By Jonathan White, Legal and Compliance Director at National Accident Helpline
How common are workplace accidents?
According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, over a million UK workers were injured or made unwell as a result of their jobs between 2020 and 2021.
Of these individuals, 822,000 suffered from work-related stress, 470,000 suffered a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (overuse injury), and another 93,000 are said to have contracted COVID-19 from their workplace.
With workplace injuries and illnesses costing the UK more than £16bn a year and having a major impact on employee wellbeing, it is essential that employers contribute more comprehensively to improving health and safety measures in their workplaces.
What are the most common workplace injuries?
According to research carried out by the Health and Safety Executive, the effects of Covid have exacerbated work-related stress and anxiety. The pandemic has supplemented other causes, such as lack of employee support, poor workload regulation, violence, bullying and organisational changes at work.
Along with work-related stress and anxiety, musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most common workplace injuries. Developing over time and affecting muscles, joints, and tendons in all parts of the body, the most likely causes include manual handling, awkward or tiring positions, keyboard work or repetitive action. It is therefore not surprising that those in skilled trade occupations such as construction and human health and social work, suffer the most from these types of injuries.
According to RIDDOR 2020/21, 51% of all employer reported non-fatal injuries to employees came from two sorts of accidents: ‘slips, trips or falls on same level’ (33%) and ‘injured while handling, lifting or carrying’ (18%).
How and why companies should make health and safety a priority?
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their working environments are as safe as possible. As part of this, they’re bound by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which sets out rules and regulations to avoid injuries in every workplace.
All businesses must:
- Keep up-to-date health and safety files
- Carry out risk assessments in all working areas to avoid injuries
- Give employees the training and safety equipment they require to do their job safely.
When carrying out risk assessments, employers must:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in their business (hazards)
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
How can employers control risks at work?
The Health and Safety Executive has an extensive list of ways employers can control risks at work.
Some of the key pointers are:
- Ensure buildings are in good repair and maintain any equipment so that it is safe and works efficiently.
- Have enough space for safe movement and ensure corridors and stairs are free of obstructions.
- Maintain well-lit stairs, corridors, and outside areas.
- Ensure level, even floors and surfaces without holes or broken boards, and that they are not slippery.
- Add handrails to stairs and ramps where necessary.
- Provide a reasonable working temperature within workplaces inside buildings.
- Ensure good ventilation with a sufficient supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system.
Employers also have a responsibility to report any work-related injuries or diseases using ‘RIDDOR’ – Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulation (1995).
Keeping up to date with occupational health and safety regulations is critical. For example, new regulations have come into place about personal protective equipment (PPE) as a result of the pandemic.
The new Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (PPER 2022) extends PPE requirements to more people and businesses throughout the UK. When PPE is required for a job, employers “must ensure their workers have sufficient information, instruction and training” on the use of the equipment. Likewise, employees must use the PPE “in accordance with their training and instruction”.
What do employees need to know about seeking out personal injury claims?
Many individuals who have suffered from no-fault injuries in the last three years are able to claim compensation, but most are totally unaware of this fact.
Injuries and work-related illnesses are often caused by employers and managers failing to follow health and safety rules. All employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for their employees. If an employer neglects their responsibility, and this results in an employee being injured at work, that member of staff may be able to claim compensation.
It is important to remember that not all injuries are physical. Work-related stress, anxiety, and depression can be equally devastating, and can leave employees unable to work. All employers have a duty of care towards the health of their employees, which includes the prevention of stress-related illnesses.
For many, claiming compensation is a vital lifeline. Workers depend on their income, so being injured at work and having to take time off for recovery can be even incredibly stressful and financially painful. The most devastating injuries can end careers and can cause permanent physical damage. They can also strain relationships with friends and family and have an impact on overall mental wellbeing.
Lost earnings may also leave employees unable to pay household bills, care for their family or meet other commitments. Compensation for these struggles can therefore help to cover any financial or personal losses experienced as a result of an injury.
How can you make a claim?
To make a claim, contact a specialist personal injury claims company and speak to one of their legally trained advisors, who will be able to tell you in minutes whether you have a valid claim.
Those wishing to proceed will be put in touch with a solicitor who specializes in that claim area. They will be able to explain the process and answer any questions.
Many people have concerns about making a work injury claim against their employer, but all employers are required by law to take out employers’ liability insurance. Because of this requirement, any compensation will be paid by an employer’s insurance underwriter.
An employee cannot be dismissed for making a personal injury claim against an employer. In fact, making a claim can sometimes result in a safer working environment for a future colleague.