Tragic ends and close calls in the news this week

Personal injury is never a laughing matter, especially when someone pays the ultimate price – but for every fatal occurrence there’s one that’s miraculous, too.

On the sad and tragic side of the news is how poor Mark Nyland lost his life in a rather gruesome accident at work. Mr Nyland, who was a lorry driver, ended up pinned between his lorry and a heavy loading shovel driven by a Kenneth Miller, a colleague who worked at the Milton Landfill Site with him. The ironic part is that the area of the landfill that the accident occurred was supposed to be a ‘safe area,’ where it was prohibited to use large vehicles near pedestrians.

Mr Nyland’s surviving family is likely to go after Miller with a vengeance, especially since the man died so young. I wouldn’t want to be in that loading shovel driver’s shoes right now, though I do sympathise with Mr Nyland’s relatives; it’s a senseless, tragic death.

Luckily not all the news is so dour and depressing this week. In fact, the accident solicitors can take a holiday with this next incident: two bricklayers miraculously avoided serious injury after plummeting from the second storey of a collapsing building.  The two workers – a son and his father that have requested their identities be kept confidential – had been contracted to work on the building as it was being renovated, but Clark Brothers, the construction firm in charge of the whole affair, neglected to run any sort of risk assessment on the building.

Well, it turns out the second floor of the building just wasn’t structurally sound enough to hold the weight of all those bricks, and it triggered a collapse that sent the pair of workers tumbling down. Somehow in all the tumult they managed to avoid anything more than just a few cuts and scrapes, which is absolutely miraculous considering that an entire bloody building came down around them, not to mention all those heavy bricks and masonry!

It’s nice to hear a news story involving a work accident that didn’t result in workers ending up in hospital. It’s so rare to have a ‘happy ending’ to a story like that, but that’s as happy as it can get: our heroes walk out without getting injured and live to fight another day. Of course, Clark Brothers had to pay a hefty fine to the Health and Safety Executive, but it sounds like they deserve that!

Farm working is for the birds for one employee

Industry news roundup: week ended 18 Feb 2013:

Not everyone can say that they truly love what they do for a living – in fact you might even say your job is ‘for the birds’ – kind of like this one poor bloke.

I don’t mean to be flippant, or to minimise this poor man’s pain, but you really can’t make news stories like this up: a twenty nine year old farm worker ended up in some serious pain when a malfunctioning bird feeder ended up mangling his hand while he tried to clear a blockage. The farmhand, Luke Parker, suffered some very serious injuries to the back of his hand, including a laceration that severed tendons and nerves and has left him even to this day with limited movement in the hand and still suffering from pain.

According to the personal injury claims heard in Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, Mr Parker had discovered the issue whilst collecting eggs during the course of his work at Green Label Farms, in Woodbridge. He had been specifically at the Meldesham site of Cherry Gate Farm at the time that he noticed that one of the automated lines that provided bird feed had stopped working as it should because a sensor had been blocked by surplus grain – something that happened quite often, according to Mr Parker’s testimony.

Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: guess what happened to poor Mr Parker after he began clearing the blockage? If you said ‘I’ll wager his sleeve got caught in the machine as it started back up after he uncovered the sensor,’  you would be correct  and I would be around 20 quid.

Normally, a situation like  this would lead to a massive personal injury compensation award for Mr Parker. However, the Health and Safety Executive got involved, and you and I both know what that means: massive fines for Mr Parker’s employers.

HSE inspectors swarmed the accident site, going over the whole thing with a fine-toothed comb. Investigators found that – surprise surprise – the farm had not placed a safe system of working in the event that there was a blockage that needed to be dealt with, even though these types of blockages happened all the time, and that there had been no provisions put in place to prevent inadvertent machine start ups such as locking the machine, isolating it, or perhaps even shutting the damned thing off for five minutes while some hapless farm worker put his hand inside to clear the bird feed.

For their supreme lack of foresight, Green Labels Farm was slapped with a £5,000 fine after coming clean about breaching Health and Safety rules. Serves them right, if you ask me.

Work-related stress can cause illness and injury as well

While falls from height and other industrial accidents at work can be incredibly debilitating, many people discount the impact that repeated exposure to work-related stress can have on an employee – injury and illness can be caused by emotional and mental turmoil as easily as a slip and trip, and can be just as painful.

The Health and Safety Commission and the TUC say that nearly half of the 30 million days lost to work-related injuries or illnesses in 2011 can be attributed to depression, anxiety, or stress, with a grand total of 13.4 million missed days of work.  The amount of workers that have reported to suffer from work-related stress has grown by double over the last ten years, with the number of new cases being reported last year reaching 265,000.

It’s not just ‘high risk’ industries or roles that work-related stress rears its ugly head in the UK, and while a certain level of stress may actually be beneficial -such as the stress experienced when working to a tight deadline or starting a new job – the increase in productivity caused by certain levels of stress peaks very quickly.  Once the physiological and emotional costs reach the point of no return, it’s a short, terrifying ride to rock-bottom for all too many workers in the UK.

Harassment or bullying at work is one of the newest issues that have begun to arise, most often triggered by a senior staff member employing ‘tough love’ management tactics.  The irony of this is that these managers are often victims of excessive stress due to the amount of pressure they are constantly under to deliver better results with less resources – with the current economic environment being what it is, this has only gotten even worse lately.

A TUC survey undertaken earlier in 2012 found that as many as five million workers could be bullied while on the job.  Nearly one out of every four TUC help line calls dealt with workplace bullying allegations, with the bully being the line manager of the victim 83 per cent of the time.