Common accidents that happen at work
We've all heard the horror stories about workers who are dragged into machinery or crushed by a heavy object on a building site. Thankfully, most accidents at work are much less dramatic: in 2014-15, over one third (36%) of employee injuries were caused by falls, slips and trips.
However even a minor injury can prove a major headache for an employer. Last year around 2.1 million working days were lost due to injuries incurred by slips and trips or handling. Some employees also seek compensation for their injuries, adding to the costs faced by employers.
Common injuries and risky industries
Slips, trips and falls account for the largest proportion of employee injuries; these categories represent six in ten of specified injuries and almost one third of injuries which endured for more than seven days. Injuries resulting from a slip, trip or a fall can vary from light bruising to broken bones, head injuries or even death.
Fatal injuries are most likely to be caused by falling from a height, being struck by a vehicle or being struck by a moving or falling object. Almost half of all fatal falls occur in the construction industry, and around half of these were to workers aged 55 or over despite this age group representing less than 20% of the construction workforce.
Some industries are inherently riskier than others. In 2014-15 the industry with the most fatal injuries was the services, with 40 deaths. Manufacturing and agriculture, forestry and fishing were the next most dangerous sectors, with 15 and 14 deaths each. In manufacturing, most deaths were caused by contact with moving machinery, falling from a height or being trapped by something. In agriculture, forestry and fishing most deaths were caused by being struck with a moving vehicle or drowning/asphyxiation.
The legal requirement to report accidents at work
As an employer, you have a legal duty to record workplace accidents in an accident book under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). Accidents should be recorded in an accident book and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should be notified.
You do not have to record every splinter or stubbed toe. The law was changed in 2013 to reduce the range of accidents that have to be recorded, reducing the administrative burden on employers. Instead, deaths must be reported as well as any injury on the specified list, which includes things like serious burns, unconsciousness, asphyxiation and crush injuries resulting in internal organ damage.
Some occupational diseases must also be reported. These include occupational dermatitis, hand-arm vibration syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis of the hand or forearm. You must also report 'near-miss' events, such as collapsing lift equipment, explosions or fires, even if no one is injured in the event.
Insurance cover for injuries at work
If you have one or more employees, it is almost certainly a legal obligation to have employer's liability insurance. You will also need this cover if you have casual or part-time employees, or hire volunteers and interns. This type of insurance provides cover in the event that an employee is injured or killed at work. You can be fined up to £2,500 per day if you do not have a policy.
If an employee is injured at work and brings a claim against you, you will face costs on several fronts. Firstly, there is the immediate cost of sick pay and a substitute employee to cover for the injured person. Responding to the claim will involve legal fees, then there is the amount claimed by the employee. This will include a sum in recognition of pain and distress, possibly an amount for loss of amenity if the employee incurs a permanent disability or disfigurement, and out-of-pocket expenses such as care costs, adaptations to transport and the home, and physiotherapy or counselling.
Having insurance means you do not need to worry about these costs threatening your business, as your insurer will most likely pay out in the event of a claim. However, claims will increase your subsequent premiums and you may also face prosecution or fines from the police or Health and Safety Executive. In a worst-case scenario, you could face a charge of corporate manslaughter.
By far the best way to avoid the cost of claims for injury at work is to be a diligent, responsible employer. This means ensuring your working environment and procedures are as safe as possible, investing in safety measures and providing staff with training to help reduce risk, as well as having the right level of cover in place.