Created on: 14 Jul 2023
Every year over thousands of accidents are reported to the Health and Safety Executive and about 20% of these accidents result in serious injuries.
Every year there are hundreds of fatal accidents and this includes deaths of members of the public as well as employees. The research from the HSE has shown that the financial cost to employers, employees and the UK economy is billions of pounds every year.
Such figures can never indicate the scale of pain and disadvantage suffered by the injury victim. In addition, there is also an enormous pool of gradual health damage, eg musculoskeletal disorders and stress related illness.
It is that when accidents do occur they are properly recorded, reported to the authorities, and investigated. The lessons from accidents must be learned so that new preventive action can be taken to stop similar accidents or health problems happening again in the future.
Injured workers should be compensated through benefits and legal action.
It is often suggested that the majority of accidents are caused by careless workers, but this diverts attention from the overall system of work, focusing on mistakes made by the individual. Often this approach is closely connected with disputes about liability for accidents and payment of compensation.
When accidents are properly investigated a different story emerges. The HSE has published several reports which have analysed the causes of accidents in detail.
These all conclude that carelessness is the cause of only a small proportion of accidents - while the main cause is the employer’s failure to provide a safe system of work.
The MHSWR emphasise the need for a systematic approach to identify and remove hazards, control risks and inform employees. It is the responsibility of management to ensure a safe working environment.
When accidents do happen at work the law requires most of them to be reported and recorded. Safety Reps have important legal rights to investigate accidents.
The Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations require injured workers to report accidents and employers to investigate and keep records of reported accidents.
The responsible person is required to report all reportable accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences to the Incident Contact Centre in Caerphilly (tel: 0845 3009923, forms or via the internet at www.riddor.gov.uk).
The Incident Contact Centre will forward all incidents to the enforcing authority, eg the area office of the Health and Safety Executive.
Requirements on workers
Requirements on workers Injured workers, or persons acting for them, to give employer specific details of accidents for which benefits may be claimed.
Particulars required need be no more than: full name, address and occupation of injured person;
date and time of accident;
Schedule 4 to the Regulations
Requirements on Employers
Employers to investigate the circumstances of every accident reported.
Employers with more than ten workers to keep an accident book of an approved form.
Record to be kept for a minimum of three years.
Accident book to be readily accessible.
Accidents which cause serious or fatal injuries or lead to more than a specified period off work have to be notified to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995. These require employers to notify information direct to the HSE, and to keep records.
They also cover certain dangerous occurrences and a range of industrial diseases.
After an accident
if appropriate take photos, sketches and measurements;
talk to witnesses and take statements; and
carry out a detailed inspection.
check the employer’s accident records;
suggest improvements or immediate precautions; and
advise injured members.
Get to the scene: the sooner Safety Reps can get to the scene of the accident the better. If an accident occurs in your own work area you will know about it.
If members are dispersed over a wide area, make sure they know how to contact Safety Reps or negotiate an agreement with management to inform Safety Reps without delay of any accident.
Under the SRSCR Safety Reps have the right to carry out an accident inspection where it is ‘reasonably practicable’ for them to do so. Strictly speaking, under Regulation 6(1), this right only applies to reportable accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences. However, it may only emerge that an event is reportable as a result of making an inspection, and it is not always possible to tell in advance whether the injuries caused by an accident will put a person off work for long enough to make the accident reportable.
In any case, Safety Reps have a right under Regulation 4(1)(a) to examine the causes of accidents and to investigate potential hazards and dangerous occurrences.
Check first aid: it is important to make sure that all injured workers get appropriate first aid treatment or medical attention and are not rushed back to work or into making a statement.
Any inadequacies in the speed with which treatment is provided should be taken up with management.
Make sure nothing is moved: it is also important to be vigilant and to prevent the scene of an accident being disturbed before an investigation has been done since it is easy for an unscrupulous employer to alter the scene of an accident before the insurance company arrives.
The only acceptable reasons for moving anything are rescue and safeguarding against further hazards. This is emphasised in Guidance Notes 23 and 24 of the SRSCR: "It may be necessary, following an accident or 43 dangerous occurrence, for the employer to take urgent steps to safeguard against further hazards. If he does this, he should notify the Safety Rep of the action he has taken and confirm this is writing.
