Firm fined after worker’s death caused by trapped hoodie

A firm in Scotland has been fined £165,000 after a worker died when his hoodie became entangled in industrial door equipment.

 

According to media reports, 33-year-old father-of-three Mark Mathers fell unconscious after a spring unwound during repairs at a car garage in Aberdeen, causing his clothing to tighten around his neck and body. He was taken to the hospital, but was declared dead three days later.

 

Trapped hoodie

 

His employer, Patrick Forman Industrial Doors, admitted to breaching health and safety regulations at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.


Jemma Eadie, prosecuting for the Crown, stated that Mr. Mathers and a colleague were repairing an industrial door at Specialist Cars Volkswagen in Aberdeen’s Craigshaw Crescent on 15 September 2018. Despite being an experienced mechanic, Mr. Mathers’ hoodie became caught in a recoiling spring.


The court heard that Mr. Mathers had been advised not to wear loose clothing. His colleague attempted to remove the hoodie by hand and with a knife, but paramedics found Mr. Mathers unconscious upon arrival. 


Defence counsel John Nicolson highlighted that Patrick Forman Industrial Doors, a family-run business based in Rothienorman, Aberdeenshire since 1995, had no previous convictions and deeply regretted the loss of Mr. Mathers, a valued employee. He acknowledged that the safety breach was due to inadequate safety documentation.


Sheriff Christine McCrossan described the incident as an “awful accident” and emphasised that workers should be protected. She noted that even though Mr. Mathers had been advised not to wear a hoodie, he should not be blamed for the accident. She added that no financial penalty could ever compensate for the loss of Mr. Mathers.


Following the case, Mr. Mathers’ family declined to comment. At the time of his death, they had expressed their devastation, saying, “Mark will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”


Debbie Carroll, who leads health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), stated:

“Mark Mathers lost his life in circumstances that could have been avoided had the risks been recognised and a safe system of work put in place. By failing to have suitable measures in place and provide the necessary information to carry out work safely, Patrick Forman Industrial Doors put their employees in danger.


“This prosecution should remind employers that failing to take reasonable health and safety measures can have fatal consequences, and they will be held accountable for this failure.”

 

Accidents at Work – How long do I have to claim?

For Employer Liability cases, legal proceedings must be commenced within 3 years from the date of your accident.

Failure to do this may result in your claim being time-barred and you may not be able to make a compensation claim.

If a loved one has deceased, the time limit for bringing a claim is 3 years from the date of death.

 

Accident at Work – Who can make a claim?

Whether you are an employee, agency worker or contractor you may be able to claim for an accident at work.


In many industries, companies tend to hire contractors and self-employed workers to carry out work on projects. It is a misconception that self-employed workers are always responsible for their own workplace health and safety.


Whilst it is true that they would usually have to take out their own insurance to cover certain aspects, in some circumstances they can claim if they are injured due to the actions of an employed person.


Depending on the relationship between the company and the contractor, a self-employed contractor may be able to establish that the accident and subsequent injury was caused by another person or company.


This is largely because the self-employed person will usually have no control over the health and safety and/or risk assessments for the site they are working on.

 

What compensation can I claim?

Each Employers’ Liability case is assessed individually and is dependent on supportive medical evidence. You can claim for:


  • General Damages – Made for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenities of life that are evidentially linked to the accident at work directly. The pain and suffering element of the award compensates for all past, present, and future physical and psychiatric symptoms.

Loss of amenity means the inability to complete activities, either temporarily or permanently, after an accident, which could be undertaken before. This is an award designed to compensate you for the actual injuries suffered, and the effect those have had on your quality of life.


  • Special Damages – Compensates for any financial losses or out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the accident at work. This would include (but is not limited to) loss of earnings, medication or prescription charges, travel to appointments or any cost of care for the extra care you have needed from family or care providers.

If you are unable to do tasks like gardening, or walking the dog, and have to pay for these services as a consequence of your accident and subsequent injuries, these can also be claimed for.


This can also include any future loss claim and if you are unable to return to the same job as a result of the accident at work, you can claim for a lump sum based on your wages known as the Smith v Manchester award.


This is where it can be proved that as a result of your injuries, there is a risk you would find it more difficult to obtain similar employment.


However, an injured person has a duty to take reasonable steps to minimise their losses/expenses. This is called mitigation of losses, and a Court will assess whether or not the loss was reasonably incurred, before making an award.

 

How much compensation will I get?

The amount of compensation you can claim depends on the severity of your injuries and the effect it has had on your life. If symptoms are ongoing and are supported by medical evidence, this would increase the value of your claim.


The Judicial College Guidelines set out financial brackets for common types of injuries, as will be referenced to estimate the value of the claim.


The guidelines are broken down into the affected body parts and the type and severity of the injury.


They were introduced as it was recognised that whilst no two cases are ever precisely the same, justice was required to develop consistency between awards.


Precedent case law is also relied on to support the valuation and consideration must also be given to whether you have had a pre-existing disability or whether the injury accelerated a pre-existing condition.


Even where the older injury may not be symptomatic at the time of the accident, it is something that will have to be considered and would affect the value of your claim.

 

How long does an accident at work claim take?

Each case is different and whether an insurance company agrees to deal with a case depends on several factors. It is therefore very difficult to advise on the length of time a case may take as it may be that it is not clear who is responsible for your accident.


Your solicitor will advise you if there are issues that arise which means the duration of your case will be affected. It will depend on various matters, such as:


  • Level of your injury
  • Ongoing treatment
  • Whether your employers admit fault
  • Whether proceedings would need to be issued to secure compensation
  • Speed of communication between parties
  • Issues with your medical records/reports

 

Employer Liability – What are the laws?

There are several laws and regulations employers must follow to ensure their workers are kept safe.


Employers have a duty of care to protect workers from harm, by ensuring that risk assessments are carried out, the correct training is given and protective equipment is provided.


Some of the regulations include the following:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations 1992.
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

 

I have suffered an accident at work – What should I do?

If you have suffered an accident at work, get in touch with Oakwood Scotland Solicitors today for advice on how we can progress your claim. We can advise you on what evidence we need you to provide for us to claim compensation on your behalf.

 

Further reading

For more information about accidents at work, check out our resource.

 

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