What to do if you have an accident at work
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Concentrate on the injury first
You must do this – before you even think about whether you could make a claim for compensation, focus on yourself and getting better. It may seem like your injury is minor, but if you don’t take the proper steps it could become something much more major.
Every workplace must have a first aid kit and designated first aider by law, so ensure that you are checked over immediately after an accident. If you are able to, find them yourself or ask a colleague to do so. If unable, keep still. Then you will need to get yourself checked out by a medical professional – either at hospital or a GP appointment, depending on the injury.
If you have suffered any head injuries then you should get checked out at A&E, with a colleague attending with you.
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Report the accident
Your organisation will have procedures to follow in the event of an accident – make sure you follow them and also tell your manager – not doing so could be a breach of contract. If it is a serious incident then your employer has a legal obligation to inform the Health and Safety Executive of the accident.
Make sure you report the accident (or near miss) at the earliest opportunity – if you were working alone then inform your colleagues of the accident. Make sure there is a written record of your accident (for example, in an accident book – every organisation should have one) as a written record, and/or colleague awareness of the accident provides evidence for any potential claims. Do not allow your employer or insurers to doubt the occurrence of the accident.
In some organisations there is some pressure not to report an accident, to hit targets of reducing numbers of accidents in the workplace. If you meet with any pressure or resistance, then ensure you write to your manager/employer to produce an audit trail of you reporting the incident. And speak to a solicitor specialising in employment law.
Whether or not you make a claim to compensation, knowledge of the accident may help to prevent your colleagues from being injured in the same way.
If you do want to make a claim for compensation for the injuries you have suffered then take and keep photos and/or videos of the accident location and injuries sustained, where applicable – so long as it does not breach any of your employee terms and conditions.
Photos and/or videos will show the situation as it was at the time of the accident – stopping any unscrupulous employers from “fixing” (covering up) the problem afterwards to discredit your claims. You can never have too much evidence when making a claim in this kind of scenario.
Ask for help
If you need to take time off as a result of your injuries then enlist a trusted colleague to keep you informed of any changes at work. Employers may make changes to equipment or work systems to prevent recurrence of an accident but in some cases to cover an accident up.
Keep notes of all symptoms
Keep updated notes on all symptoms following your injury. Medical professionals do not always keep notes of all symptoms so keeping track of them is a benefit to your claim – often only the major symptoms are treated but it is not always those that have the long-term impacts – and claims can sometimes take years to resolve.
Keep your notes in a diary or recorded on your phone or computer in note form or by video.
See a medical professional
Even if you are recovering, see a medical professional, either your GP or hospital as long as you have any symptoms. If you are claiming that your injuries have long-term impacts, there needs to be medical records to back this up.
Just seeing them once and then saying that your injuries left you with long-term impacts will not provide your solicitor with adequate evidence. If you need more medical attention, seek it.
Make a complaint or submit a grievance
You have the right to complain to your employer about your accident – your employer should not hold it against you and if they do then you may have grounds for a whistleblowing employment claim.
Your accident may have been caused by defective equipment, health and safety negligence or unsafe systems of work and as such if your employer fails to properly investigate the grievance you may have grounds to claim for constructive dismissal – but always get proper legal advice.
Record financial impacts
Keep regular updated records of all financial impacts. Each case is judged on its own merits, but in the main the purpose of compensation is to ensure you did not lose out financially as a result of your accident, whether that is for current or future pay. If you have had care or assistance from friends or family this will also be factored in, additional household costs too, and travel costs for medical help. Make sure your solicitor knows all of this.
Good to know
- When you have an accident at work, it is common to blame yourself – this does not mean that your employer is not at fault. Talk to a qualified solicitor who will have more experience in understanding liability. This advice is the same if your manager or employer tries to put the blame on you
- You can find out all of the information your employer holds about you by submitting a Subject Access Request. Find out more here: www.ico.gov.uk. The information held on you may assist in a compensation claim
- If you are successful in your claim for compensation, all the costs incurred by the NHS are paid by your employers insurer
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