All businesses are under intense pressure to make full use of storage facilities and racking and shelving space to maximise their income and profitability. In some circumstances this can lead to serious injuries for employees and members of the public and, where negligence is proved, can result in compensation claims. There is an array of regulations which are focused on manual handling issues and racking accidents which go above and beyond the general duty of care which all employers have towards their employees and customers.
If you suffered a racking or shelving injury which occurred as a consequence of negligence by your employer or as a member of the public you were hit by items falling from high shelving, you may well have a case for compensation. There are obviously many factors to take into consideration and different types of injuries associated which racking accidents.
Common Racking Accidents
In simple terms, racking accident claims tend to fall into one of two categories which include:
- Injuries caused by dangerous racking or incorrectly stacked stock which falls from the shelves. These incidents tend to impact both employees and the general public who may be visiting a supermarket, library, shop or other facility. When you bear in mind that many of these items may be falling from a great height they can cause potentially serious injuries.
- While we often assume that shelf stacking is a relatively simple task, the higher the shelving or racking the more skill required to fulfil this form of manual handling. Unfortunately, not all members of staff are trained correctly and very often they don’t have the appropriate equipment to load and unload goods from a storage shelf. This can result in a collapse of the racking and potentially serious injuries for those in the vicinity.
It is irrelevant whether the injured party is an employee or a member of the public, if they have been injured as a consequence of negligence on behalf of a third party then there is a very good chance they can claim for compensation. Some of the more common injuries received from falling items/collapsing racking and shelving include:
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Head trauma
- Ligament damage
- Trapped under heavy equipment
Poor Racking And Shelving
There are many reasons why items may fall from high racking/shelves, or storage facilities may become detached from a supporting wall. They include issues such as:
- Over stacking
- Inappropriate items
- Racking and shelving storage facilities in a poor state of repair
- Failure to complete what is known as a “bump” test which should be carried out when items are stored in racking facilities.
Many people fail to realise that employers do have a duty of care to their employees, and their customers, to ensure their working environment is safe. They also have an obligation to ensure that specific storage facilities are themselves safe and secure and those using the facilities have the relevant training. The issues of appropriate machinery and protective clothing should also be taken into consideration when looking to prove negligence after receiving a racking related injury.
There will be occasions where heavy objects are placed unsafely on racks and shelves by members of the public and the employer has little time to react to this potential danger. As long as the employer can prove they did everything in their power to ensure their racking facilities were safe then the degree of negligence may be reduced or even eliminated. While the legal process can often include an array of bizarre situations, there are occasions where common sense does prevail and is taken into account when negligence is considered.
Employers Legal Obligations
As mentioned, an employer has a legal duty of care to ensure the safe well-being of their employees and their customers. These are covered by an array of UK legislative acts of Parliament which include:
- Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.
While each of these pieces of legislation is very powerful in their own right, the cumulative impact addresses not only general safety in the workplace but specific issues associated with storage facilities and shelf stacking. As a consequence, employers are obliged to:
- Conduct training for those using shelf stacking facilities and the relevant equipment.
- Ensure there is sufficient space to safely carry out stacking operations.
- Label all heavy items with the relevant risk warnings
- Ensure that employees with the appropriate level of experience tackle potentially difficult racking issues.
- Limit shelf stacking to shoulder height where possible.
- Provide the correct safety equipment and clothing for employees.
There is also a legal requirement to assess alternative arrangements where there may be specific dangers associated with a shelf stacking operation. This ensures that all operations are carried out in a safe working environment although in reality relatively high shelf stacking can be difficult to avoid. The crux of the matter is all about managing potential dangers and doing as much as possible to mitigate the risk of injury.
Pursuing A Racking Accident Claim
The first thing to do in the event of an injury caused by a racking accident is to obtain medical attention as soon as possible. This will ensure that where applicable the relevant treatment is administered as quickly as possible to avoid further injury and discomfort. This can also prove to be very useful when pursuing a racking accident compensation claim because details of the examination, injuries, treatment and the accident itself will be noted on the patient’s medical file and can be used in a court of law.
When looking to pursue a racking accident claim it is imperative that you obtain as much evidence, photographic and written, as possible. Witness statements, photographs of the damaged storage facilities, injuries incurred and details of similar racking and shelving incidents in the workplace will all strengthen your claim. In theory there is a three-year time limit from the date of injury during which time you can lodge a racking or shelving accident claim for compensation against one or more third parties who have been negligent. In reality, it is highly advisable to take action sooner rather than later because time will often blur the details of the incident which can in certain circumstances weaken your case.
Evidence In A Racking Or Shelving Accident Claim
Before approaching a personal injury solicitor you should collate as much evidence as possible including medical records, timeline of the racking/shelving accident as well as supporting evidence mentioned above. Personal injury companies will have experience across a wide range of workplace injuries and should be able to advise you about the strength of your case.
Most solicitors who conclude you should start a racking accident claim will suggest doing so on a No Win No fee basis which ensures that the claimant has no liability to pay the legal expenses – whether they win the case or not. As a hedge for taking this risk, a solicitor or their company will look to collect what is known as a “success fee” with up to 25% of any compensation award paid to the solicitor/company. For many people the No Win No Fee arrangement is the only way in which they could pursue valid racking accident compensation claims due to the financial risks. Once an agreement has been reached then the evidence will be lodged with the courts with a copy made available to the defendant.
Compensation For Racking Accidents
It will surprise many people to learn there are actually two different types of compensation which can be claimed in the event of a successful racking accident compensation case. These are referred to as general damages and special damages and relate to very different issues. General damages in racking accident claims are in effect financial compensation taking into account:
- Mental trauma from the racking/shelving accident
- Pain and suffering
- Life changing injuries
There is a degree of discretion/variation allowed which will reflect the specific nature of individual racking accidents and the impact of the subsequent injuries on the individual’s life.
Special damages in racking accident claims are simply financial recourse for expenses incurred and funding requirements going forward. These relate to an array of specific costs/loss of income including:
- Loss of earnings from the racking accident
- Future loss of earnings
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Adaptions to the home
- Additional transport costs
This list is by no means inclusive but it does give you an idea of the costs often incurred by those injured as a consequence of third-party negligence. There is no degree of variation or discretion when it comes to special damages; it is simply reimbursement of costs to date and funding requirements going forward.
Settling A Racking Accident Claim Out-Of-Court
Where it’s clearly obvious that there has been negligence on behalf of an employer or any other third party, resulting in the racking accident and subsequent injuries, the defendant may decide to opt for an out-of-court settlement. This will limit their legal costs going forward and result in the prompt payment of any agreed compensation award. In many ways this is a win-win situation for all parties and will bring to a close what is likely to have been a difficult situation for everyone.
There will be instances where negligence is challenged or perhaps there is more than one potentially negligent party. It is worth noting that on occasions where there is potentially more than one negligent party it is not the task of the claimant to apportion liability, this is something which the courts will decide. The level of negligence assigned to individual parties will likely reflect their share of compensation paid to the injured party.
Should You Claim Compensation?
Time and time again we hear about people who have decided not to pursue negligent claims against their employers because of potential complications and issues further down the line. Indeed there are also times when members of the general public will dismiss an array of injuries as simple accidents when in reality they occurred as a consequence of negligence. The fact is that unless negligent third parties are held to account in a racking accident, will anything change?
If you’ve been injured in a racking or shelving accident but don’t know whether you can make a racking accident claim please do contact us and a solicitor can then listen to the details of your accident and advise accordingly.