5 Things Employers Should Do Following a Work Accident
23 Sep, 2016
Workplaces in the UK are amongst the safest in the world. Figures published by the HSE in 2016 reveal that the UK had the lowest fatality rate per 100,000 employees of all EU member states bar the Netherlands.
Health and Safety regulations, many of which have been inherited from the EU, have contributed to a general downward trend in the numbers of workplace accidents over the last 20 years.
Ensuring compliance with an ever-increasing burden of health and safety law is particularly onerous for SME’s, however, whose obligations are no different from larger and better resourced organisations.
Whether a company is fully prepared and compliant or not, contending with the reality of an accident at work can be a shock for any employer. Aside from the emotional fallout, an employer is also expected to think and act clearly, in the best interests of all parties involved and, above all, in the best interests of the injured employee.
The following are 5 key steps to take if you find yourself, as an employer, managing the aftermath of a workplace accident.
Step 1 – Ensure the injured employee gets immediate help
An employer’s immediate concern should be the welfare of the injured individual/s. Ensuring that first aid procedures are followed is critical. If appropriate, an ambulance should be called.
If the accident does not warrant a 999 call, the employer should still insist that injured workers attend a medical check-up without delay. The employer will never be criticised for going over and above what may be required. In some circumstances, such as a head injury that results in delayed concussion, the cautious approach has saved lives.
Step 2 – Ensure there is no danger to others
Checking that the accident circumstances present no immediate danger to other staff or to members of the public should happen alongside, or as soon as possible after, the injured party is getting first aid.
Where possible, the danger area should be cleared of all personnel until it can be made safe. Signs should be erected to warn of any hazards.
All relevant details of the incident should be promptly recorded in the company’s accident book, to ensure the account is as full and as accurate as possible.
Step 3 – Review workplace safety
A risk assessment and a review of what caused the accident should both be carried out as soon as is reasonably possible.
Employers must now comply with RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to avoid serious breaches of health and safety law.
The injured employee should be interviewed, if and when they feel able to participate. Witness statements should also be collated.
Staff should be encouraged to be open and honest about the circumstances of the accident, so that failings in the design or execution of work tasks and protocols can be identified. These findings can then form the basis of training and retraining where necessary.
Employees should also be encouraged to give input on what could be done to make their working environment safer.
Working practices should be inspected and machine safety should be reviewed generally. If the accident resulted from inadequate protective equipment then this should be rectified, on a firm wide basis if appropriate. If equipment was being used incorrectly, training methods should be reviewed.
Any defective equipment that contributed to the accident should be repaired or replaced.
A training manual for new employees and other relevant documentation should be updated to reflect the outcomes of the above.
Step 4 – Communicate
After the dust has settled, the employer should ensure that they offer as much support as the employee needs. It may be necessary to allow the employee time off to recover and to attend medical treatment and physio.
A seriously injured employee may be unable to work for a protracted, or even indefinite period. With reference to legal and HR advice, the employer is well advised to maintain a proactive and ongoing dialogue with their employee in these circumstances. It may well be that the employee decides to make a claim, or simply has no alternative but to pursue financial compensation for a work accident.
Employers should not bury their heads hoping that a claim doesn’t happen. The stress created by “not knowing” can be very damaging to a small business, and it is far better for the employer to be part of the solution.
Chris Salmon, Operations Director at Quittance Personal Injury, said “Maintaining a positive and constructive dialogue with an employee following an accident probably won’t prevent the employee from claiming compensation. However it may stop the process becoming contentious, or as contentious, if the employer has made best endeavours to support the claimant. We would recommend that employers consult with their insurer, legal and HR representatives as soon as possible after the accident for additional guidance”.
Step 5 – Manage PR situation
In addition to the employer’s obligations to the injured employee, the employer also has a responsibility to ensure that business disruption is minimised.
A poorly-managed accident at work has the potential to be a PR disaster for a growing business. Employees may also be jittery about the general safety of the company’s working environment in the aftermath of an accident. It is important to act fast to prevent an internal or external counter-narrative developing.
The employer must work quickly to rectify, and be seen to rectify, the issues that led to the accident. Employees should be kept informed regarding the accident circumstances and what the company has done to positively address the situation. Staff should also be given a forum to discuss questions and concerns, where appropriate.
Depending on the nature and severity of the accident, a company’s reputation can be at stake. It is often a company’s failure to address a situation, rather than the situation itself, that causes long-term brand damage in the eyes of the public.
In summary, health and safety law presents companies with a significant number of regulations with which they must comply. With the regulations come much clearer protocols that have helped make the UK workplace one of the safest in the world. Should the worst happen, these regulations provide clear protocols that help companies manage an accident situation in the best possible way.