My former employers are contesting liability for injuries I sustained in a pharmaceutical plant accident on the grounds of human error. Can they do this?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

If you have sustained injuries in a pharmaceutical plant accident, you should be entitled to compensation – even if the human error your former employers are citing as a defence was your own.

Pharmaceutical companies have a ‘duty of care’ under the Control of Major Accident Hazards involving Dangerous Substances (COMAH) Regulations 2006 to ensure that the environment provided for you to work in is free from avoidable hazards and has control systems in place to eliminate the risk of human error.

The combination of potentially volatile chemicals represents one of the biggest hazards in the workplace and, under the Regulations, not only should you be provided with personal protective equipment to protect you from the risk of injury, but also be given training and supervision to ensure that every employee adheres to the control systems recommended by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Therefore, unless you deliberately overrode every control system to cause the pharmaceutical plant accident, if your former employers failed in their duty of care to provide you with adequate protection against the risk of an injury, they are the liable party in a claim for compensation for an accident in a pharmaceutical plant.

It would be in your best interests to speak with a solicitor in respect of the circumstances of the accident and the injuries you sustained. A solicitor would obtain a copy of the safety report filed with the HSA (under Schedule 1 of the COMAH Regulations) and obtain the testimony of witnesses to establish whether or not the safety procedures in the report were being adhered to.

The solicitor would also request a copy of the HSA accident investigation to support your claim for pharmaceutical plant injury compensation and approach your former employer´s insurance company with this evidence of their policyholder´s negligence.

If it is found that you were partly to blame for the pharmaceutical plant accident by your own deliberate actions, there would still have been a failure by your former employees to prevent the risk of injury – not only to you but also to your former colleagues – and although you may be assigned an element of ‘contributory negligence’ claim for pharmaceutical plant injury compensation should still be possible.

It is advisable to discuss the circumstances of your pharmaceutical plant accident with a solicitor as soon as possible, while the memories of witnesses remain fresh and before your former employer´s insurance company possibly approach you with an offer of pharmaceutical plant injury compensation; which you may be tempted to accept if you have been led to believe that there may be complications in obtaining your full entitlement to injury compensation for an accident in a pharmaceutical plant.