The value of upholding health and safety practices in the workplace has been put in to context by a landmark employment law ruling made by the UK’s Supreme Court. The decision went in favour of the families of workers who die of asbestos-related cancer, giving them the right to compensation from employers’ insurers regardless of when the symptoms of the disease manifest themselves. The five Supreme Court justices reached the decision based on a selection of lead cases, with the outcome paving the way for thousands more families to claim compensation for the loss of their relatives.
Liability is triggered when a worker is first exposed to asbestos, not when symptoms of the disease first become apparent, on the basis of the unusually long gestation period for the mesothelioma type of cancer that results from the inhalation of asbestos fibres. It is a mark of how much employment law has evolved over the last century so that the obligation now fully falls on employers to ensure a safe working environment for all employees.
Health and safety should be the keystone of all human resources services, with the ruling demonstrating the value of workers’ health whatever the working environment. Research has found that small to medium size businesses account for 78% of all occupational injuries, and 59% of fatal accidents, so the value of having sound health and safety procedures in place for every business should not be underestimated.
For smaller businesses that do not have the resources to ensure that standards are being met, human resources services can be outsourced to dedicated companies that specialise in procedures that will keep both workers and businesses safe from unnecessary risks. Employee liability insurance is a legal requirement for all businesses, but with proper measures in place the necessity for liability to be activated in the first place can be avoided to save lives and keep companies working.
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