02 August 2021

Life is a pretty dangerous profession. Every action we take, whether it is in work or leisure time, carries some risk. APIL’s Injury Prevention Week this year focuses on the principle of prevention of an injury by examining who is responsible and also by reminding us to take responsibility for our own actions in order to protect ourselves and those around us.

Battens’ Personal Injury team, led by Kate Golding, contains a mix of lawyers, all of whom are members of APIL. The team is pleased to support APIL’s campaign, Injury Prevention Week, given their knowledge of the devastating consequences of injuries following incidents.

In this article, we explore the concepts of taking care in our own actions, for the protection of those around us, and ourselves.

Injuries are never good experiences, they bring trauma and potentially long term effects on day to day life. Sometimes, it is just not possible to avoid an injury - but more often than not, there are actions that can be taken to lessen the seriousness or even prevent an injury happening altogether.

An avoidable accident will always start with a point of negligence. Negligence requires several ingredients but the starting points are;

1. A duty of care is owed from one individual to another, and

2. Action which is assessed to be below an acceptable standard of care – this can be conduct or a failure to do something.

A duty of care is sometimes very obvious – for example, all drivers owe a duty of care to fellow road users. However, the duty can arise seemingly quite subtly, for example, the shop employee spilling fluid on a sheer floor will owe a duty of care to all those in the shop who are then in danger of slipping and falling.

The action (or inaction) also can also sometimes be very apparent – for example, the careless driver not paying attention and ploughing into another road user.

However, sometimes negligence is less obvious, for example, a driver crashes into a fallen tree in a road following a storm – seemingly innocent and not preventable - but later found to be due to a failure to cut back and control roadside trees.

In each example, there is a common theme – the actions of one individual had adverse implications for the safety of another.

Either way, you can see that the nemesis of negligence is simply taking care; considering others in the actions that we take each day. So, taking preventative action – clearing away that spilled fluid on the floor or watching the road carefully when driving is all it takes to avoid an accident and injury.

Personal Responsibility
We do seem to live in a ‘blame culture’ environment but that does not mean that each accident victim has no personal responsibility in a particular incident. Indeed, certain legal principles reflect and promote the requirement of personal responsibility.

These include;

  • Workers’ duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and
  • Contributory negligence by an accident victim

Workers’ own responsibility for safety in the workplace The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places many responsibilities on employers to safeguard the health of their staff. These include provision of safety equipment, risk assessments and training for staff. However, one very important aspect of this legislation places responsibility on each staff member to;

  • have a duty to take care of their own health and safety,
  • to have regard for the safety of others who may be affected by their actions, and
  • to co-operate with employers and co-workers to help everyone meet the legal requirements for a safe environment

It is clear, therefore, in the workplace, that staff have to be aware of risks to their own safety and act upon those concerns.

Contributory negligence
If it is identified that the accident victim took certain actions that partly caused or increased the damage resulting from the accident, damages (compensation) will be decreased. This is the principle of ‘contributory negligence’.

Examples are: failing to wear a seatbelt at the time of a car accident or failing to wear a (provided) hard hat on a building site. Such actions may not avoid the accident, but they might prevent an injury completely or certainly reduce the extent of that injury.

Injury Prevention Week
It is clear to see from the above that personal responsibility plays a large part in preventing an accident and/or injury AND minimising the impact of an accident and/or injury.

We certainly believe at Battens that ‘prevention is better than cure’. We are, however, also realistic and know that, at times, no amount of personal responsibility will have been able to prevent that accident because the factors causing it are just outside the victim’s control – take for example the dangerous driver on the road.

However, if you can minimise your injury by taking care of yourself, for example, using personal protective equipment (PPE) at work provided to you, taking care in your own actions, reporting dangers in the workplace to your employer, reporting dangers in public places to the individual or authority responsible (trip and slip hazards); you will not only do yourself a great service, you may well prevent an injury to another person.

What is known is that injuries can have a devastating effect on life. Survivors can have long-term problems preventing the ability to work. If the accident happens when you are young, those long-term problems will be decades long. Reducing the impact of that happening really will carry its own rewards.

Battens Solicitors – here to Help
Battens have been representing victims of accidents for many years and have an established team covering all areas of Personal Injury law, including accidents at work, road traffic accidents and public liability accident claims.

Whatever the circumstances, if you have been the victim of an accident caused by negligence in the last 3 years, and even if you feel it likely that you may have been able to do something or more to prevent the accident or to minimise the effect of the accident on you, call our experienced team for advice on 0800 652 8411.