It is important to know what to do if you have had an accident at work. Resist the temptation to downplay the effects of any injury you may have sustained while carrying out your duties, or blaming yourself for the accident occurring. It may not be your fault, and you may be entitled to compensation.
Workplace accidents are not to be underestimated. Some may seem nothing more than trifling inconveniences, while a serious industrial accident can be a life-changing event. Often, the long-term consequences of an accident at work may not be immediately obvious.
Accidents do not only occur on building sites or at factories where one would expect the risk to be higher because of the nature of the work carried out there. Accidents can happen anywhere you work, even in offices and shops, and they include:
- Slip and falls; falls from height
- Manual handling – bodily movements that involve lifting and carrying, pushing and pulling, twisting and turning
- Handling equipment and machinery
- Accidents involving vehicles
- Exposure to toxic substances
Your employer has a legal duty to take all reasonable measures to protect your health and safety while you are at work. Employers are required to provide a safe place for you to carry out your work duties, which includes the physical building and any equipment and materials necessary for the job. The employee must also be given adequate training and supervision. These legal requirements are set out in the Health & Safety Acts together with other legislation that employers must follow for the protection of their employees.
If an accident occurs at work and it can be shown that your employer was negligent in his legal duties towards you, the employee, then you are entitled to make a compensation claim*. Depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, the financial pay-out may be substantial.
However, the legal process involved in making a personal injury claim* is very specific. In order to ensure that you are in the best possible position to make a successful claim*, should it come to it, it is important to take these three steps as soon as your accident at work has occurred.
- Report it
As soon as an accident has happened, let your line manager know. All workplace accidents should be reported straight away, and your employer will be required to record the details in an Accident Report. It is advisable to get a copy of the Accident Report for your own records.
Regardless of whether anyone is to blame for the accident, reporting it will help safeguard your Injury Benefit and other rights that may arise as a consequence of an occupational accident.
More serious accidents must be reported to the Health & Safety Authority (HAS). Specifically, if you are injured at your place of work and cannot perform your normal work for more than 3 consecutive days immediately following (but not including) the day of the accident because of the injuries sustained, the accident has to be reported by law.
The same applies if you are involved as a driver or passenger in a road traffic or vehicle accident in the course of your work, and cannot perform normal work duties for more than 3 consecutive days. Accidents can be reported to the HAS online.
- Get medical advice
It goes without saying that you should seek medical attention immediately after an accident has occurred. It is important to do this for any kind of accident, even if you think you may have sustained only minor injuries.
A thorough examination by a doctor or at hospital is not only essential for your own health care, but the official medical record of your accident will also form the basis for any future compensation claim you may choose to bring.
- Seek legal advice
If you have suffered an accident at work, it may be useful to discuss your experience with a personal injury solicitor to see if there is a good basis for a compensation claim. Many solicitors will offer a free first consultation to assess your case, and ‘no win, no fee’ agreements may be available.
It is worth noting that in addition to compensation for the injury itself, you may also be entitled to claim for ongoing pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses and adaptation costs. Your personal injury solicitor will be able to offer professional advice.
Mike James is an independent legal blogger. He has been working with McCarthy & Co, a specialist personal injury solicitor based in Cork, Ireland, who have provided advice and guidance on the legal regulation aspects of the above article.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.