Accidents in the workplace
Your employer has a duty to protect you and tell you about health and safety issues that affect you. They also have a legal obligation to report certain accidents and incidents and to pay you sick pay if you are entitled to it.
Reporting an accident at work
Your employer, and other people who are in control of work premises, must report and keep records of:
- work-related deaths
- serious injuries
- cases of diagnosed industrial disease
- certain dangerous occurrences (near miss incidents such as scaffold collapses, explosions, escape of dangerous substances or biological agents)
There are also special requirements for gas incidents.
Not all deaths and injuries have to be automatically reported. For more information and the full list of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences that must be reported, go to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.
Injuries to employees that must be reported include:
- amputations, blindings, broken arms, legs or ribs and where a person became unconscious, needed resuscitation or was admitted to hospital for more than 24 hours
- any injury that stops an employee from doing their work for more thanseven days. (From 6 April 2012, this changed fromthree days to overseven days, although a record must still be kept of overthree day accidents.)
Who is responsible for health and safety at work?
Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment and do what's needed to take care of the health and safety of employees and visitors. This includes deciding how many first-aiders are needed, and what kind of first-aid equipment and facilities should be provided. First-aiders have no statutory right to extra pay, but some employers do offer this.
Employees must also take reasonable care over their own health and safety.
Any injury at work - including minor injuries - should be recorded in your employer's 'accident book'. All employers (except for very small companies) must keep an accident book. It's mainly for the benefit of employees, as it provides a useful record of what happened in case you need time off work or need to claim compensation later on. But recording accidents also helps your employer to see what's going wrong and take action to stop accidents in future.
In most cases, if you need time off because of an accident at work, you will only have the right to statutory sick pay. Your employer may have a scheme for paying more for time off caused by accidents, or may decide to pay extra depending on what has happened.
Making an injury claim
If you have been injured in an accident at work and you think your employer is at fault, you may want to make a claim for compensation. Any claim must be made within three years of the date of the accident, and you will normally need a lawyer to represent you. If you belong to a trade union, you may be able to use their legal services. Otherwise, you should speak to a specialist personal injury lawyer.
By law, your employer must be insured to cover a successful claim. Your employer should place a certificate with the name of their employer's insurance company where it can be seen at work. If not, they must give you the details if you need them.
If you are considering suing your employer, remember that the aim of legal damages is to put you in the position you would be in had the accident not happened - it's not about getting hold of some 'free' money.
What to do next if you have an accident
- make sure you record any injury in the 'accident book'
- if need be, make sure your employer has reported it to the HSEonline
- check your contract or written statement of employment for information about sick or accident pay
- if there's a dispute, try to sort it out with your employer
- if there are health and safety problems at work, point them out to your employer or the employee safety representative, and ask for them to be dealt with
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