Whilst all employers have a legal duty of care to protect their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, accidents still happen and it’s important you understand your legal rights should anything go wrong.
Wherever you have an accident, there can be certain implications – not least of all a potential loss of income, which can certainly have a massive impact in its’ own right.
However, if an employer has failed in their duty of care and you’ve been injured as a result then you need to make sure that you understand what rights you have.
In this article we take a closer look at what you need to do if you suffer an accident at work and what potential remedies there might be to help you get back on track.
What is classed as being ‘an accident at work’?
Anything which happens in the workplace and causes you personal injury is classed as being an accident at work.
Most accidents happen due to a lack of appropriate training, but they can also involve:-
- Slips, trips and falls
- The use of poorly maintained equipment
- The negligent actions of others
- Poor support structures (such as scaffolding or racking)
- Burns or electrical shocks
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive but helps to give at least some idea of the more common causes of accidents in the workplace.
Are there any regulations to comply with after an accident at work?
Yes. The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (‘RIDDOR’) requires all employers (and other persons in charge of work premises) to report and keep records of the following:
- Fatalities at work
- Reportable injuries (i.e. work-related accidents which cause certain serious injuries)
- Industrial diseases
- Reportable gas incidents
Regardless of industry type, all employers are required to adhere to strict health and safety regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act and RIDDOR.
Most larger employers will have a designated Safety Representative and at the very least should have a nominated first-aider to treat any injuries as and when they occur. When you first start your employment, your induction period should cover this type of information but if it doesn’t, then be sure to ask for it.
What should I do if I have an accident at work?
If you suffer an accident at work the first thing you should do is report it straight away (or at the very soonest opportunity). All employers should keep an up-to-date accident book and under current legislation any serious injuries have to be reported under RIDDOR.
Depending on the type of injury you suffer, you might need to seek medical assistance from either your own GP or perhaps your local A&E department, depending on the severity of it. If either of these are necessary then it’s certainly advisable to keep a note of who you saw, and what you were diagnosed with – as well as keeping a note of any follow-up treatment or prescription drugs. This information will be extremely useful in the event that you need to make a claim against your employer.
Where possible, gather as much information together which details what actually happened, including information of any witnesses and obtaining photographic evidence of where the accident occurred. This is particularly relevant if you feel that the accident was caused through no fault of your own – for example, the equipment you were using was faulty. In the event that you need to seek legal advice, any solicitor will tell you that it’s always better to have “too much” information as opposed to “not enough.”
If you intend to make a claim for your injuries, then you’ll normally need to consult a solicitor or other legal professional to get timely legal advice. There are various pro’s and con’s of using claim management companies, so always be sure to do your homework before deciding on who’s better placed to represent you. A lot of law firms will also act on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis, which means you don’t have to pay any legal costs up front (other than any disbursements which might become payable, such as expert fees and Court costs).
Regardless of representation, the time limits on accident claims are fairly strict and any claim you make needs to be done within three years of the date of the accident. If your company has a trade union then your trade union representative might be a good place to start in terms of getting suitable advice.
By law, your employer must be adequately insured to cover any successful claims made against them and should have an insurance certificate clearly displayed somewhere on their premises. If you’re unable to locate this, then be sure to ask for a copy and/or full details of their insurers so that you can notify them of your intended claim at the earliest opportunity. It may be, of course, that they’ll wish to obtain some further information from you and for this reason, the need to keep accurate records can never be stressed enough.
Any lawyer will tell you that the point of claiming damages is to put you back into the position you would have been in had the accident not occurred in the first place. Always keep this at the back of your mind when making a claim for damages, as you will probably start to incur out-of-pocket expenses in terms of travel costs, car parking fees, prescription costs and so on. The list can be pretty endless so be sure to keep any receipts for absolutely everything you have to pay for as a result of your accident – including a note of your mileage, if you’re travelling in your own car (or produce receipts for the cost of alternative transport, such as a taxi or public transport).
Whilst your HR department should be able to provide you with any associated advice concerning your accident, one of your key priorities will be to understand what sick pay you’re entitled to. Even if your employer doesn’t ordinarily pay for any sick leave, they might well make an exception if there’s a potential claim being made against them. Alternatively, you may be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP). At the time of writing (January 2018) the standard rate for SSP is £89.35 per week and is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. In order to qualify for SSP you need to have been off work sick for at least 4 consecutive days. For more information on this see https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay. Read More about Accidents at work
Having an accident at work should be taken very seriously. Even if you’re not incapacited for a considerable length of time it’s still worth making a claim against your employer since this will not only compensate you in terms of any financial loss but will also highlight any areas for improvement.
Unfortunately, all too many employees fail to make claims for a whole host of different reasons. Some believe it might prove detrimental to their employment terms (particularly if employed as a contractor or temporary worker) whilst others simply don’t want to ‘cause a fuss’.
However, failure to address health and safety issues in the workplace can never have a good outcome and it’s certainly in everyone’s best interest to ensure that similar accidents in the future are avoided.