Accidents in the workplace
Your employer has a duty to protect you and tell you about health and safety issues that affect you. They also have a legal responsibility to report certain accidents and incidents, pay you statutory sick pay, or contractual sick pay if you are entitled to it and give you time off because of an accident at work should you need it.
Reporting an accident at work
Your employer must report serious work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous incidents to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) or the Health and Safety department at your local authority. They must report:
- major injuries, a broken arm or ribs for example
- dangerous incidents like the collapse of scaffolding, people overcome by gas
- any other injury that stops an employee from doing their normal work for more than three days
The reporting must be done by your employer, but if you're involved it's a good idea to make sure it's been reported.
Who is responsible for health and safety at work?
Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment and do what's needed to take care of the health and safety of employees and visitors. This includes deciding how many first aiders are needed and what kind of first aid equipment and facilities should be provided.
First aiders have no statutory right to extra pay, but some employers do offer this. Employees must also take reasonable care over their own health and safety.
- Employees' health and safety responsibilities
- Employers' health and safety responsibilities
- First Aid at work - Information from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
Any injury at work - including minor injuries - should be recorded in your employer's 'accident book'. All employers (except for very small companies) must keep an accident book. It's mainly for the benefit of employees, as it provides a useful record of what happened in case you need time off work or need to claim compensation later on. But recording accidents also helps your employer to see what's going wrong and take action to stop accidents in future.
In most cases, if you need time off because of an accident at work, you'll only have the right to Statutory Sick Pay. Your employer may have a scheme for paying more for time off caused by accidents, or may decide to pay extra depending on what has happened.
Making an injury claim
If you've been injured in an accident at work and you think your employer is at fault, you may want to make a claim for compensation. Any claim must be made within three years of the date of the accident and you'll normally need a lawyer to represent you. If you belong to a trade union, you may be able to use their legal services. Otherwise, you should speak to a specialist personal injury lawyer.
Some lawyers will take your case on a 'no win no fee' basis. By law, your employer must be insured to cover a successful claim and should place a certificate with the name of their employer's insurance company where it can be seen at work. If not, they must give you the details if you need them.
If you're considering suing your employer, remember that the aim of legal damages is to put you in the position you would be in had the accident not happened - it's not about getting hold of some 'free' money. There are also court costs and legal fees to think about.
What you should you do if you have an accident
If you have an accident in the workplace, you should:
- make sure you record any injury in the 'accident book'
- if need be, make sure your employer has reported it to the HSENI
- check your contract or written statement of employment for information about sick or accident pay
- if there's a dispute, try to sort it out with your employer
If there are health and safety problems at work, point them out to your employer or the employee safety representative. Ask for them to be dealt with. If this doesn't happen, call the HSENI on 029 9024 3249.
Where can you get help?
The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is the lead body in Northern Ireland responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards. It also offers confidential advice and guidance on 028 9024 3249.
The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland. You can contact the LRA on 028 9032 1442 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.