June 12, 2013
From slipping on spilt coffee to mishaps with faulty machinery, workplace accidents usually result in taking time off to recover from injuries. Whilst most people are able to return after a period of recuperation, others never work again due to the severity of their injuries. But more worrying is that in 2011/12, 173 workplace accidents actually resulted in death.
It's not the nicest statistic to think about but it is always worth remembering just how dangerous the workplace can be, as even simple every day items if not stored or disposed of carefully can cause accidents.
My professional experience of work accident claims mirrors the above statistics with fatalities noticeably decreasing over the last decade. In my opinion this is due to a much improved emphasis and awareness of workplace safety by employees and employers alike. The introduction of legislation throughout the 90's made it obligatory for employers to consider the risks that their employees face and take steps, where possible, to mitigate them.
So thankfully going to work is no longer as life threatening as it once was, but how familiar are you with the procedure if you do suffer an injury? Finding your nearest first aider or seeking medical attention will be second nature, but what of the legal obligations following an accident?
Legal responsibilities of an employer
Employers who employ ten or more people are legally required to maintain a Work Accident Book and it must be accessible to their employees. Do you know who has the accident book in your work place? It's worth finding out in the event that you or one of your colleagues has an accident.
If you're injured at work you should always ensure the event is reported and recorded in the book. The actual accident write-up is often completed by another person such as a manager or someone in the HR department. In this scenario it's always advisable to double check what has been recorded to ensure it's accurate, and you shouldn't sign anything unless you're 100% happy with the full written account.
In the event an accident leads to significant injury, the circumstances detailed in the book may be called upon to help support a compensation claim. Likewise if you need time off or adjustments to your working environment, the entry can help justify this too.
The book primarily gives your employer the chance to prevent similar accidents in the future, but it is also required for various government regulations. Under RIDDOR (the 'Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995') it is compulsory for employers to report certain accidents, injuries or diseases to the HSE. This includes:
• Fatalities in the workplace
• Major injuries (injuries that have lasted for more than seven days)
• Work related diseases (exposure to chemicals, dust, industrial noise, vibration etc.) and any dangerous occurrences
Employers must provide the HSE with full details of the accident including the name and address of the injured (or ill) employee and a detailed description of the accident circumstances. In extreme case this evidence forms the basis to determine whether the HSE find your employer's actions give rise to criminal charges.
Within these regulations your employer is also required by law to have insurance in place to cover claims for accidents on their premises, and may well display the certificates of insurance in a prominent place. So if you feel your injuries warrant some sort of compensation, you're well within your rights to contact a personal injury solicitor to investigate claiming from this policy.
We all have a part to play
While I've found compensation claims can rely heavily on details recorded in the accident book, there's a more important consideration to keep in mind. The information recorded helps your employer make their working environment safer by allowing them to take steps to avoid similar accidents happening again.
Nobody wants to undo the progress we've made over the last twenty years in reducing workplace deaths, and we all have a valuable part to play in reducing them further.