What Is Classed As An Accident At Work?
What is defined as an accident at work?
An accident at work is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘an event that results in injury or ill health’. This covers a broad range of circumstances that can result in an injury or illness in the workplace. Everything from a trip on loose cables, to contracting an industrial disease through exposure to hazardous chemicals at work can be classed as an accident at work.
Employers are legally obliged to look after the health and safety of their employees. If your employer has failed in their duty of care, which has led to you suffering an injury or illness, and it is possible to prove that they were negligent in their actions, then you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation.
What is my employers’ responsibility?
Employers legally have a duty of care to protect their employees in the workplace. This can be through a variety of different ways including:
- Providing appropriate health and safety training.
- Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – such as hard hats, gloves, safety glasses, high-vis clothing, and shoe covers etc.
- Training staff on how to use machinery and carry out work practices safely.
- Carrying out regular maintenance of machinery and equipment.
- Conducting regular risk assessments.
- Displaying appropriate hazard warning signs such as ‘wet floor’ signage and cleaning up spillages.
What are the main causes of accidents in the workplace?
The most common causes of accidents in the workplace include:
Falls from height: Certain professions such as window cleaners, scaffolders, roofers and construction workers etc. can be at risk of falling from height at work if they are not provided with proper health and safety equipment, such as harnesses and safety railings.
Employers must adhere to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 to ensure that their employees are safe whilst working at height, including:
- Ensuring that all surfaces are dry, sturdy and free from obstacles.
- Ensuring that all equipment is in good working order.
- Providing employees with the right PPE.
Slips, trips and falls: Can occur in all workplace environments, from offices to construction sites and everything in between. They are commonly caused due to:
- Poor lighting
- Loose cables
- Uneven surfaces
Employers are obliged to mitigate the risk of slips, trips and falls in the workplace by:
- Cleaning up spillages and clearly displaying hazard warning signs.
- Maintaining a tidy workplace free from unexpected obstacles.
- Ensuring that work spaces are well lit and that flooring is even.
Manual handling injuries: Are one of the most common types of injuries to effect workers, with the HSE estimating that over a third of workplace injuries occur as a result of manual handling. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include injury or damage to the joints or soft tissue in the limbs and back. They can happen as a result of:
- Adapting awkward postures to lift, carry or drag, heavy or awkward shaped objects.
- Repetitive movement of arms, legs and back, leading to an injury or exacerbating an existing injury.
Your employer should do the following before allowing you to carry out any manual handling:
• Carry out a risk assessment.
• Implement any measures that can aid in the heavy lifting such as using pallet trucks, hoists or conveyors.
• Conduct health and safety training to show employees the safe way to conduct the task.
Stress related illness: Work related stress is extremely common, with anxiety and depression leading to over 11 million working days lost each year. It can be caused by a number of different factors including:
- Excessive workload
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Pressure to meet targets from upper management
- Workplace bullying
Employers should have policies in place to help to reduce workplace stress amongst its employees.
Road traffic accidents: For employees with a job that involves a lot of time being on the road including, delivery and HGV drivers, travelling sales reps etc., company car accidents can always be a possibility.
Employers can help to reduce the rate of work-related road accidents by managing drivers, vehicles and journeys.
- Managing drivers: Drivers can be managed through training on speed awareness, safely manoeuvring vehicles, recognising signs of fatigue and distraction.
- Managing vehicles: Ensure that vehicles go through regular maintenance checks to make sure that they are safe and road worthy. Reversing cameras and rear sensors can be installed in vehicles to reduce the incident rate of blind spot accidents.
- Managing journeys: Journeys can be managed by aiming to limit inner city driving as much as possible, as incidents are more likely to happen in built up congested areas. It is also important to implement a policy of regular breaks to mitigate the chance of collisions caused due to fatigue.
Can I claim compensation?
If it can be proven that your employer is liable for causing your illness or injury then it may be possible to pursue a claim against them. If they have failed in their responsibility to prevent your illness or injury from occurring and negligence is proven on their behalf, compensation would be paid to you from their employers liability insurance.
How should an accident at work be reported?
It is important to report your accident to your manager and to ensure that the details of what happened are accurately recorded in the company accident book. If your employer doesn’t have an accident book, write down what happened and give a copy to your HR department. Keep a copy for yourself too.
If your injuries are serious, your employer must report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive.
By reporting your accident to your employer, you have evidence of what happened to you, which can be used in support of your personal injury claim if you decide to make one. Through reporting the incident, you can also help to safeguard others from experiencing anything similar in the future. Employers should act upon the findings of what caused your accident to improve their health and safety processes and protocols, and if needs be, remove or fix faulty or dangerous material.