Accident at Work
Although they happen to be unfortunate occurrences that arise in everyday life, an accident at work can cause considerable damage not merely to flesh and bones.
Indeed, whilst the physical injuries inflicted upon those who suffer accidents in the workplace can be extensive, the serious pain is often felt afterwards, when it is time to take action. In many cases, a complex relationship will exist between employer and employee, so dealing with the effects of an accident at work can disrupt the balance between a healthy career and the pursuit of justice.
Nevertheless, workplace accidents are subject to the law, both in a statutory sense and at common law. Employers cannot escape their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other legislative acts, whilst they will also find themselves potentially liable for damages when faced with tortious claims. In other words, employers owe a duty of care to their employees that may result in a negligence claim if breached.
Slips, falls, stumbles and accidents arising from faulty equipment or machinery are just some of the many instances that can result in a successful claim for damages following a personal injury. Furthermore, that injury can refer not only to physical harm but also to psychological and stress related complaints. Of course, suffering an accident at work is one thing – doing something about it is an entirely different matter. In this respect, we can provide a straightforward and sympathetic service that follows the development of a claim from the initial consultation through to the award of damages, which removes a considerable element of stress from the experience for those who feel it most: the injured party.
No Win No Fee .co.uk Guide to Claiming Compensation from Work Accidents – Overview
Accidents that occur at work are sometimes caused by little more than mere misfortune. However, the workplace is a place that should be safe for employees, clients and visitors, so when an accident does occur it must be viewed in the context of general safety. An employer is under a legal duty to ensure that working environments are safe for any person who is likely to enter them. For example, a shop owner has a general duty of care to all the customers who visit his or her store. Of course, it is plainly obvious that accidents might still occur in areas that are otherwise thought to be safe. Not every possible risk can be contemplated and prevented by an employer, so the law adopts a position that requires him or her to simply ensure that a workplace is reasonably safe. What qualifies as reasonably safe is a question for the law to decide based on the facts of a given case. Nevertheless, if you happen to suffer an accident at work that was not your fault, you may be interested to learn that compensation can be claimed for any personal injury sustained in the accident.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
I am concerned about safety in my workplace. What can I do to prevent an accident?
As mentioned above, it is not always possible to prevent an accident. However, where a risk is reasonably foreseeable, steps should be taken to ensure that it poses no threat to workers. In this context, the law places a statutory duty on the employer to ensure that a working environment is reasonably safe. Therefore, you should inform your employer as to any hazards without delay so that he or she can implement measures to increase your safety. However, you should also note that the law also imposes a duty on employees to act with safety in mind at work, so you may be liable for another person’s injury if it can be established that you were the cause of it. In short, everybody who enters a workplace should take all necessary steps to maintain a good standard of safety.
I have suffered an accident at work. What can I do to successfully claim for compensation?
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer an accident at work, you will no doubt wish to consider claiming for compensation if any physical injuries are sustained. Claiming against an employer can, however, be a stressful and often awkward process so it is important that certain steps are taken in order to ensure that justice is served. First, it is vital that the names, addresses and telephone numbers of colleagues (or anybody else, for that matter) who witnessed the accident are retained – you may also wish to discuss the possibility of their giving evidence (most likely a written statement). Prompt medical treatment should also be sought and it is advisable to obtain written evidence of the injuries by requesting them from your doctor. Finally, you may wish to support your claim with photographic evidence of what caused the incident, alongside a detailed log of what, where, how and when the incident occurred.
Guide to Claiming Compensation from Work Accidents – Further Information
Accidents are unfortunate but common occurrences in life. Sometimes, an accident is nothing more than an incident that occurs by chance and involves no fault or blame on any party. However, it can also be the case that an accident arises not through any malicious intent but as a result of another party’s negligence. In this respect, the negligent party may not exclusively refer to an individual but can actually describe a company, organisation or any other such group or entity. Accordingly, it is only right that there are a number of laws and regulations in place to ensure that employers are aware of their responsibilities affecting the health and safety of employees in the workplace.
Which laws govern health and safety in the workplace?
In the unfortunate event of suffering an accident in the workplace, an employee is presented with a choice as to whether or not to pursue a claim against his or her employer. At this early stage, it is obviously important for the accident victim to understand basic aspects of the law affecting health and safety in the workplace. In doing so, it is well worth contacting a specialist personal injury solicitor forthwith in order to obtain professional legal advice on the matter. Understanding how the law affects health and safety in the workplace is also important in the context of preventing accidents, as it educates both employers and employees on how best to promote safety at work.
The most important legislation on safety in the workplace can be found in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘the Act’). This important statute contains much of the law relating to health and safety in the workplace and applies to both employers and employees. Section 2(1) of the Act provides that it “shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”. Section 2(2) of the Act provides a more detailed list of employer duties, including: (a) the provision and maintenance of systems of work that are safe and without risks to health; (b) safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling and storage of articles and substances; (c) the provision of information, training and supervision in order to ensure the health and safety of employees; (d) safe maintenance of and access to any place of work; and (e) the provision and maintenance of a working environment that is without risks to health and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for employee welfare. In each of the subsections marked (a) to (e), safety measures are to be employed “so far as is reasonably practicable”.
Accidents that occur in the workplace to any person other than an employee are also covered in the Act under section 3(1), which provides that it “shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety”. Section 3(1) of the Act is especially important to accident victims who sustain personal injuries in another employer’s workplace; equally, section 3(1) encourages employers to make greater efforts to reduce health and safety risks in the workplace as third party visitors cannot be trained to the same level as employees on such matters.
Other important legal instruments and regulations that should be carefully studied by employers include six EU Regulations, which are incorporated into UK domestic law. These Regulations comprise: Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Management Regulations), which provides that employers must actively implement risk assessments of the workplace; Work Place (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which deal with various aspects of existing workplaces, including temperature control and modifications; The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which provides minimum standards for the use of machines and equipment; The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (Manual Handling Regulations), which states that employers ought to avoid any situation, where reasonably practicable, in which employees are required to undertake manual handling that invites the risk of injury; Personal Protective Equipment Work Regulations 1992, which deals with protective clothing and equipment; and The Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (Display Screen Regulations), which provide measures that are designed to prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury), eye problems and so forth.
The list above is by no means exhaustive, as there are many other regulations by which employers must abide. For example, the Working Time Directive and Working Time Regulations 1998 were implemented to regulate the maximum working hours for workers in addition to providing for regular breaks, the absence of which had long been associated with preventable accidents in the workplace. Therefore, employers are subject to numerous laws that have been enacted or incorporated into the domestic legal system in order to improve safety in the workplace. Employees are also bound by many of these rules, as they must take sufficient steps as to ensure their safety and that of others when at work.
How can compensation be claimed for accidents at work?
The various aspects of the law described above refer to statutory duties that have been imposed on employers and employees. A statutory duty will often involve a degree of discretion in certain cases but it can also be applied strictly, which means that an automatic legal process is undertaken in order to arrive at the prescribed punishment. However, the common law is also available to claimants who wish to pursue compensation claims against employers; indeed, the tort of negligence has long been used by victims of accidents in the workplace who require damages (monetary compensation).
In order to establish a claim for negligence, various tests must be satisfied. At this stage, it is important to note that professional legal advice must be sought when pursuing any such claim. It is also imperative that an action is not delayed, as the Limitation Act 1980 imposes a three year discretionary time limit on personal injury claims (it is discretionary insomuch as the courts can elect to extend the time limit in exceptional circumstances). A common law claim for negligence requires that claimants must establish that a duty of care existed between himself (or herself) and the defendant (usually his or her employer), that this duty of care had been breached and that the breach caused the claimant’s injuries.
Establishing that a duty of care existed between an employer and his or her employee is usually a straightforward process. In respect to proving that the employer breached this duty of care, however, is somewhat more complicated. In fact, for the claimant, this process can be one of great uncertainty as the courts consider and apply various legal rules that can (as with so many points of common law) be argued in opposite directions. It is not necessary to delve into the finer points of establishing a breach of a duty of care in regard to accidents in the workplace beyond stating that employers must be able to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure the safety of their employees. It is not reasonable to demand that an employer removes all possible risks, so this particular issue hinges on whether adequate measures were taken to avoid risks that were reasonably foreseeable. In this respect, establishing a breach of the duty of care is both subjective in that it looks at the actions of the defendant and objective in that it uses the (hypothetical) reasonable person test to establish whether the defendant ought to have foreseen a particular risk.
Once a breach of the duty of care has been established, the courts will consider whether the breach caused the injury sustained by the claimant. In this regard, the courts will examine both legal and factual causation in the context of a ‘balance of probabilities’ test, which asks whether it is more probable than not that the breach caused the harm. Specifically, factual causation is established when it can be said that the harm would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s actions (or omission thereof), whilst legal causation examines the remoteness of a particular claim by again asking whether the harm was reasonably foreseeable. An example of this two-tailed test of causation could be explained in terms of an orator who “but for” his presence would not have attracted a crowd to a building, which subsequently collapses on top of them – an event too remote or not reasonably foreseeable by the orator.
Finally, it should be reiterated that claiming compensation for accidents in the workplace requires the services of specialist personal injury solicitors. In order to secure an appropriate remedy, it is essential that all aspects of the injury – physical, psychological, emotional, social, etc. – are fully disclosed to solicitors. Suffering an accident in the workplace can be extremely distressing, painful and can have far reaching consequences for the victim, so it is only right that damages are sought.