Accident at Work
Claiming Compensation for Workplace Accidents & Injuries
Accidents at work, or cases of employment-related ill health, are worryingly commonplace. Many of us will have suffered, or at least be familiar with someone who has suffered, from either an accident or a period of illness which can be directly attributed to our jobs. In many cases, compensation for accidents at work can make all the difference in easing what may be a very difficult situation for the accident victim. Working with legal advisers on a no win, no fee basis ensures that you have access to proper legal representation.
This isn’t about a so-called “compensation culture” – it is about your legal and moral right to compensation where you have suffered as a result of the greed or negligence of others.
Some Worrying Figures
Key annual figures for 2008/09 from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the government agency charged with monitoring and protecting health and safety within the workplace, show just how commonplace these occurrences are.
Over this period, there were 1.2 million people at work who were suffering with an illness, either new or existing, who directly attributed their ill health to their occupation. 180 people were killed in the course of their work and a staggering 246 000 injuries occurred that were reportable to the HSE under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), or at a rate of 870 per 100,000 workers.
If you have been injured in the last 3 years due to someone else’s negligence then you are entiled to compensation
Types of Accidents at Work
The exact nature of any given workplace accident or illness will vary widely from industry to industry and it is obvious that the potential hazards encountered when working in a heavy industry environment will differ considerably from those faced in an office or retail setting. A definitive list is impossible given the huge spectrum of occupations. What remains the same in all is that an employer owes to each of his or her employees and the wider public in general, a duty of care.
Your Employer’s Duty Of Care
This duty of care requires that the employer take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the workforce and that the risks of any reasonably foreseeable incident are assessed and prepared for, with adequate training, protective equipment, or other measures as appropriate.
The key word here is ‘reasonable’ and we can assume that these are generally the actions of any considerate and ethical employer. Health & Safety legislation doesn’t require that every theoretical eventuality be planned for without regard for the practicalities and costs involved. It does, however, expect and demand that employee health and safety procedures are reasonably sufficient for the level of risk involved and the costs incurred to the employer are proportionate to that level of risk.
Reporting Accidents at Work
So what if someone feels that an employer has been found wanting in their duty of care to their employees? The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, sets out the framework defining what we may reasonably expect of any employer. It has been refined and updated by subsequent legislation and steps required to ensure the welfare of a modern workforce are now thoroughly prescribed.
RIDDOR 1995, for example, gives some advice about the various accidents and illnesses that may befall staff by nature of their employment. It also requires that the employer report details of any such incidents falling within the clearly defined categories, to the Health and Safety Executive. In addition to the more obvious accidents at work resulting in injuries of more or less severity, the RIDDOR legislation also requires employers report any work-related illnesses or diseases, or indeed, any incident that has required that an employee be absent for more than three days from work.
The Reporting process Leading to a Compensation Claim
Should an incident fall within one of the categories outlined by RIDDOR then it may be that it is appropriate to seek advice about pursuing a compensation claim. Lengthy recuperation can place a considerable strain on your financial, as well as emotional and physical reserves.
These unfortunate incidents that may eventually result in a compensation claim, generally arise as a result of a series of acts or omissions that would reasonably be considered to be negligent. This may be because an employer has failed to update the mandatory risk assessments to keep pace with changes in technology or working practices. It could also be that any training has been inadequate, or absent altogether. A great many workers are required to undertake detailed work in inadequately lit areas, or work with bulky items without the correct manual handling training and it is precisely these situations that may result in pain and suffering.
Whatever has occurred, the actions to be taken are the same. The first moral and, indeed, legal obligation, is to raise any areas of concern about the health and safety implications of current working practises with an appropriate person. This may be a Health & Safety agent, shop steward, or line manager.
The next step is to ensure that the incident, together with any supporting evidence, is appropriately and accurately recorded. The record should include times, dates and places. It should also contain a brief summary of the incident and a note about how it was reported. This may seem a trivial and pointless exercise for the vast majority of minor cuts and bruises, but it remains a legal requirement and a very wise precaution. Should there be future complications, this record will prove vital in securing any compensation.
Pursuing A Compensation Claim for an Accident at Work
If the injury or illness is sufficient to impair the ability to work, then it may be appropriate to seek advice about the possibility of pursuing a claim for compensation. This may be handled via a Trade Union, but far more frequently will be through the use of a specialist accident and injury lawyer. Typically this will be on a conditional fee agreement (CFA), more commonly referred to as a no win no fee arrangement. This means that should the case fail, the lawyer will bear the legal costs. Should the case succeed, the costs will be passed on to the party found to be at fault, with no deduction from the compensation settlement.
Fears of Reprisals
One final point to note is that many workers suffering as a result of an accident at work, a work-related injury or illness are hesitant to seek advice about the possibility of compensation, fearing a backlash from their employer. Whilst this has, unfortunately, happened in the past, most employers now realise that these are precisely the circumstances for which they buy employer’s liability insurance (ELI) and simply forward the paperwork onto their insurers. A safe and healthy workforce is, after all, in their own interests and can only help in reducing the 29.3 million working days lost last year as a result of accidents at work and workplace-related injury.