What to do when an employee injures themselves at work

These days there are frequent rumblings about the UK’s growing ‘compensation culture’. Whether the reports are exaggerated or not isn’t entirely clear; but what is clear is that all businesses need to know how to handle accidents at work in order to protect themselves from potential compensation claims which, whether valid or frivolous, could be damaging both financially and in terms of publicity.

Prevention is better than cure

It’s vital to take Health and Safety seriously and adhere to all the regulations applicable to your particular industry. You should carry out regular checks such as workstation assessments and risk assessments, and ensure that adequate manual handling training is given to employees where appropriate. All of these steps will help to reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace.

What if an accident still happens despite all precautions?

If you have taken all the steps which can reasonably be expected of you to remove unnecessary risks from the workplace, then any injuries sustained by an employee are much more likely to be deemed an accident pure and simple, for which nobody can be held liable. You should, however, bear in mind that people are now much more aware of their rights to compensation and may well seek advice from lawyers specialising in personal injuries (knowing the sort of advice they may be given could be useful for how you deal with them). If you fail to act in the proper manner in the aftermath of an accident, you could leave yourself open to compensation claims even if you were not entirely at fault, so you must ensure that certain procedures are followed:

  • First Aid
    Make sure you have a first-aid kit which is stocked with the items recommended by the HSE for your type of business. In some areas of business, a trained first aider must also be available, but in low-risk businesses such as offices it is sufficient to have an appointed person to look after the first-aid kit and make arrangements, including calling the emergency services if necessary, in the event of an accident. This person is responsible for ensuring the casualty receives appropriate on-the-spot treatment.
  • Make a record in the accident book
    You must ensure that the accident is properly recorded as soon as practically possible after the event. Whether you keep a written or online record, it should include the date, time and place the accident took place, the personal details of the employee(s) involved along with a description of what happened.
  • Report the incident if necessary
    Specified injuries must be reported to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) as well as any accidents which result in the employee being incapacitated for 7 consecutive days.

Employers’ liability insurance – Are you covered?

It is a legal requirement for any business with one or more employees to hold employers’ liability insurance, unless those employees are immediate family members. This insurance will cover any compensation claims if they suffer an injury or illness as a direct result of their work or working environment. Businesses which do not hold valid employers’ liability insurance risk heavy fines (up to £2,500 per day) and expose themselves to the risk of meeting any compensation claims from their own funds, which in many cases could spell financial ruin for the company.