The Employer’s Responsibilities After a Workplace Accident

General Safety By Matthew Coombes

When an incident or accident occurs at work, the employer will be judged according to their actions before, during and after the accident occurs. So, what are an employer’s responsibilities after a workplace accident?

Incident: Something that has happened unexpectedly, which hasn’t caused personal injury but may have caused damages.

Accident: Something unexpected which has caused personal injury, death or ill-health.

Find out more about the difference between an incident and accident in the workplace

The employer must:

Report the injury

Report the injury under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) if it is legally required to be reported.

Categories of injury or incident that are legally reportable in the UK under RIDDOR include:

  • Fatalities
  • Specified injuries
  • Injuries causing more than 7 days absence from work / normal working duties*
  • Occupational diseases
  • Dangerous occurrences

*Nb: Being unable to return to normal working duties after 7 days may be reportable depending on the context of the job.

A shop floor worker who primarily moves stock, but is till trained, being placed on ‘light duties’ such as only operating the till may be seen as an equivalent position (in terms of duties) depending on the context of the job, and therefore they have resumed normal working duties.

However, a forklift driver becoming injured and having to answer phones in the office would not be seen as equivalent duties, and would therefore be reportable under RIDDOR.

Provide aid where relevant

The level of first aid and other relevant training for dealing with emergencies and injuries will depend on the context of your organisation, for example, the risk assessment may identify a significant risk of chemical burns, so you may need a chemical wash station on site. The aid that you provide and the steps following an accident that you take should be dependent on the risks identified on site.
Typically, you should:

  • Provide first aid
  • Call medical services (111 or 999 depending on the accident)
  • Take the injured party to medical services / wait for an ambulance

Where an unidentified risk has been the cause of an incident the provision of emergency first aid training and immediate medical attention can help to reduce the impacts of the accident.

Not attribute unwarranted blame

Typically, there are many factors that contribute to an accident occurring including poor leadership, poor health and safety culture, lack of training and human factors.

In the UK the law is very clear that health and safety is the responsibility of everyone including workers, managers and directors.

It is important not to blame any party for the accident until an impartial investigation has been conducted which can look at the causes of the accident.

Employers should

Help with the investigation

When an accident occurs, depending on the severity and outcome, it may be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive or the police. If this is the case, the employer should endeavour to assist in the investigation in any way that they can.

Being forthcoming, proactive and helpful during an investigation can be very favourable to the organisation for a number of reasons, for example, the HSE charge for their time, so the more information and help you provide them, the faster their investigation will be concluded, saving you money directly.

Concluding an investigation quickly can help to get workplace operations back underway, provide closure to employees or anyone affected by the accident and perhaps most importantly, it can provide you with the cause of the accident.

This then stops any speculation of wrongdoing, and provides you with a valuable opportunity to reflect on your health and safety performance in relevant areas in order to make improvements to prevent the accident from ever occurring again.

Not interfere, destroy, alter or damage evidence

Depending on the type of incident, the HSE or police may need to gather evidence in order to investigate what happened. This evidence may include:
– Parts of machinery
– CCTV footage
– Photographs
– Samples
– Relevant company records, such as risk assessments, examination reports, and method statements.

Employers should preserve evidence to the best of their ability, which could potentially include leaving the scene of the incident undisturbed for the duration of the investigation. Employers must in no way destroy, hide or tamper with any evidence. This includes ‘coaching’ witnesses to influence their statements.

Support the injured parties

If your organisation is the cause of an accident that injures a person(s), supporting the injured parties is the morally right thing to do. Your organisation has failed in its duty to do no harm and should therefore seek to undo the harm caused, or support the individual in any reasonable way to help them to recover.

Workplace injuries can be debilitating and follow the injured party for the rest of their life. Any remuneration received will likely not cover the costs incurred by the individual such as:

  • Cost of lost work – Any inability to access work immediately after the accident and in relation to any injuries in the future. For example, a construction worker being injured and being unable to return to work or work in that sector again.
  • Costs to social life – Physical injuries can put strain on social relationships as it may become more difficult to socialise. The injured party may have friends that they can no longer interact with as easily, such as sports groups.
  • Costs to home life – Injuries can be stressful for the injured party and anyone that cares about them, this can put undue stress onto relationships and may impact their home life negatively. The injured party may struggle to do their fair share of housework, child support or employment.
  • Direct cost of mental help support – Long term injuries have a very high comorbidity rate with mental health problems, and the cost for a single counselling session is anywhere from £35 – £90 per session.

Experiencing a long-term health problem can be isolating and difficult, and this is especially the case if it isn’t a result of your own actions. The employer should offer relevant support to any person injured as a direct result of their employment.

Employers may want to

Conduct your own investigation

Conducting an investigation independent to any being conducted by regulatory bodies is often a beneficial exercise as it can include input from persons with relevant experience of the day-to-day activities and attitudes of the organisation. An insider who understands how the machine works.

You may be able to act to reduce the likelihood of a repeat accident occurring much faster than waiting for the conclusion of any HSE or police investigations enabling you to quickly learn from your mistakes and prevent the same from occurring again.

Accident and incident investigation is a key part of any health and safety management system.

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