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BlogDealing with Personal Injury in the Workplace

Dealing with Personal Injury in the Workplace

All businesses have a responsibility to keep anyone working on or visiting their premises safe by preventing accidents and mitigating the risk of harm. No matter whether you work in an industry with very visible dangers, like construction, or in an office, where the risks are not as clear, there is always the possibility that an accident can occur.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produces specific guidance for high risk industries, and has general requirements that apply in all circumstances. By following the HSE’s advice and meeting the legal standards for health and safety, workplaces can keep the number of accidents to a minimum. This is vital, because there can be serious consequences for businesses that fail to comply.

One common result of an accident at a workplace is a personal injury compensation claim by one or more injured parties. In any case where an employer has failed to meet the necessary HSE standards, an injured employee, customer or site visitor may be eligible to make a compensation claim against the business. This can be an expensive, time consuming and stressful process for any organisation, and as a result, is best avoided in all cases.

Here, the legal experts at Clough & Willis Solicitors explain an employer’s responsibilities to prevent accidents and injuries, outline the consequences they may face if they fail to fulfil these expectations, and detail what an employee can do in the event that they are injured at work.

What do businesses need to know?

If an employee sustains an injury in an accident, the question that will arise from a legal perspective is: who was liable for the accident? If the employee’s own actions were the cause of the accident or the injury, it is unlikely that the employer will face legal consequences. However, if the accident happened because the employer failed to meet their legal health and safety obligations, the injured party will be eligible to make a claim for compensation.

As such, it is vital that all employers understand their responsibilities in this area and carry them out to the highest standard, in order to avoid accidents wherever possible. One of the first steps organisations should take is to carry out a full and thorough risk assessment. In many cases, the general risks will be similar to those of other businesses in the same industry, and many of the most common accidents can happen in any workplace – slips, trips and falls, for example. However, there may also be risks that are unique to your business, workplace or industry, so it is important to think carefully about how best to mitigate these.

In some cases, your risk assessment may identify an area for which there is specific HSE guidance. For example, if you use hazardous chemicals or substances in your work, you should learn about best practices for handling them safely, as specified by HSE’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health legislation.

Once you have identified the applicable risks, you should take whatever steps are necessary to remove or mitigate them. If a process or substance is dangerous, ask yourself if there is an alternative that you could use. Do your employees need personal protective equipment? Can you provide safety training relating to any equipment or tasks that pose a risk?

It is unrealistic to expect that you can reduce the number of accidents to zero, but you can minimise the risk of an accident and prevent serious injuries by meeting all of your HSE responsibilities. Provided an employer does everything in their power to identify and mitigate risks, they can prevent accidents and injuries and avoid employees taking legal action against them.

What should employees know about injuries at work?

If you are injured at a place of business in an accident that was not your fault, you may be eligible to claim compensation. Your first step following the accident should be to seek medical attention, even if you do not feel that you have been seriously injured. A medical professional may be able to identify underlying or invisible injuries which could otherwise develop into something more serious later, and prevent these complications. In any case, your medical records can support a compensation claim by demonstrating the nature of your injury.

From there, you should report the accident, ensure it is recorded in the business’ accident book, and collect evidence that could support a legal claim. This might include photographs of the scene and any circumstances related to it, and the contact details of any eyewitnesses.

It is also important to speak to a solicitor at the earliest opportunity following an accident. They will be able to discuss your circumstances, tell you whether or not you are eligible to claim for compensation, and get the process started if you decide to move ahead.

In most cases, solicitors that specialise in personal injury law will offer this initial conversation free of charge, and may also provide their services on a no win, no fee basis. This means that there is no financial risk for the injured party – any legal fees are taken as a percentage of the compensation you are awarded at the end of the process, and there is nothing to pay up-front. An employer cannot legally retaliate against you for making a claim, meaning that there will be no risk to your job under most circumstances.

One of the benefits of making a claim is that it can help an employer to recognise a risk factor that had otherwise not been considered. In this way, you can prevent future accidents of a similar nature from happening to other people. As a business, if an accident happens on your premises, your first step should be to consider what you could do to prevent similar injuries in the future. With employees and employers working together, we can prevent accidents and minimise the risk of injuries in every workplace in the UK.

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