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February 10, 2012

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Fast-track claims process for workplace injuries planned

The Government says it is committed to introducing a streamlined process for handling employers’ liability and public liability claims, but needs to consult on the detail.

Issuing its response to a consultation paper, Solving disputes in the county courts, the Government intends to introduce a scheme to cover such claims as part of a package of measures to reform the civil-justice regime.

However, it also acknowledges that concerns in relation to issues of causation and contributory negligence – as expressed by Professor Löfstedt in his review of health and safety legislation – and the prime minister’s plans to reform the law on strict liability in civil health and safety cases mean that further consultation with stakeholders will be required to iron out the detail.

Any such scheme would, however, be informed by the experience of the road-traffic accident personal-injury (RTA PI) scheme, which was launched in April 2010. According to the Ministry of Justice, the Web-based scheme was set up to control legal costs, which are pre-set in a way that encourages early settlement.

The Government also plans to increase the financial limit of the RTA PI scheme from £10,000 to £25,000, following a full evaluation.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) welcomed the Government’s announcement. Its director of general insurance, Nick Starling, said: “This is good news for thousands more claimants who will get their compensation much more quickly. In less than two years, evidence shows that this process is leading to the average pay-out time being more than halved, and lower legal costs.

“The Government must now press on with its wide-ranging and long-overdue reforms to civil litigation to ensure that steps, such as reducing fixed legal costs, lead to a more cost-efficient compensation system.”

However, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers warned the Government to slow down, and highlighted significant weaknesses in the RTA PI scheme.

The group’s president, David Bott, commented: “Policy-makers need to be aware that extending the current system for road-traffic accident cases, when that system still has serious technical and administrative flaws, will inevitably mean a further tilting of the playing field away from genuinely injured individuals in favour of big businesses and insurance companies, who are, actually, quite capable of looking after themselves.

“The Government must avoid over-focusing on needlework and forgetting the full tapestry. Too much change, too quickly, would be reckless, and we hope that, in its ongoing consultation, the Government gets its priorities right and puts the needs of injured people first.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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