Firefighters Across the UK Win Accident at Work Compensation Claim

A total of 66 firefighters from around the country have successfully obtained compensation in a recent accident at work claim. The case related to a stomach illness that afflicted the firefighters following flood training events held between 2008 and 2012.

When somebody has been injured or afflicted with an illness in the workplace and it is down to their employer’s negligence, they are legally entitled to compensation from that employer. While firefighters are naturally exposed to greater levels of professional risk than people in most other jobs, their employer is still required to take steps to protect their health and safety and do all they reasonably can to minimise those risks. As such, if negligence on their part is the cause, fire brigades are just as liable as any other employer for injuries resulting from accidents at work.

This particular claim relates to training events held at the UK National Watersports Centre, which is located in Nottingham. Fire brigades across the UK were required to provide firefighters with Swift Water Rescue Training following a bout of extreme weather in some parts of the country, and the one of the National Watersports Centre’s fast water canoe courses was used to replicate the conditions in question.

However, the water used by the centre came from the River Trent, a known polluted source which had been found to contain harmful contaminants and bacteria. The majority of firefighters taking part in the training became ill afterwards, many for a number of days, with key symptoms including vomiting and diarrhoea.

However, despite the fact that the great majority of firefighters attending training events at the centre became ill and a substantial body of evidence being presented to show that the Centre’s water was contaminated, fire brigades continued to advertise and use the venue for training events for some time. This was a clear case of negligence, which led to many more firefighters becoming avoidably sick after a number of subsequent events.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) pursued the compensation case against the fire brigades in question through the help of specialist accident and compensation solicitors. The brigades fought the case and denied wrongdoing, but it was found that they had failed in their duty to protect staff from avoidable risk by continuing to use a venue that presented a known hazard to health, and denying that hazard despite clear evidence. As such it was ruled that, like anybody injured through an employer’s negligence, the firefighters were entitled to the compensation they sought.

Small Businesses not Seeking Professional Legal Help

According to the Legal Services Board, the majority of small businesses tend to avoid seeking professional legal support unless they feel they have no option. Many small businesses, the Board said, see legal advice as expensive and as something to be kept as a last resort.

In a recent report, the Legal Services Board identified considerable reluctance among small businesses to make use of solicitors’ services, largely because of the costs involved. According to the research presented in the report, most small businesses have had little or no professional contact with the legal sector in the past year.

The report, The Legal Needs of Small Businesses 2015 Survey, identifies a number of trends among small businesses when it comes to seeking the help and support of lawyers. For the purposes of the survey, small businesses were defined as those employing 50 people or fewer – a group which, the report says, represents 99% of all UK businesses, 48% of employment, and 33% of the nation’s total business turnover.

Less than 10% of all small businesses in the UK, the report showed, had either an in-house lawyer or an external legal services firm with which they held a retainer. When businesses did pursue professional help and advice with their legal challenges, this was more often the advice of an accountant rather than of a solicitor.

Nearly half of all small businesses responding to the survey either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that professional legal services represented a “last resort” when it came to dealing with relevant problems faced by their business. This compares to a mere 12 % who said that they either disagreed or strongly disagreed. This is perhaps explained b the fact that a mere 13% of respondents said that seeking the help of a lawyer was, in their opinion, a cost-effective solution to problems.

Usage of legal services from external providers has also declined since 2013. However, the report says the past two years have seen a significant reduction in the number of legal issues that small businesses encounter as a result of “better trading conditions,” so this could partly account for the decline. Nonetheless, legal issues remain an expensive problem for smaller businesses, costing them an estimated total of £9.7 billion annually.

Legal Services Board chair Sir Michael Pitt expressed disappointment at the survey’s findings. “Access to good-quality and affordable legal services,” he said, “helps small businesses to start up and grow.”

The findings of the Board’s new research, he continued, “provides further worrying evidence that their legal needs are not being satisfactorily met.”