Making claims for compensation for accidents in abattoirs can often be complicated due to the nature of the work, the unpredictability of animals and because it is impossible for employers to foresee all potential accidents in an abattoir and make plans to prevent them.
There are, however, a number of guidelines prepared by the Health and Safety Authority which should be followed by abattoirs and abattoir managers to provide the safest possible environment in which to work by reducing the presence of avoidable hazards that could lead to an injury.
This article covers many of those accident scenarios mentioned by the HSA and other safety organisations, and why you may qualify for abattoir injury compensation when you have been injured in an accident in an abattoir for which you were not wholly to blame.
However, because of the variety of injuries that can be sustained in an abattoir, this article is not a comprehensive guide to compensation claims for abattoir accidents, and legal advice which relates to your own personal circumstances should always be sought from a personal injury solicitor.
The Importance of Prompt Medical Attention
Whether you have sustained an injury in an abattoir accident or developed a health condition due to your working environment, it is important that you sought professional medical attention at the earliest possible opportunity.
Although common sense would have normally prevailed if you had been crushed by an animal in an abattoir lairage, and an ambulance summoned to take you to hospital, some abattoir employees will “work through the pain” or rely simply on first aid to treat their injuries.
This latter approach to abattoir injuries can result in serious long-term health problems as you will see from below:-
Untreated Cut Hands in Abattoirs
Untreated cut hands in abattoirs – or cuts to any parts of the body which are exposed to air-borne bacteria – can lead to serious infections which, even after the infection has been resolved, can still cause severe problems such as stiffness, loss of strength, and even loss of tissues such as skin, nerve and bone.
Slipping on Wet Floors in Abattoirs
Many different effluents exist on floor surfaces of abattoirs and, should you slip on the wet floor of an abattoir, the resulting injury due to the impact of falling – or a soft tissue strain while trying to prevent a fall – could be masked by the body´s natural instinct to produce adrenalin.
Tripping over Waste Products in Abattoirs
Similar injuries can be sustained by tripping over waste products in abattoirs such as discarded carcasses. Bangs, bruises and strains should all be examined by a medical examiner to ensure that they are professionally treated and do not develop into a more serious condition through neglect.
Weil´s Disease in Abattoirs
There is a serious risk of Weil´s Disease in abattoirs – as well as other Zoogenic diseases – and, should you start to experience symptoms such as headaches, red eyes, fatigue, nausea and a high temperature, you should seek medical attention immediately. Left untreated, Weil´s Disease can be fatal.
Hearing Injuries in Abattoirs
Hearing injuries in abattoirs is just one example of acquired injuries which may be sustained due to working in an abattoir. Concentrated groups of livestock, processing activities, plant machinery and transport vehicles can all be factors which add to a disintegration of your hearing over a period of time.
No amount of compensation for accidents in abattoirs will ever make up for a long-term health problem which could have been avoided with prompt professional medical attention and, furthermore, should your injury or condition deteriorate due to your own lack of care, you may find that how much abattoir injury compensation you receive is reduced to reflect your own contributory negligence.
Claiming Compensation for Accidents in Abattoirs
The process for claiming compensation for accidents in abattoirs is the same as for any personal injury in Ireland. After receiving medical treatment and making a record of your accident and injury in your employer´s ‘Accident Report Book’, you should submit an application for assessment to the Injuries Board.
Your application for assessment should be accompanied by the Medical Assessment Form B, which has to be completed by the doctor who treated you and is a further reason why you should have sought immediate professional medical treatment after an accident in an abattoir. You will also be required to submit receipts to account for any expenses you have occurred and past payslips if you are claiming for a loss of earnings.
The Injuries Board will approach your employer asking for their consent to assess your claim for an injury in an abattoir and, once that consent is received, will calculate a value of compensation for accidents in abattoirs based on the information you have provided them with.
Once the Injuries Board assessment is complete, a ‘Notice of Assessment’ will be issued to you and your employer´s insurance company which will show how much abattoir injury compensation your claim has been assessed for and – if both you and the insurance company agree on the amount – an ‘Order to Pay’ will be sent to the insurance company who will then settle your claim for an injury in an abattoir.
Establishing Liability in Compensation Claims for Abattoir Accidents
It is not often necessary to establish liability in compensation claims for abattoir accidents, especially when your employer gives his consent for the Injuries Board to assess your claim for an injury in an abattoir. However, if consent is denied, or one party does not agree with the assessment calculated by the Injuries Board, compensation claims for abattoir accidents will have to be pursued through the courts unless a settlement of your claim can be negotiated through a solicitor.
If this is the case, compensation claims for abattoir accidents will not only have to show that an injury has been sustained, but also that it was due to the negligence of your employer or one of your colleagues with a responsibility for your health and safety. The HSA provides a 5-point ‘Safe System of Work’ in its guidelines for health and safety and, if an employer is negligent in any of them, this could be sufficient to establish liability in a claim for an injury in an abattoir. The five points are:-
- Provide a Safe Place to Work
- This means that a risk assessment should be carried out on the buildings and surrounding areas in which you are expected to work in order that animals are contained safely and that an effective system of waste disposal is in place.
- Provide Safe Plant and Machinery
- All plant and machinery in the abattoir should be regularly inspected to ensure that they are in good working condition with all their safety features operational. Noise levels should also be monitored to prevent hearing injuries in abattoirs.
