High Court Approves Compensation Settlement for a Work Accident Claim

The High Court has approved a compensation settlement for a work accident claim made by the widow of a man killed while working at Connacht Sportsground.

On 30th April 2008, Declan Byrne (31) was killed when a 1.4 tonne steel beam fell on him while he was trying to realign it during the construction of a new gym at the Connacht Sportsground in Galway. An investigation into Declan´s death resulted in charges being brought against the company for whom he worked – CDM Steel Ltd – under the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.

The company was acquitted on the charges in November 2013, after the Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard that it had been Declan´s decision to use scaffolding and a bottle jack – rather than lift the beam with a crane – because the blockwork of the building was so far advanced. However, the judge in the case criticised the lack of supervision and an “appalling lack of communication” at the site.

Following the acquittal of her husband´s former employer, Dolores Byrne from Ballyhaunis in County Mayo made a work accident claim against CDM Steel Ltd alleging that the company´s negligence was responsible for Declan´s death. She also sued Portant Developments Ltd – the main contractor for the development of the site, the Connacht Branch of the Rugby Football Union and the Irish Rugby Football Union – the owners of the Connacht Sportsground.

All four parties denied their role in Declan´s death, and alleged that he failed to have regard for his own safety by attempting to realign the steel beam without the appropriate lifting equipment. However, at the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard that a compensation settlement for the work accident claim had been agreed amounting to €500,000.

Judge Cross approved the compensation settlement for a work accident claim, expressing his sympathies to Dolores and her two children for their tragic and irreplaceable loss. He told the family that, although the compensation settlement for a work accident claim was a good one that he was happy to approve, “nothing can replace what you have lost”.


Man Settles Claim for a Brain Injury due to a Fall from a Ladder

A man who suffered life-changing injuries in uncertain circumstances has settled his claim for a brain injury due to a fall from a ladder.

On 22nd March 2011, Michael Brady (47) from Monasterevin in County Kildare had just started working for Philip Brady Building Contractors Ltd in Naas, when he was asked to clean some ivy from a gutter. Michael was working with his father that day – Philip Brady Senior (related to the owner of the company, but not the owner) – who left his son working at the top of a 16-foot ladder.

On Philip Brady´s return, Michael was found lying on the ground with the ladder still in position. Michael was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery. He has subsequently had to undergo neurosurgery and procedures to reconstruct his face. Due to his accident, Michael now has problems with his vision and needs full-time support for his daily living.

As Michael was not of a mental capacity to represent himself, a claim for a brain injury due to a fall from a ladder was made on his behalf by his father. Philip Brady Senior alleged that the ladder that had been provided for Michael was inadequate for the job, and that there had been a failure to provide appropriate support and safeguards to protect against a fall while the ladder was in use.

The construction company denied liability for Michael´s accident and prepared a full defence against the claim for a brain injury due to a fall from a ladder. However, shortly before a scheduled hearing was about to commence, the High Court was told that the claim had been settled for €1.5 million. After hearing the few details that are known about Michael´s accident, the settlement of the claim was approved and the hearing closed.


Court Resolves Injury Claim for Fall from Roof at Work

The High Court has approved the settlement of an injury claim for a fall from a roof at work, in favour of a County Wicklow man who suffered devastating brain injuries in the accident.

Paul O’Brien (50) of Glenealy, County Wicklow, was on the first day of a roofing contract on 18th July 2012, when he went to descend from the roof of the house in Bray as it had started to rain. As he attempted to get onto the ladder that was leant up against the side of the house, the ladder slipped on the timber decking floor it had been placed upon, and Paul fell to the ground.

Paul suffered a significant head injury in the accident, and now has limited short-term memory which will prevent him from ever working again. Through his wife – Sandra O´Brien – Paul made an injury claim for a fall from a roof at work against his employer – Sean Lyons of Clondalkin, Dublin – alleging that Lyons failed to provide a safe place of work or suitable scaffolding and ladders to enable him to carry out his work safely.

It was also claimed that the ladder that was provided to descend from the roof was unsafe and unfit for that purpose – it had not been fastened to the property on which Paul was working – and the combination of an alleged unsuitable ladder and the wet timber decking on which it had been placed presented a treacherous means of exit from the roof.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told that – prior to being given this temporary roofing contract – Paul had been unemployed for a number of years following the collapse of the construction industry in Ireland. She also heard that Sandra O´Brien had taken a two-year sabbatical from her job to care for her husband; but an out-of-court settlement of Paul´s injury claim for a fall from a roof at work had been agreed amounting to €1.5 million.

Judge Irvine approved the settlement, stating that it was a good one when taking into account that Paul´s contributory negligence may have been a factor had the case gone to court. She added that she sympathised with the position of the O’Brien family and then closed the hearing.


Compensation for Construction Worker Injured in Explosion at Work

Compensation for a construction worker, injured in an explosion at work when a digger´s radiator exploded, has been awarded in the High Court.

Pawel Ciawlowski (32) from Navan in County Meath sustained burns to 14 percent of his body when the radiator of a nearby digger – which had previously been reported as overheating – exploded, showering him with hot water and scalding steam.

Following the accident – which happened outside a shop in the Cavan Road in Kells – Pawel was taken to a nearby hospital in Navan with burns to his chest, abdomen, face and arms, before being transferred to the burns unit at St James Hospital in Dublin.

