement corrective measures.

Legal Compliance:

Employers must comply with all relevant health and safety laws and regulations, including those specific to Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland must employers insure their employees against personal injury?

In Northern Ireland, employers are legally required to have employers' liability insurance to cover potential personal injury claims by their employees. This requirement is established under the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. Employers' liability insurance is designed to provide financial protection to employers in case an employee is injured or becomes ill as a result of their work and files a compensation claim.

Key points regarding employers' liability insurance in Northern Ireland:

Legal Requirement: Employers' liability insurance is mandatory for most employers in Northern Ireland. The legal requirement is that employers must have a minimum coverage limit of £5 million.

Coverage: This type of insurance typically covers compensation claims made by employees who have suffered injuries, illnesses, or accidents arising from their employment. It helps employers meet their legal obligations to provide compensation to employees in such cases.

Display of Certificate: Employers are required to display a copy of their employers' liability insurance certificate in a location where employees can easily see it, or they must make it readily available to their employees upon request.

Penalties: Failing to have valid employers' liability insurance can result in significant penalties, including fines and legal consequences. The fines can be substantial, and employers may be fined for each day they do not have insurance.

How long do I have to take a claim for personal injury in Northern Ireland?

In Northern Ireland, the limitation period for personal injury claims is typically three years from the date of the accident or the date when the injury occurred. This means that you generally have three years from the incident's date to issue proceedings a personal injury claim.

However, there are some exceptions and nuances to consider:

Date of Knowledge: In cases where the injury or its cause was not immediately apparent at the time of the accident, the limitation period may start from the date when you first became aware of your injury and its connection to the accident. This is known as the "date of knowledge."

Under age of 18: if an injured party is a minor (under 18 years old) at the time of the accident, the three-year limitation period typically begins on their 18th birthday. So, they have until their 21st birthday to file a claim.

Mental Capacity: If the injured party lacked the mental capacity to make legal decisions at the time of the accident, the limitation period may not start until they regain capacity.

Death Claims: In cases where a personal injury results in death, the limitation period for the deceased's estate to make a claim is typically three years from the date of death.

Extension of Time: In exceptional circumstances, the court may have the discretion to extend the limitation period, but such extensions are not common and are granted sparingly.

It's crucial to consult with a solicitor as soon as possible after an accident. They can provide you with accurate advice on the limitation period that applies to your specific case and help you take the necessary steps to pursue a claim if it is within the statutory time frame. Waiting too long to file a claim can result in the loss of your right to seek compensation for your injuries and losses.

What steps should I take if I have an accident at work?

If you have an accident at work, it's important to take the following steps to ensure your well-being, report the incident, and protect your rights:

Seek Immediate Medical Attention (if necessary):

If you are injured and require medical attention, prioritize your health and safety. Get medical assistance as soon as possible, either by calling 999 (or 111) for emergencies or by seeking treatment from a designated first-aid provider or medical professional on the worksite.

Report the Accident to Your Supervisor/Employer:

Notify your immediate supervisor, manager, or employer about the accident as soon as possible, even if your injuries seem minor. Provide details of the accident, where it occurred, and any witnesses. Ensure that the incident is documented.

Document the Incident:

Write down your account of the accident, including the date, time, location, circumstances, and any contributing factors. Include descriptions of injuries sustained and any safety hazards that may have played a role.

Gather Witness Statements:

If there were any witnesses to the accident, ask them to provide statements about what they saw. Witness statements can be valuable in determining liability and supporting your claim.

Take Photographs:

If it's safe to do so and if you have access to a camera or smartphone, take photographs of the accident scene, any hazards, and your injuries. Visual evidence can be important if you need to prove the conditions at the time of the incident.

Request an Accident Report:

Your employer may have a standard accident report form that you should complete. Ensure that this report is filled out accurately and thoroughly. Keep a copy for your records.

Consult with a solicitor:

If you have been injured, consult with a solicitor to understand your legal rights and any potential claim.

How is my compensation assessed?

We divide compensation into a number of headings:

  • Compensation for pain, suffering and the effect the injury has had on a client’s life (what lawyers call “general damages”). The exact amount depends on the severity and extent of the injury and its impact. This will include physical and emotional loss, suffering and pain and compensation for loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Any loss of earnings, past and into the future, including all job related benefits and pension loss (what lawyers call “special damages”). If your injuries have reduced your ability to work you will be entitled to the difference between what you would have earned but for the accident and what you can now earn.
  • If someone has had to stop or reduce their work because it was necessary to look after you then the claim will include their loss of earnings, past and into the future, including all job related benefits and pension loss.
  • Cost of all medical expenses, past and future. This will include hospital bills and medication costs.
  • Cost of all therapy and rehabilitative treatment (including occupational therapy), past and future.
  • Cost of any nursing and domestic assistance, past and future.
  • Cost of any adaptions to property or the cost of new housing.
  • Cost of any adaptions to a vehicle or the cost of a vehicle or travel or other costs.
  • Any other expenses.

Will my case go to Court?

Few cases go to a full court hearing. Most cases are dealt with or settled by us without the necessity of a full hearing.

Why should you instruct the Kearney Law Group?

We, at the Kearney Law Group, are ready to assist you and have the knowledge and expertise you need to make a successful claim for compensation. We have an expert team ready to deal with your claim for personal injury arising from your workplace accident. We will ensure you recover compensation for your injuries and loss, swiftly and professionally.

We only do personal injury law and are experts at it.

For further assistance please ring us at 02890 912 938 or fill in our contact form

The content of this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice. No solicitor/client relationship or duty of care or liability of any nature shall exist or arise between the Kearney Law Group and you and we refer you to our disclaimer on our website.

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