Whilst much legislation exists to ensure that employers fully comply with basic health and safety rules, the workplace is still one of the most dangerous environments when it comes to accidents – and even fatalities.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were some 137 workers killed whilst at work during the years 2016/17 with 609,000 reported injuries and a further 70,116 injuries reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.  So the statistics really do speak for themselves in terms of exposure to risk whilst at work.
So, what happens if an accident occurs at work and what sort of expertise can be relied upon to help put things right?
Making a claim for a work-related accident
In theory, making a claim for any work-related accident which has ultimately resulted in an injury should be relatively straightforward. However, there are a number of issues which need to be taken into account when making an accident at work claim – and not least of all the prospect of making a claim against an employer.
What are the most common types of accidents at work?
When it comes to the actual causes of accidents, statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that the most common type of accident derives from a trip, slip or fall on the same level (in fact, these accounted for some 29% of accidents during 2016/17 closely followed by lifting and handling, which accounted for 22%). 
Of these injuries, the vast majority of injuries (62%) were sustained by men, and over 175,000 cases necessitated more than seven days off work.
Of course, some industry types are much more prone to certain occupational hazards – such as warehouses and construction; both of which will naturally involve heavy lifting and very often, the use of heavy machinery.
How to report an accident in the workplace
If you experience any type of accident whilst at work (no matter how minor it might be), then it should always be reported to the employer as soon as possible and then recorded in accordance with the company’s standard procedure. Most employers will have a formal accident book although, if this isn’t the case then you’re certainly well advised to put details of the incident in writing to an appropriate person – such as a line manager or the HR department.
Your employer’s duty of care
All employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of not only their employees but also any other visitors to their site – such as clients, temporary and agency workers. All these responsibilities are set out in the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974, which also imposes certain requirements on employees too and these should certainly be communicated both during the initial induction process and then at regular intervals throughout the period of employment.
Unfortunately – and regardless of how much care each party takes in order to help prevent accidents – they can (and do) still happen; which is why it’s so important to know where you stand should something go wrong which results in a personal injury.
Specific areas within which your employer has a duty of care
Under current legislation, all employers owe their employees a duty of care, and this includes some of the following aspects:-
- Maintaining a safe working environment free from hazards
- Ensuring that all equipment is properly maintained
- Providing employees with any personal protective equipment that may be required for their specific job role (free of charge) – such as hard helmets, goggles, steel toe-capped boots, visors and so on.
- Ensuring that any dangerous equipment is properly protected (using safety guards where necessary) and that any staff required to use equipment are fully trained on how to operate it
- Constantly reviewing current working practices, inviting constructive feedback and addressing any potential safety issues in a timely manner
Of course, there are numerous scenarios which could easily give rise to an accident at work and these should always be addressed by an employer; both through a formal risk assessment procedure and also by way of continual safety improvements – particularly in those areas which might be exposed to more risk.
In the event you can prove that your employer has failed in their basic duty of care towards you then they could be found negligent and liable for any work injury compensation. For more serious cases (such as fatalities) the Court can even impose custodial sentences for those who have neglected their duty under the Health and Safety Act.
Bullying in the workplace
When it comes to making a claim against an employer, many potential claimants simply feel unable to pursue a financial claim, usually through fear of losing their job. However, the regulatory framework regarding bullying and intimidation in the workplace is especially strong and even includes ‘whistleblowing’.
Whistleblowing simply means that you’ve seen something at work which you consider to be wrong and effectively ‘blow the whistle’ on it, i.e. report it to the appropriate authorities. To do this, the issue must be in the public interest, and you should never be treated unfairly – or lose your job – for doing it. What’s more, if you feel bullied or intimidated by your employer over whistleblowing then you’ll be protected by the law.
Also remember that all employers are legally obliged to carry adequate insurance under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 so, even if you bring a successful claim against them, they should have nothing to worry about since the cost of this will be covered by their insurers. Consequently, if your employer attempts to blackmail you into thinking you could potentially close the business down if you pursue your claim then you should report the matter to the police. Even if the company ceases trading (for whatever reason), its former insurers will still remain liable to cover any claims which relate to the date of the accident – even if the policy is no longer in place, or your employer is using a different provider.
Financial concerns after an accident at work
If you’ve suffered an accident at work which has resulted in you needing time off work, then you may find that your salary is substantially reduced if you’re only entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay.
At the time of writing (March 2018), Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’) is payable at a rate of £89.35 per week, and this can be paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. In order to qualify for SSP, you need to have been off work for at least four consecutive days and will need to produce a doctor’s certificate. There are some slight variations to this (including slightly different arrangements for agricultural workers) so always be sure to establish what your rights are. If you can’t obtain this information from your company’s HR department, then contact The Citizen’s Advice Bureau who should be able to help.
If your injury is of a more serious nature and requires a substantial amount of time off work, then you might be able to claim periodical payments from your employer’s insurance company. This means that you’ll still be able to meet any specific financial requirements you might have (such as mortgage or rent repayments) and any amount paid to you will then be deducted from the final settlement amount. Many claimants find this especially useful so do mention this if you find yourself having to seek legal advice since your solicitor may be able to arrange this for you.
Proving your employer was at fault
Of course, in order to make a successful claim then you’ll have to prove that your employer was to blame for your accident. Alternatively, you might readily accept that you were partly to blame (otherwise known as ‘contributory negligence’) but that ultimately, the accident occurred because your employer was at fault.
Whilst some cases are capable of being settled quite quickly others might well take some time to resolve, and for this reason, you’re again advised to seek independent legal advice, ideally from a personal injury solicitor.
As can be seen, there are numerous factors which typically come into play when making a claim for an accident at work.
For this reason, it’s always advisable to seek legal advice and ideally on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This simply means that you won’t have to pay any legal costs upfront and will only pay your solicitor if your claim is successful. Various terms apply to these agreements so always be sure to ask the right questions and find the best firm to represent you.
Ultimately, however, when it comes to seeking expert advice, then you certainly won’t go far wrong with a bit of basic knowledge and the right lawyer in your corner. Remember, they’re on YOUR side so don’t be afraid to use their expertise in claiming what you are entitled to.
 Health and Safety Executive – http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/
 Health and Safety Executive – http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/index.htm