Pawel was in St James Hospital for several days and his wounds required dressing for several months after the August 2012 accident. During his recovery, he was unable to work, take a planned holiday to Spain or attend the gym.

After seeking legal advice about making a claim for a construction worker injured in an explosion at work, Pawel sued his employers – Emdan Developments Ltd of Bective Street Kells – claiming that they had been negligent in knowingly exposing him to a risk of injury and failing to heed warnings about the overheating digger.

At the High Court, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill heard that Pawel had made a good recovery since his burns at work accident last August, but had been left with a significant and unsightly scar on his chest which had to be covered in the sun because of the high risk of burning.

The judge also heard that Emdan Developments Ltd were in liquidation and had not contested the claim for compensation by the construction worker in an explosion at work. Consequently the case was before him for the assessment of damages only.

Stating that Pawel had suffered a “nasty injury”, Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill awarded him €49,757 in compensation for the digger accident, which included both general damages for the burns at work Pawel had sustained and the loss of amenity caused by his construction worker accident.


Man Awarded Compensation for Fall from Scaffolding

A man who fell three metres from a scaffolding tower while helping his brother make repairs to the roof of his house has been awarded 750,000 Euros in compensation for fall from scaffolding after the settlement of his claim was approved in the High Court.

Patrick Rayner from Mitchelstown, County Cork, was helping to replace slates on his brother´s roof in Killmallock, County Limerick when the accident happened during heavy rain in December 2008. As he lent over the top of the scaffolding tower erected to provide access to the roof, Patrick fell three metres to the ground, sustaining a fractured skull injury.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that as a consequence of his injury Patrick has lost his hearing, has a deficit of his taste and smell senses and still suffers from frequent headaches. The judge was also told that through his wife, Julia, Patrick made a claim for fall from scaffolding compensation; alleging that the scaffolding tower had not been secured to a permanent structure and that his brother had failed to make adequate provision for Patrick´s health and safety.

As liability for Patrick´s injuries had not been disputed, and a settlement of 750,000 Euros had been agreed, the case was before Ms Justice Mary Irvine for approval of damages only. After hearing the full details of how the accident occurred, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement of compensation for fall from scaffolding, stating that this was a case of the deeds of a Good Samaritan concluding in tragedy.


“Unplanned” Sick Days Cost Industry 1.5 Billion Euros

A report published this week by the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) has revealed that absenteeism is costing the country 1.5 billion Euros each year in lost productivity.

The findings were based on a survey conducted in 2010 in which absenteeism levels in 2009 were examined across 635 companies employing a total of 110,000 people.  It was estimated in the report that 11 million working days were lost annually due to “unplanned” sick days although the report gave no indication of how many of these were due to accidents in the workplace and work illnesses.

Defining absenteeism as an “unscheduled disruption of the work process due to days lost as a result of sickness or any other cause not excused through statutory entitlements or company approval”, the report revealed that high-pressure rewards driven call centres recorded the highest absence rate (3.67%), while software companies had the lowest rates of absenteeism (1.56%). It also cited the main reason given for absence from work was minor illnesses.

However, the figures are much higher than those issued each year by the Health Safety Authority (HSA) in their annual “Summary of Workplace Injury” which, although a more accurate reflection of occupational health in Ireland (the IBEC conclusions were drawn by studying less than one half of one per cent of the workforce), are reliant on employers reporting work injury and illnesses of four or more days to the HSA.

The wide difference between the HSA figures and those estimated by IBEC could be due to an employer´s reluctance to report injuries and illness caused by their negligence. Although claims for injuries at work are declining in the farming and construction industries, those related to falls at work and repetitive strain injuries are on the increase, and if an employer reports injuries which are due to his breach of health and safety regulations, he could be inviting a visit from HSA investigators.

The publication of the report also coincides with a similar Health and Safety Executive release in the UK, which estimated that 560,000 employees in England and Wales took a total of 13.4 million days off last year due to stress in the workplace. Proportionately, it would appear that the situation is far worse in the Republic.


HSA Launches Construction Safety Week

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has launched Construction Safety Week to reduce the number of construction accidents and construction accident claims. The focus of the safety week will be construction vehicles, presumably because the HSA as identified this aspect of construction sites as needing improvement. HSA staff will conduct construction site inspections this week.  As well as inspecting construction sites, HSA staff will also try to educate construction firms on the hazards posed by construction vehicles in an effort to prevent future accidents.

The HSA points out that accidents involving construction machinery and vehicles are responsible for very serious accidents and construction worker deaths.

Two construction workers have lost their lives so far this year, a much improved safety record compared with 2009.


Polish Construction Worker’s Death Results in 350,000 Euro Fine

The construction industry is by its very nature one of the most dangerous work environments. Directors and managers of construction companies have a particularly difficult task compared with other industries that only involve, for example, office workers.  The court case this week related to the death Polish construction worker Czeslav Malinowski illustrates the challenges. Malinowski died following a fall on Roscommon town’s main street in April 2006.

Malinowski was employed by Owencrest Properties Ltd, directed by John Doyle, and working on a project by Roscommon Building Company Ltd, directed by Noel Doyle. The directors and companies pleaded guilty to various offenses under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and were find 350,000 euro.

In a lesson to all employers, it was noted in court that the companies involved had good health and safety records and the directors were clearly distressed by the accident that resulted in the death of an employee.