While employers have a general duty of care to their employees there is a specific duty of care with regards to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace. In simple terms, PPE offers protection for employees against both health and safety hazards in the workplace. They can take in such equipment as safety helmets, high visibility clothing, eye protection, safety harnesses, gloves and safety footwear to name but a few. The duty of care regarding PPE also takes in Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) which is very important for those working amongst hazardous materials which may be inhaled.
There are high incidences of PPE injuries in the construction and agricultural industries but in reality they occur to a certain degree in all employment arenas. As more and more people look to lodge compensation claims for injuries as a result of inadequate protective equipment it is worth knowing the background to such injuries and the process when lodging a PPE injury claim.
Employer Responsibilities For Personal Protective Equipment
The Personal Protective Equipment Act (1992) should be considered in conjunction with the general duty of care employers have towards their employees. Described in some quarters as a last resort measure, when all other risk aversion opportunities have been taken, personal protection equipment is vital across many different employment positions. All protective equipment must be:
- Provided free of charge by the employer.
- Appropriate for the specific tasks to hand and risks involved.
- Take account of the working environment.
- Fit properly..
- Meet design and manufacturing standards
- Suitable for the individual employee to use.
- Compatible where one or more pieces of equipment is required.
- Stored in a manner to avoid damage or defects.
- Accompanied by the relevant training in the correct use of protective equipment.
It is also worth remembering that while employers have a duty of care to their employees, all employees have a duty of care to themselves and their colleagues. As a consequence, in the event of a PPE injury claim as a consequence of inadequate personal protective equipment, where the employee has ignored company safety guidelines, a claim may be thrown out of court or result in a ruling of shared liability with the employer. This is an area of injury compensation which is often overlooked, the fact that employees also have their own specific duty of care.
Providing Adequate PPE
In years gone by some companies were able to offset any potential personal protective equipment compensation claims by providing evidence that PPE was available. This grey area of making PPE available and ensuring that any protective equipment was “adequate” for the environment in which it was required was effectively closed by The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992). This ensured that not only was PPE made available but the equipment offered to employees was of a sufficient standard to offer the protection required.
In the event of a claim for injury at work an employee needs to prove negligence on behalf of the employer and any other third parties involved. The more common claim is the supply of inadequate protective equipment which can occur for a number of reasons including:
- An ineffective risk assessment of the potential dangers often resulting in inadequate or inappropriate protective equipment being supplied.
- The purchase of poor quality PPE which often occurs when companies are struggling for funds and looking to save money.
- Ill maintained PPE in a dangerous condition offering reduced or in some circumstances no protection for the employee.
There may well be an array of other issues to take into consideration but the fact is that if inadequate or inappropriate safety equipment is supplied to employees, and they experience an injury, then an employer may well be open to a compensation claim.
Common Types Of Injury Due To Inadequate PPE
There are many different types of injuries which occur as a consequence of inadequate PPE which we will look at below.
Eye injuries as a consequence of:
- Chemical splash.
- Metal splash.
Head and neck injuries caused by:
- Falling objects.
- Chemical trips.
- High or low temperature environments.
- Flying objects.
- Head trauma.
Ear injuries caused by:
- Short-term exposure to high level noise.
- Constant exposure to above average noise levels.
Hand and arm injuries caused by:
- Extreme temperatures.
- Impact injuries.
- Electric shock.
- Biological agents.
- Prolonged immersion in water.
- Cuts and punctures.
Feet and leg injuries caused by:
- Wet, hot and cold working conditions.
- Falling objects.
- Heavy loads.
- Chemical splashes.
- Impact with vehicles.
- Electrostatic buildup.
- Cuts and punctures.
Lung injuries caused by:
- Low oxygen atmosphere.
Lodging A PPE Injury Compensation Claim
If you suffer a PPE related injury at work the first thing you should do is seek the appropriate medical assistance. This may be a relatively quick check with a doctor or further treatment may be required to avert potentially life-threatening injuries. If the injury is severe, and transportation of the victim is not possible, treatment may be administered on the work floor. The obvious need to ensure the safety and well-being of the victim comes first but it is also worth noting that details of the medical examination and consequent treatment will be noted down on the individual’s medical records. As this is carried out by an unconnected third-party, it may well prove to be strong supporting evidence in the event of a PPE compensation claim.
The next thing to do is create a record of when the injury occurred, where the injury occurred, how the injury occurred as well as reporting of the incident. All workplace -related accidents need to be reported to the employer so that they can update their “accident book” and contact the Health and Safety Executive where applicable. In a perfect world pictures, possibly using a camera phone, of where the accident occurred would also be useful in a PPE injury claim but this is not always possible due to potential medical requirements. In many instances of PPE related injuries there will be witnesses to the event and maybe even other employees who have suffered similar injuries. Again, this type of information can be extremely useful when lodging a PPE injury compensation claim.
Personal Injury Solicitors And PPE Injury Claims
An experienced personal injury solicitor who specialises in work accidents will be able to look at the basic evidence and details surrounding the injury to consider whether there is a valid personal protective equipment injury claim to pursue. While in theory there is a three-year window in which to lodge a PPE compensation claim, the details of the accident can become blurred the longer a claimant waits. If a personal injury solicitor believes you have a valid case for PPE compensation then they will likely offer a No Win No Fee agreement where any compensation payment is from where the solicitors fee is taken on prearranged percentage basis.
In the event that negligence is fairly easy to prove the defendant would likely seek an out-of-court settlement to save on legal costs. Where negligence may be contested or spread between two or more parties, this may well go before the courts to obtain a legal ruling. It is worth noting that in instances of potentially shared negligence in PPE claims, the claimant can still pursue their case without defining the degree of negligence between two or more parties – this will be decided by the courts.
Types Of Compensation In PPE Injury Claims
In simple terms there are two different types of compensation which may be available to claimants. They are a general damages which include compensation for:
- The pain and suffering you’ve endured.
- Life changing injuries.
- Mental trauma.
There are guidelines available with regards to compensation levels for specific types of injury including those concerning personal protective equipment but calculating compensation amounts will be determined on a case-by-case basis. There is a degree of discretion on the amount of PPE compensation paid for general damages while special damages are simply financial redress for past and future expenses. Elements to take into consideration for special damages include:
- Medical expenses already incurred.
- Future medical expenses.
- Additional transport expenses.
- Adaptions to the home.
- Loss of earnings.
- Loss of future earnings.
There is no discretion where special damages are awarded although informed estimates of future medical expenses, as one example, will be required by qualified individuals. The cumulative total of general damages and special damages will obviously vary from case to case but, where there have been significant injuries and a significant impact upon an individual’s working and personal life, they can be relatively high.
For further advice or assistance with a potential PPE injury claim please contact us today.