Worrying about damaging our health at work should be the least of anyone’s problems. When going to a place of work, we should be guaranteed safety regardless of the situation. However, sometimes, in cases of negligence, employers can fail to properly protect their employees. Failure to carry out appropriate risk management can…
Here, we’ll take a look at companies that failed to protect their employees.
Marks and Spencer’s duty of care failure
Kate Richmond, who worked as a medical student and junior doctor at the NHS, was given a few months left to live in early 2020. She was negligently exposed to asbestos at the old Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry. Around the same time, many compensation claims were placed by NHS staff for asbestos-related diseases since 2013, which has cost the health service over £26m.
Similarly, in 2011, major multinational retailer Marks and Spencer was faced with a £1m fine for exposing customers and employees to asbestos in Reading and Bournemouth stores during refurbishments. The judge accused the retailer of choosing profit over health and safety and effectively neglecting to ensure a safe working and shopping environment.
The UK’s asbestos industry ended on 24th August 1999 after being used heavily from the 1950s to 80s. Over 20 years on, we’re starting to see the delayed latency period taking effect as asbestos deaths have peaked over the last year or so.
Although asbestos was banned in the UK two decades ago, the dangerous carcinogen lingers. It is the leading cause of occupational death, with 5,500 deaths caused last year. A new report revealed that although there have been significant efforts across the board to have the material removed to avoid risking life, there are an estimated six million tons of asbestos remaining inside around 1.5 million buildings. Some of these buildings include schools and hospitals built before 24th August 1999.
Negligence like this can certainly be more costly than simply conducting an asbestos audit or providing the correct preventative measures. It can tarnish an organisation’s reputation by failing to provide a duty of care. If you’re a duty holder and are unsure of the risk in your building, find out more about asbestos survey types.
Amazon’s failure to protect
People working for Amazon across the world have faced significant health and safety risks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report by Amnesty International which investigated the treatment of employees across the UK, France, Poland, and the US, surveillance technologies have been used to track workers and failed to act on important health and safety issues.
In October last year, Amazon commented that 19,816 of its workers in the US have been infected with COVID-19 since March. Amazon has been faced with backlash from employees, unions, and politicians, who have criticised the corporation of risking employees’ lives. The company was hit with a lawsuit after a former employee accused Amazon of failing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to Black and Latina workers in New York City.
The duty of care to the employee and others holds employers responsible for carrying out an assessment of the risk of COVID-19 transmitting to others in the workplace. Suitable controls must be put in place to reduce the likelihood of transmission taking place. In the UK, employers could be at risk of prosecution and potential litigation.
Delphi Diesel Systems’ failure of risk assessment
A common theme in negligence appears to be a lack of risk assessment.
Last year, Delphi Diesel Systems was fined £1m and ordered to pay £10k in costs after two employees were severely burnt in an explosion while cleaning a distillation tank.
The vapour of a flammable chemical used to clean the distillation tank ignited and caused an explosion. Both of the employees suffered injuries, with one employee unable to return to work for over two months.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that the incident occurred because there a risk assessment wasn’t carried out before cleaning the distillation tank. There was also no planning for the use of the flammable chemical which ultimately caused the explosion. Fortunately, nobody died, however this incident could have been avoided if a risk assessment was carried out and employees were given a proper plan.
Often, accidents at work occur due to negligence. With proper risk assessment carried out, lives can be saved and pain prevented.