Specialist industrial injury law firm Thompsons Solicitors has welcomed figures published today by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showing a reduction in employee deaths and major injuries – but is warning the figures are likely to worsen in future if the Government’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERRB) becomes law.

The HSE statistics, released this morning, show serious injuries such as amputations, fractures and burns dropping to 22,433 in the year to March 2012 compared with 24,944 in 2010/11 and fatalities dropping to 173 workers from 175 the previous year and an annual average of 196 for the past five years.

However, the Government introduced legislation in October that will eliminate employer liabilities for safety that have been in place since an 1898 Court of Appeal ruling (Groves v Lord Winbourne).

Much harder for injured workers and bereaved families to secure compensation

Tom Jones of Thompsons says it is crucial the House of Lords amends the ERRB when it debates the proposed legislation in two weeks’ time.

“We are in grave danger of going back to the dark satanic mills of Victorian times,” says Jones. “Britain is one of the safest places to work in Europe but that won’t continue to be the case if employer duties are watered down.

“The proposed legislation would put the onus on the worker to prove the whole case, including that the employer knew or should have known about the hazard that caused the injury. Even judges in the Victorian times recognised that it was very difficult for a worker to prove what the employer knew or should have known.

“The ERRB is the latest in a series of measures to weaken safety rules. The Government has also eased reporting requirements and increased the number of workplaces deemed as ‘low risk’ with lower standards of risk assessment.

“Government legal reforms will make it much harder for injured workers and bereaved families to secure compensation, thereby encouraging employers to cut corners because they will be less concerned about possible claims.”