Compensation warning as 100 Scottish construction workers die during pandemic
Employers in the Scottish construction sector could face legal action for damages running into hundreds of thousands of pounds after new figures found the industry has accounted for 100 Covid-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Of the 10,055 deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate since the beginning of the pandemic, National Records of Scotland (NRS) has revealed there were 129 deaths in the category of ‘process, plant and machine operatives’, which included taxi and bus drivers, food and drink processing staff and maintenance and repair workers.
People working in skilled trades such as carpenters, plumbers, joiners and electricians accounted for a further 100 deaths, while 71 care workers – including care home staff and NHS employees – lost their lives.
Reports in the Sunday Mail yesterday revealed that dozens of law firms are offering to take action against care homes, the Scottish Government and employers on behalf of Covid-19 victims and their families.
Patrick McGuire, head of personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors, who is already working with more than 100 clients preparing to go to court over relatives who died in care, has warned that is the “tip of the iceberg”, with tens of thousands of potential claims.
He told the Sunday Mail: “The pandemic is being painted as an unavoidable hazard – something that was inevitably going to happen.
“But we just don’t accept that in terms of employment and health and safety legislation, and in terms of the duties that employers, care homes and other public sector institutions were required to live up to.
“Yes, it is a horrible virus that spread through the world but that doesn’t mean everyone is absolved of all responsibility.
“Care home operators and other employers still have to take responsibilty for not i n fecting employees or customers.
“The public were told to stop the spread but the fact is that many employers didn’t stop it and that led directly to people becoming seriously ill and dying.
“There are tens of thousands of people out there who have contracted this disease in circumstances where they should not have done, and that could have been down to negligence.
“Where a death has occurred – whether that is in a care home or in any other workplace – there could be a dozen people making a claim.
“It is a guess, but an educated one, that claims could run to over £1 billion.”
McGuire added: “This is going to be very case by case – it is terrible to say people of different ages and circumstances will get higher or lower levels of compensation, but that is the way it is.
“So where you have a family suing on behalf of a loved one who died in a care home – the entire family, each son, daughters or grandchild could each have claims for perhaps tens of thousands of pounds. On the other hand, if you are talking about a bus driver, a care home worker, a working age individual who catches the virus in circumstances where they should have been protected – in that case, damages will be significantly higher because there will be a higher wage loss and financial support element in their claims.
“Employers who didn’t follow the rules and protect people, who required people to come into workplaces which were not properly distanced, employers who just ran roughshod over their employees’ health and safety rights – people have suffered seriously as a result of these things.
“It is right that these companies are held to account for any failings just as they would be in any other circumstances.”
Thompsons has represented thousands of former shipbuilders who contracted lung diseases as a result of working with asbestos, and works with some of Scotland’s biggest unions to represent workers.
Mr McGuire added: “We have well in excess of 100 families who have contacted us in relation to care homes and that is the tip of the iceberg.
“It is terrifying and horrific that patients were being discharged from hospital to care homes untested.
“It is not just the care homes themselves which could face claims, there are absolutely going to be claims against the government.”