The HSE has provisionally released figures for the number of fatal accidents at work for the 2008/2009 year which show a further decrease following the trend of previous years to 180 deaths throughout Britain. This is a reduction of 17% on the previous lowest total of 217 recorded in 2005/6. According to Dr Paul Stollard the Health and Safety Executive Director for Scotland many of these deaths could have been prevented by simple and sensible precautions. These figures compare favourably with those of similar Western economies and reflect a growing acceptance of the morale and legal duty upon employers to promote safety at work. The HSE are only too well aware however of the popular myths surrounding the culture of "ELF and safety” and have responded with an item on its website entitled Myth of the Month pointing out that the common perception of the Health and Safety Executive banning numerous worthwhile activities is not one founded on reality as they point out that far from banning cheese running events, knitting in hospitals or toothpicks "in reality HSE has banned has very little outright, apart from a few high-risk exceptions like asbestos, which kills around 4,000 people a year”.
However urban myths that we encounter on a daily basis is that of the "compensation culture” winning a claim for personal injuries that are sustained at work or otherwise involves a considerable amount of scrutiny by the insurers and/or their solicitors and in manycases ultimately by the Court before a penny of compensation is paid. Recent research undertaken on behalf of the Better Regulation Task Force of the last Government has shown a downward trend in relation to compensation claims resulting in the payment of compensation over recent years. These perceptions play a significant role in the way in which the parties involved in the personal injuries claims process interact.
Insurance companies earn billions by 'commoditizing' risk. Employer's liability insurers choose to enter the market as beneficiaries of a legal obligation for employers to take out such policies and perpetuate the compensation culture myth to justify increasing their premiums. A recent study by the DWP revealed that a restructuring of the insurance market, a reduction in insurer's investment income and increased re-insurance costs following the World Trade Centre attacks had a very significant impact on premium increases. The Insurance establishment often tries to stigmatize those seeking redress for the injury and loss caused by others negligence as essentially parasitic feeding off insurers and their premium paying customers. The paradox of insurers complaining of 'blame culture' is that unless someone is in fact to blame there can be no liability to insure in the first place. The genuine victims in the employer's liability cases that I see are the injured parties more often than not struggling to make ends meet on Statutory Sick Pay and worrying about the reaction they are going to get for having the temerity to hold their employer to account.
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