Accidents at work happen, it’s a sad but simple fact of life. No matter how far a company is willing to go to protect its staff, no machinery is 100% failsafe and the less said about human error the better.
Whilst the construction industry and agricultural industries make the majority of the headlines for on-site personal injuries, it’s worth remembering that legacy illnesses affect thousands of people too.
In fact, accidents at work can happen in any industry sector. They can be both instantaneous or the effects can surface over time.
From a loose staple left on the photocopier in the office to a runaway supermarket trolley, to a spill on concrete floor to dust-filled, choking air, if there’s not the proper amount of care and attention paid, an accident is bound to happen.
Up until the recent changes in the law, any accident at work was deemed the responsibility of the employer. Those amendments, brought in to ‘reduce red tape’, have moved those goalposts. Slightly.
By far the best outcome for all concerned is to aim for prevention being better than cure.
Given the latest updates, it’s prudent to reassess what you can do to avoid accidents at work, irrespective of who’s eventually determined as “at fault” in the case of a personal injury claim.
Who’s responsible for safety at work?
Engineering still has a huge part to play in the UK’s economic output. Many thousands of employees operate machinery as part of their contribution to that cause.
From a simple sewing machine to a sixteen-phase CNC, from a steam-press iron to a 40-ton head-forming press or from a fork lift truck to an overhead crane, all are deemed essential to achieve cost-effective production.
However, all are potentially dangerous in inexperienced or incapable hands.
Health and Safety guides are put in place for a reason
Health and Safety guidelines now require not only adequate guards, protective clothing and safety switches along all production lines, but also that proper training be given for use of any machinery unfamiliar to all those expected to work on it.
The responsibility to provide ongoing training, both for machine operation and to keep up with HSE legislation, is the sole responsibility of the employer.
Machine maintenance is also a critical part of safeguarding employees from potential workplace hazards. This includes the machine itself and the area surrounding it if it’s stationary or its path- and gangways if it’s an automated machine.
The office has its own bespoke HSe regulations
It’s easy to think of a shop floor or building site as the only areas where Health and Safety guidelines come into effect. But there are regulations for offices, too.
Where computers are used, there are stringent laws about seating, the height of computer screens, where cables lead to and how they’re safeguarded.
There are also many preventative measures for RSI, now that it’s been officially recognised as a workplace injury.
In addition, access to and from places of work, whether that’s
- corridors between offices
- gangways between rows of desks
- walkways between workstations on the shop floor
- even on car parks
should all be hazard free, clean and clear of agents that could cause slips, trips and stumbles.
Training is an essential aspect of reducing accidents at work
Another area where employers should provide training is in the lifting of heavy objects.
From constant lifting and loading into a machine to even carrying in a box of paper for the fax machine, all employees should be taught how to lift properly.
Bad backs are amongst the most common work-place injuries. Indeed, they are the most common complaint of all, according to the GMC.
Not only are they costly to the employer for time off work, but the employee can suffer long term illness if a back condition is allowed to deteriorate without proper treatment and convalescence.
Protect yourself with adequate safety clothing
The list of safety clothing and equipment is not infinite, but there are hundreds of types of protective garments and safeguards on the market.
Dependent upon the industry you’re in will dictate the level of safety equipment you’ll need to carry out the task at hand. In most instances, it is up to the employer to provide the essential equipment.
Many employers will help its workers source discounted safety clothing if the employee feels the need to go beyond what the law dictates. In some instances, protective clothing can be a recommendation rather than a legal necessity.
It’s a little different if you’re self-employed. You may well have seen the signs on building sites expressing the need to wear safety gear.
The signs state simply that if you do not have boots, a hard hat and a hi-vis vest, then you cannot even access the site, let alone work on it.
In this case, it’s down to the self-employed individual to provide those essentials themselves. As they’re essentials for carrying out the work, the cost of the equipment can usually be offset against taxes.
The importance of recording your injury at the time of occurrence
Even with all of these precautions taken – and there are many more legal requirements than the simple overview provided above – accidents at work still happen.
When they do, it’s important to follow the appropriate protocol adopted by your employer for recording a personal injury.
This usually involves the supervision of one of your company’s appointed Health and Safety accredited personnel to administer any first aid necessary.
They will also record your injury in the company’s accident book. If there is any possibility that a personal injury claim may follow an accident at work, it’s essential that all of the details are accounted for at the time.
The longer an injury goes without a claim being made, the less likely witnesses are to remember the exact details, all important for proving employer liability in injury cases.
In the vast majority of cases, employers respect the safety of their staff and will do everything required by law and more to keep them safe.
But accidents do happen. And if the accident at work happens due to someone else’s negligence, be it a member of staff, faulty machinery or a close colleague, you have every right to make a claim.
We hope that it never happens to you. But if it does, we’re here to help you make that personal injury claim with the minimum of fuss, in the swiftest possible time and to provide the best long term outcome applicable to your individual case.