- Provide Safe Methods of Working
- By introducing safe methods of working, scenarios such as tripping over waste products in abattoirs should not be an issue, as discarded animal parts would be dealt with in such a way so that they did not represent a hazard. Safe practices should also be implemented to avoid being crushed by an animal in an abattoir lairage.
- Provide Training and Supervision
- Accidents such as cut hands in abattoirs are less likely to happen if employees are adequately trained, provided with personal protective equipment and shown how to use the tools and equipment safely. Supervision and the monitoring of an employee´s performance is also necessary to ensure that the ‘Safe System of Work’ is being adhered to.
- Provide Adequate Welfare Provision
- Adequate welfare for abattoir staff should also be in place – not only separate bathrooms, showers and canteens to encourage hygiene and prevent the risk of an abattoir-acquired illness, but also first aid facilities so that when an accident in an abattoir occurs, preliminary medical treatment can be administered.
In order to establish negligence in claim for an injury in an abattoir, your solicitor will access reports made by abattoir inspectors and risk assessments compiled by your employer, obtain statements from work colleagues and use CCTV footage where available to determine where your employer demonstrated a lack of care and how that directly led to you suffering an injury in an abattoir.
Calculating the Value of a Claim for an Injury in an Abattoir
The value of compensation claims for abattoirs accidents – whether assessed by the Injuries Board or settled by negotiation/through the courts – depends on the nature and extent of your injuries and the impact they have on your quality of life.
A preliminary figure of compensation for accidents in abattoirs is obtained by referring to the ‘Book of Quantum’ and then adjusted to account for your age, your physical condition prior to your accident in an abattoir and – in certain types of claim for an injury in an abattoir – your sex.
Your solicitor would include an amount for the ‘inconvenience of incapacity’ – your lack of ability to complete everyday tasks, attend social events or participate in regular leisure activities – and any quantifiable psychological injury with which you have been diagnosed, either due to the nature of your accident or because of immobility during your recovery.
As mentioned above, you will also be able to recover any expenses you have incurred which can be justified by receipts and payslips. If there are any other considerations which apply in your specific circumstances, these will also be taken into account when your claim for abattoir injury compensation is being prepared by your solicitor.
How Contributory Negligence can affect Abattoir Injury Compensation Settlements
It was also mentioned above that should your injury or condition deteriorate due to your own lack of care, you may find that how much abattoir injury compensation you receive is reduced to reflect your own contributory negligence.
This can also be the case if you were partly responsible for the cause of your accident – if, for example, you noticed that a drain was blocked, but failed to report it and subsequently sustained an injury due to slipping on effluents on the abattoir floor.
In most cases where contributory negligence applies to compensation claims for abattoir accidents, the Injuries Board will reject an application for assessment (usually because your employer will not consent to full liability) and your claim for an injury in an abattoir will have to be resolved by negotiation.
During negations to settle your claim for compensation for accidents in abattoirs, you would normally be assigned a percentage liability, with that percentage being deducted from what you would have received if – for example – you had reported the blocked drain and were still injured due to slipping on the wet floor of an abattoir.
If you are considered to be more than 50 percent responsible for the cause of an accident in an abattoir or the severity of the injuries you sustained, it may not be financially viable to pursue abattoir injury compensation.
Time Limits for Claiming Abattoir Injury Compensation
The Courts and Civil Liability Act 2004 places a two-year time limit on compensation claims for abattoir accidents which does not start until the ‘Date of Knowledge’ that an injury has occurred. Therefore, if you were crushed by an animal in an abattoir lairage, the two-year time limit would start from the day of your accident; however, if you developed Weil´s Disease in an abattoir, the limitation period would not begin until the day on which you were diagnosed with the injury.
Compensation claims for abattoir accidents do not have to be resolved within this period, only initiated. This is because compensation for accidents in abattoirs should be claimed while evidence of negligence is still available, and it may be the case that the full extent of your injuries – and the consequences of them that you may experience in the future – may not yet have manifested.
Compensation Claims for Abattoir Accidents and Insurance Companies
Once you have informed officially your employer of your accident in an abattoir by making an entry in the ‘Accident Report Book’, it may be the case that you are approached directly by your employer´s insurance company with an unsolicited offer of abattoir injury compensation.
The insurance company will likely have been informed of a potential claim for compensation for accidents in abattoirs by your employer as a condition of his or her insurance policy, and the reason for the approach by the insurance company is to resolve the claim for an injury in an abattoir for the least possible cost.
Unless you have already undergone an assessment of your abattoir injury compensation claim by a solicitor, it will be impossible for you to know whether the insurance company´s unsolicited offer represents a fair and adequate settlement of your claim, and you are advised to refer any such approaches to a solicitor before inadvertently accepting them.
Further Information about Compensation for Accidents in Abattoirs
No two compensation claims for abattoir accidents are going to be identical – even when the injuries sustained are the same – because the way in which an injury affects an individual is completely unique. Therefore it is recommended that you seek further information about compensation for accidents in abattoirs from a personal injury solicitor.
If the solicitor considers that you have a claim for an injury in an abattoir which is worth your while to pursue (it is still your decision whether you want to go ahead or not), the solicitor can assist you with completing the application for assessment to the Injuries Board, open negotiations with your employer´s insurance company and organise interim payments of abattoir injury compensation if it appears likely that your claim for an injury in an abattoir may take a long time to resolve.
It costs nothing to find out more about compensation claims for abattoir accidents and it is in your best interests to discuss the circumstances of your accident in an abattoir with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity.