Most people in the UK will spend the vast majority of their life in the workplace or on company business. As a consequence, you’re more likely to have an accident in the workplace than anywhere else. However, many employees are unaware of their rights should they have an accident at work.
While the Employment Rights Act contains an array of regulations and laws relating to employment law, it is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which covers the area of health and safety in the workplace. We will now take a look at the specific regulations which cover the rights of employees in the event of an accident at work.
Health And Safety At Work Act 1974
This particular act of Parliament places a legal obligation on all employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. There are other work related acts of Parliament specific to individual industries but the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is most often referred to when pursuing compensation for injuries received in an accident at work. It covers an array of individual issues such as:-
The Working Environment
It is imperative that the working environment is a safe place in which to operate. All employers have a legal obligation with regards to ventilation, temperature, lighting, sanitation and washing facilities. There is also a legal duty of care to ensure the working environment is clear of waste materials and clutter which may lead to potential accidents and injuries.
While it goes without saying that all employees should be trained to do their specific roles, with both initial and ongoing training expected, there is also the issue of health and safety. It is imperative that all employees attend initial and ongoing health and safety training. This ensures that individual employees are made aware of potential issues but it also assist with creating a safe environment for colleagues.
Exposure To Hazardous Materials
There will be situations where certain types of employment involve the use of potentially hazardous chemicals/materials. In these situations it is vital that the employer provides the appropriate quality safety clothing and footwear and all machinery is fitted with the relevant safety guards. When using hazardous materials for a particular task the employer also has an obligation to carry out a risk assessment to minimise any potential risk to employees.
Over the years we have seen a growing number of compensation claims for issues such as vibration white finger and other repetitive strain related issues. This has created a legal obligation for all employers to provide the appropriate equipment, ensure sufficient breaks for employees and where possible use of machinery to avoid such injuries. It is only fairly recently that repetitive strain related injuries, such as vibration white finger, have been accepted by the medical profession which has led to number of compensation claims.
Lifting And Moving Loads
If at all possible manual lifting and loading of machinery/equipment should be minimised to prevent potential injuries. Again, all employers are legally obliged to carry out regular risk assessments and provide the necessary equipment. There must also be regular training in lifting and loading of potentially heavy equipment to prevent accidents.
All employees should be made aware of the relevant workplace procedures and any changes in the future. This ensures that all employees are maintaining the highest level of safety for themselves and their colleagues. Failure to make employees aware of workplace procedures is in itself a form of negligence which could be highlighted when pursuing compensation.
Matching Experienced Staff To Particular Projects
In any workforce there will be a wide range of skills and experience available to an employer. In order to reduce the potential for accidents/injuries it is vital that the experience/skills of particular employees are matched with the appropriate working tasks. If an employee is assigned to a task in which they have insufficient experience, leading to an accident and injury, then an employee would likely be found negligent.
Worker’s Rights Following An Accident At Work
Recent legislation ensures full-time staff, part-time staff and agency staff are afforded the same level of protection when it comes to health and safety and overall working practices. Unfortunately, there are some areas of the worker’s rights legislation which are misunderstood which include:
- Danger is not part of your employment agreement
We can only guess the number of workplace accidents where there were valid claims for compensation which were not pursued. In many cases, employees are under the incorrect impression that danger is part of their employment agreement with their employer. This is not the case as every employer has a legal obligation to ensure the safe well-being of all employees. So, if a risk assessment shows up a high degree of danger and the potential for accidents then another solution needs to be found.
- Physical and mental trauma
When considering work accident compensation claims the vast majority of people relate this to physical injuries such as cuts and bruises, broken bones, head injuries, etc. In reality, mental trauma and mental suffering are recognised by the courts as a form of injury and where negligence can be proven, compensation will be awarded. Mental trauma may involve harassment in the workplace, discrimination or working practices which create undue stress for employees.
Protection Against Harassment At Work
Historically there has been evidence of employees afraid to take action against their employers even though they were injured as a consequence of their employer’s negligence. There are obvious fears for their long-term employment, retribution from their employer and attempts at emotional blackmail. In the event that an employee is the victim of any kind of harassment or discrimination from their employer, as a consequence of making an injury compensation claim, they may well have a further claim for discrimination or constructive dismissal.
Your Right To Compensation For An Accident At Work
If you have received an injury as a consequence of negligence by your employer you may well have the right to claim for compensation. As mentioned above, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a form of umbrella regulation which places a legal obligation on all employers towards the health and safety of their employees. When pursuing a claim for compensation you will need to gather as much evidence as possible which may include:
- Photographs of the scene
- Photographs of your injuries
- Witness statements
- Copies of workplace communications highlighting negligence
- Evidence of an unsafe working environment
- Details of previous similar incidents which may show a pattern
It is also imperative that you seek medical attention in the event of an injury even if it seems relatively minor at the time. All businesses have a legal obligation to appoint a member of staff to administer basic medical attention in the event of an injury. Workplace and GP medical records must also be updated to show details of the injuries, how they occurred and the potential treatment required. For many of those seeking compensation for workplace injuries their medical records can prove to be an extremely strong form of evidence.
For more in-depth advice to claiming compensation for a work accident lease refer to our page work accident claims.