Law guide: Workplace

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Accidents in the workplace

Accidents in the workplace

Accidents in the workplace

Your employer has a duty to protect you and tell you about health and safety issues that affect you. They also have a legal obligation to report certain accidents and incidents, and to pay you statutory sick pay, or contractual sick pay if you are entitled to it, should you need time off because of an accident at work.

Reporting an accident at work

Your employer must report serious work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous incidents to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI). They must report:

  • Death
  • Major injuries (e.g. a broken arm or ribs)
  • Dangerous incidents (e.g. the collapse of scaffolding, people overcome by gas)
  • Any other injury that stops an employee from doing their normal work for more than seven consecutive days in England, Wales and Scotland or three consecutive days in Northern Ireland
  • Disease

The reporting must be done by your employer, but if you're involved it's a good idea to make sure it's been reported.

Who is responsible for health and safety at work?

Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment and do what's needed to take care of the health and safety of employees and visitors. This includes deciding how many first aiders are needed and what kind of first aid equipment and facilities should be provided. First aiders have no statutory right to extra pay, but some employers do offer this.

You must also take reasonable care over your own health and safety. For more information, see our 'Employers' responsibilities' section

Recording accidents

Any injury at work – including minor injuries - should be recorded in your employer's 'accident book'. Employers must keep an accident book. It's mainly for the benefit of employees, as it provides a useful record of what happened in case you need time off work or need to claim compensation later on. But recording accidents also helps your employer to see what's going wrong and gives them the opportunity to take action to prevent accidents in the future.

Sick pay

In most cases, if you need time off because of an accident at work, you'll only have the right to statutory sick pay. Your employer may have a scheme for paying more for time off caused by accidents, or may decide to pay extra depending on what has happened.

For more information, see our 'Sick pay rights' section.

Making an injury claim

If you've been injured in an accident at work and you think your employer is at fault, you may want to make a claim for compensation. Any claim must be made within three years of the date of the accident, and you'll normally need a lawyer to represent you. If you belong to a trade union, you may be able to use their legal services. Otherwise, you should speak to a specialist personal injury lawyer.

By law, your employer must be insured to cover a successful claim. Your employer should place a certificate with the name of their employer's insurance company where it can be seen at work. If not, they must give you the details should you need them.

If you're considering suing your employer, remember that the aim of legal damages is to put you in the position that you would be in had the accident not happened – it's not about getting hold of some 'free' money. There are also court costs and fees to think about.

What to do next if you have an accident:

  • Make sure you record any injury in the 'accident book'
  • If need be, make sure your employer has reported it to the HSE or HSENI
  • Check your contract or written statement of employment for information about sick or accident pay
  • If there's a dispute, try to sort it out with your employer - see the link below for guidance on sorting out problems at work
  • If there are health and safety problems at work, point them out to your employer or the employee safety representative, and ask for them to be dealt with
  • If this doesn't happen, contact the HSE or HSENI (see below)

Where to get help and advice

For any advice on health and safety at work, consult the HSE website (or HSENI's website)

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