Accidents in the workplace: what are an employer's responsibilities?

What constitutes an accident in the workplace and what are an employer's responsibilities after an accident occurs? HR professional Gemma Hart gives her insights.

It’s an employer’s legal responsibility to keep their staff and customers safe on-site. This can encompass a variety of things, from providing adequate health and safety training, to supplying PPE when needed, to carrying out regular maintenance of equipment or machinery.

But accidents do happen; when an employee is injured, they may make a personal injury claim against the business. In such instances, what should employers do after an accident on their premises?

What constitutes an accident in the workplace?

An accident in the workplace is defined as an unwanted occurrence that causes an employee to become injured or ill. This can include anything from someone tripping on damaged flooring or misplaced equipment to an employer not providing the right protective gear when a staff member carries out a job that requires it, or someone being assaulted at work because the appropriate security measures weren’t in place.

According to HSE statistics for 2019/20, 1.6 million working people suffered from a work-related illness and a staggering 38.8 million working days were lost due to work-related illnesses and injuries. With this in mind, what steps should employers take if an employee is injured or becomes ill as a result of the workplace?

Make use of an accident book

The first step if someone reports an injury on work premises is to follow accident procedure and have them seen by a First Aider or call an ambulance if it’s severe. The employer should then record the incident in as much detail as possible in the company accident book.

All businesses are required by law to record details of accidents which occur on work premises, including the name and contact details of the person who has suffered the injury and the person reporting the accident, and the date, time and location of the accident, as well as what the injuries sustained were.

This is essential for cross-referencing against medical records in the event that a personal injury claim is made, so that employers can provide evidence that the accident happened and to what extent the person was injured. Employees are obliged to notify the person responsible for their injury within one month of it occurring, but they have up to two years to lodge a claim.

Manage recording health and safety incidents in a secure, centralised system using health and safety software.

Report the incident to RIDDOR

RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) is a legislation which requires all employers to report certain types of accidents, such as incapacitation from work of more than 7 days, specific injuries such as amputations, blindness, organ damage and bone fractures, occupational illnesses and death of an employee as a result of their injuries.

Only those who are deemed responsible persons are in a position to report such accidents. Reports to RIDDOR have to be made within 10 days of the accident, or within 15 days if the injured party has to take more than 7 days off work to recover.

Pay any due sick pay

Employers have to give their staff time and support to recover from their injuries or illnesses, which means they may need time off work to recuperate. Not all employees are eligible for full pay if they are on sick leave, but all are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, or SSP, if they don’t get full sickness pay.

Help them recover with lighter duties

When the injured party returns to work, the employer should have a return to work interview with them to ensure they’re fully recovered and fit to work. If their job entails physical labour, such as lifting or standing for long periods, then they may need to be given lighter duties in the meantime until they are fit to do their job as normal, to prevent further injuries.

This change in duties and responsibilities doesn’t only apply to physical injuries though – if they’ve undergone emotional or psychological harm, then removing an employee from anything that can trigger more stress is advisable.

Learn more: Reasonable adjustments: making workplaces more accessible

Final thoughts

From keeping the workplace free from hazards and providing safety equipment to making sure adequate security is in place to protect staff, employers have to keep their employees safe. But sometimes, even with the best intentions, accidents can happen and leave people injured or unwell.

There are several legal steps that employers and businesses need to adhere to to ensure that they are protected against future claims and to protect their staff from future injuries.

Read more from our blog

How to write a great health and safety policy

Creating a safe working environment as staff return to the workplace

Picture of Gemma Hart

Written by Gemma Hart

Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards connecting with a wider community and sharing her thoughts and advice on workplace wellness and engagement within companies.

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