As many people spend the majority of their time at their place of work, personal injury claims against an employer are extremely common. While there may be various issues to take into consideration if you’re contemplating claiming compensation from your employer it is worth noting protection to employees given under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. There are also other acts specific to various industries but it is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which places a legal obligation on all employers to ensure the safe well-being of their employees.
How The Health and Safety At Work Act Protects Employees
As this particular act is not sector/industry specific it is often used as an umbrella act to place on all employers a legal obligation to look after their employees. While the act has many different elements some of the main ones include:
Initial And Continuous Training
In the modern era, very few industries stay the same with constant changes, tweaks and regulatory issues to take into consideration. It is therefore imperative that all employees are given robust initial and continuous training in all aspects of their job as well as health and safety. The vast majority of accidents in the workplace claims could, and should, be avoided simply by adhering to common sense health and safety regulations.
Ensuring Equipment Is Safe To Use
It goes without saying that all equipment and machinery in the workplace should be fit for purpose and inspected/maintained on a regular basis. This not only ensures that employees are protected as far as possible when using equipment but it also ensures a more efficient workplace. In the past we have seen many instances where safety guards have been removed from machines to speed up a particular process. This is simply illegal and there are now strict regulations in place where employers can be prosecuted even if the removal of such equipment does not lead to injuries to employees.
Provision Of Appropriate Safety Clothing
In reality no workplace can ever be 100% safe but providing the appropriate safety clothing for employees will reduce accidents and injuries. This may be something as simple as safety goggles, steel cap boots or even a hardhat. The reality is that many employers/employees see the wearing of such personal protective equipment (PPE) as cumbersome until they have an accident then it becomes essential. It is also important that the safety clothing is of sufficiently high quality to offer the appropriate protection and when compromised/damaged it should be replaced immediately.
Matching An Individual’s Experience To Work Related Tasks
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 all employers have a duty to match an individual employee’s experience with a specific work-related task. This means that only those with sufficient experience to carry out specific tasks should be assigned to such roles. In the event that an employee with insufficient experience is injured this will leave employers open to claims of negligence and potentially large compensation payments.
Regular Risk Assessments
One issue of the Health and Safety Work Act 1974 which is sometimes overlooked is the legal requirement to carry out regular risk assessments. Where there is any perceived degree of danger an alternative solution must be sought and if not available then the appropriate safety precautions must be adhered to and equipment/clothing made available. There seems to be a general misconception that risk/danger and possible injuries are just “part of the job” but this is not the case. We can only estimate how many valid personal injury claims against employers are never pursued simply because employees thought that the risk factor was just “part of the job”.
Proving Negligence In A Personal Injury Claim Against An Employer
In the vast majority of personal injury claims against employers brought about as a consequence of accidents/injuries in the workplace, it is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which is used as a means to prove negligence. The act is very specific in relation to the detailed duty of care all employers have towards their employees. There will be occasions where the employee acted inappropriately but if the employer was found to be partially negligent than they will still be liable to a claim for compensation. In simple terms, if you can prove that your employer failed to fulfil their legal duty of care then this opens the door to a negligence ruling and compensation.
Protection From Intimidation
Legally all employees are protected from intimidation/harassment in the workplace whether from fellow employees or their employers. This protection does not stop in the event that an employee is seeking compensation from their employer as a consequence of negligence. In reality, it can be difficult to prove intimidation where it is perhaps subtle but with inappropriate overtones.
If you are able to prove any level of intimidation/harassment or bullying in the workplace in the event of reporting an injury allegedly caused by your employer’s negligence this potentially opens up an additional case for compensation. There is evidence to show that some employers will undertake subtle intimidation of “troublesome employees” such as:
- Overlooking them for promotion
- Cutting them out of team meetings
- The non-award of bonuses
- A subtle change of role in the workplace
- Ramping up the pressure to deliver tougher targets
Unfortunately, there have been many occasions where this subtle type of intimidation has led to employees withdrawing their complaints. We have even seen situations where employers have hounded employees to withdraw their complaints because they claim any significant compensation payment would impact the financial viability of the company going forward. This is a subtle type of emotional blackmail because the vast majority of compensation claims are covered by business-related insurance. While the company would see an increase in their premiums in the event of a successful claim for compensation, any compensation award would be met by their insurance company.
Is My Job At Risk?
While many employers would simply pay out and learn from the experience of a successful compensation claim by one of their employees, others may well be vindictive placing the employee’s job at risk. There will also be occasions where the employee may not feel comfortable returning to work at which point a mutually acceptable payoff could be negotiated between the parties. However, if we look at this from a legal point of view, pursuing a personal injury claim against an employer as a consequence of negligence is not a reason for dismissal.
There are legal routes which need to be appreciated and pursued when considering dismissal of an employee. As with intimidation/harassment as a consequence of a compensation claim, dismissal without going through the various legal stages such as formal warnings, written warnings, etc could also leave your employer open to more compensation claims. So, while some employers may attempt to make it difficult for you to return to work after a successful compensation claim the vast majority will live and learn from the experience.
It’s Not All About The Money
There is a common misconception that pursuing a personal injury compensation claim against an employer is simply all about the money with no long-term benefits to other employees. The reality is very different because any employer forced to pay out significant compensation as a result of negligence would be foolish not to review their procedures and working practices. Any compensation awarded as a consequence of negligence is a wake-up call and a red flag to show there are problems in the workplace.
Those that fail to amend their working practices may receive compensation claim after compensation claim which can add up to a significant financial outlay. Over time, simple relatively inexpensive tweaks to workplace practices and official procedures can pay for themselves time and time again in compensation savings.
To discuss with an accident at work solicitor a potential personal injury claim against an employer please contact us today on 0800 652 1345.