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12 things you must do when you have had an accident at work 1

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Falling victim to an accident at work is often a distressing and confusing time. Besides your injuries you may have many worries associated with your accident, and finding reliable information can be difficult.

In this article, I aim to cut through the confusion and give you a clear guide on what you should do after you’ve suffered an accident at work.

  1. Focus on your injury

This is by far the most important thing that you must do.

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you should be treated by your workplace’s first-aider. Every workplace is legally obligated to have a first aid kit and a designated first aider. After the accident, if you are able, find the first aider or demand that a work colleague summons the first aider to you. If in doubt, stay still.

Although your injuries may appear minor injury at first, in the worst case, even a minor injury can become a lifelong condition without proper treatment. As such, you should get a full assessment of your injuries by a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

When safe to do so, consider whether you need to go to hospital. Bear in mind that if you have suffered a head injury, then your decision-making may be defective. If in doubt, go to Accident and Emergency by ambulance. Ensure that a work colleague attends hospital with you.

At this stage, forget any potential personal injury compensation claim you may have as a result of the accident. Just concentrate on your health.

  1. Report the accident to your colleagues

If you were working alone at the time of your accident at work, ensure your colleagues are made aware of the incident. This is important if you later decide to make a claim for compensation, or if there is an investigation. It means your employer and their insurers cannot dispute the occurrence of the accident, something which, unfortunately, can often happen.

Bear in mind that an employer can easily put a lot of pressure on their employees. They may be able to persuade more suggestible workers to deny the accident happened. This sounds awful, but the simple fact is, if there is ‘bulletproof evidence’ that your workplace accident occurred, your employer or their insurers will be unable to deny that it happened.

Additionally, irrespective of whether you plan to make a compensation claim, if you alert your co-workers to the accident, then hopefully your colleagues won’t injure themselves just as you have.

I firmly believe that you have a moral obligation to make sure your colleagues do not have the same kind of accident at work that you suffered.

  1. Report the accident to your manager

In a similar way to Point 2, you must tell your manager about the accident, following your organisation’s accident reporting protocols.

If you have suffered a serious accident at work, then your employer is legally obliged to report the accident to the Health and Safety Executive (depending on the precise circumstances and the time that you need off work).

In many organisations, you could be in breach of the staff manual/procedures if you do not report your accident at work appropriately. Therefore, you should report the accident or the near-miss.

The question of who is to blame for the accident is best avoided at this stage. Even if you blame yourself, or if your manager blames you for the accident, this does not mean your employer is not legally at fault for the accident happening. The question of fault is best assessed by qualified solicitors with expertise in apportioning liability for accidents at work.

  1. Record the accident in the accident book

Every organisation should have an accident book. Some employers may be reluctant to record a workplace accident in the accident book, usually because of performance targets to reduce accidents at work.

It is crucial that you do not allow an accident to go unreported in this way. Whilst some workplaces may brag about the number of the days in which there hasn’t been an accident at work, you should not let this put pressure on you to let your accident to go unreported. Reporting an accident is an important duty.

If your employer refuses to record the accident in the accident book, then you should write to your employer so that there is a paper trail and/or email trail of you trying to report the accident. Your employer cannot delete one of your sent emails, particularly if it is from your personal email account.

If your employer still refuses to record the accident in the accident book, then this may be sufficient grounds to resign and claim for constructive dismissal. However, before resigning or taking any other such action, you should seek legal advice from a specialist employment law solicitor. Resigning is a major step.

  1. Take photos and video evidence

This is particularly vital if you want to make a compensation claim because of the injuries you have suffered in the accident at work, or if you feel the need to defend yourself from any bogus accusations a dishonourable employer may make.

After an accident at work you should act like a Crime Scene Investigator! As long as your employer will not penalise you for using your phone, you should take photos and videos of the accident location. Contemporaneous evidence of the accident location and circumstances will be most compelling and it will ensure a dishonest employer will not try to “fix” an accident location, in an attempt to hamper any claim you might make.

Remember: you can never have too much evidence. Work on the basis that: if in doubt, record it. No accident at work solicitor will criticise you for taking multiple photos or videos of the accident location. It’s the smart thing to do.

  1. Ask a reliable colleague for help

Depending on your injuries, you may be off work for some time after your accident at work. It is during this immediate post-accident period that an employer often makes changes to work equipment and systems of work. Whilst this is often to improve safety, sometimes it may be done to ‘cover up’ what happened. With you away from work injured, it’s important that a helpful colleague notes these changes and keeps you updated.

Foolishly, many employers carry out accident investigations when they key witness – you – are off work injured. A trustworthy co-worker – one who is willing to stick up for you – can ensure that the true facts of the incident are recorded, and help to prevent your employer dishonourably blaming you for your accident at work.

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