"The examination must not, however, include interference with any evidence or the testing of any machinery, plant equipment or substance which could disturb or destroy the factual evidence before any inspector from the appropriate enforcing authority has had the opportunity to investigate as thoroughly as is necessary in the circumstances of the accident or occurrence."
If things have been moved by the time Safety Reps arrive on the scene, a note should be made of the changes and statements should be taken to back this up. Ideally the area should be cordoned off and somebody appointed to check that nothing is moved, either by management or workers.
Photos, sketches and measurements: following an accident, details provided by photos, sketches and measurements can be of crucial importance in establishing the facts. Under Regulations 5 and 6 of the SRSCR, Safety Reps have the right to perform periodic inspections and also to investigate reportable accidents and dangerous occurrences in the workplace.
Such inspections and investigations can include the taking of measurements, preparing of sketches and taking photographs.
Witnesses and statements: Safety Reps also need to talk to witnesses and take statements as soon as possible after an accident. This right is backed up by Regulation 6(2).
Witnesses are not obliged to give statements to anyone but it is always important for members to give a statement to their union representative and sooner rather than later while it is still fresh in their mind. Do not lead a witness - they might not be able to substantiate what they say later on.
The person should be put at their ease and asked to say what happened in their own words, going slowly enough for this to be written down. If there are any points which do not make sense, they should be asked to go over these again so that it is clear what happened.
If members are called in by management to discuss, or make a statement of the circumstances of their accident they should seek the advice of their EIS Rep.
Check management's records: there are several places to check: these include the accident book; the register, in which reportable injuries and dangerous occurrences must be reported; the employer's copy of Form F2508 on which a report of any dangerous occurrence and accident causing death or major injury should have been made; and the employer's own record keeping system.
It is important to make sure that all details have been properly recorded and make a note of any discrepancies.
Suggest improvements: an investigation after an accident may reveal specific problems in the workplace, for example, bad lighting or lack of training. This may mean putting specific proposals to management on dealing with these problems.
This should be done in writing and members should be told about action taken.
Advice: injured members need to be advised of their rights to pursue compensation claims against their employer or other negligent party. They should complete the appropriate EIS Claim Form to begin this process.
Accident, Violence and Stress Claim Forms are available from Local Associations, Area Offices or from the Employment Relations Department at EIS Headquarters.
As well as investigating the circumstances of accidents it is important to make full use of accident records, reports and statistics held by the employer. This kind of data can be used to:
Safety Reps have a right of access to this kind of information under the SRSCR but management is also able to raise objections. For example, where there may be legal proceedings, management may use Regulation 7(1) and 7(2)c to argue that an accident report need not be disclosed because it has been obtained to defend the employer in a compensation case although this is only relevant where legal defence is the 'dominant purpose' of an accident report.
Management may also use those Regulations to argue that health records should not be revealed because they relate to the health record of an individual who can be identified.
A way round this is to get the person concerned to give written consent to the information being released. Management should also be encouraged to keep records of all incidents requiring first aid treatment and to collect information about near miss accidents.
To do this management will need their own internal reporting system and to train staff to operate the system.
A near miss accident is any incident which represents a danger although it produces no injury. Research shows that for every injury accident there are several near miss accidents, so monitoring and taking action on near miss accidents is important.
All employees should be encouraged to report dangerous incidents. Management should process near miss accidents through the normal accident reporting, recording and action system. In some cases, it can help if there is a list of types of near miss accidents which must be reported.
Cases of ill health caused by work can be dealt with in a similar way to accidents. However, the links between work and disease are usually less obvious than between accidents and injuries and this means that different investigation technique is required.
For example, if a link between work and disease is suspected, it is possible to do a short survey to find out if suspicions are justified. Management may keep records which could help such as details of ailments treated in the first aid room and sickness absence data.
These sources can be used to pin-point particular problems.
The purpose behind investigation and analysis of accidents is to see if steps can be taken to stop them happening again and to identify weaknesses in health and safety arrangements.
This means that reports on accidents, ill health and near misses should be regularly reviewed by safety committees to see what lessons can be learned. It is important that such reviews should concentrate not just on the physical causes of accidents but on organisational factors such as design and management of work systems, responsibility for safety training, supervision and information for workers.
In-depth analysis of most accidents will indicate weaknesses in an employer’s health and safety policy or its implementation, so Safety Reps should prepare suggestions on how these can be improved.
Useful information can also be obtained from sources such as reports available from the HSE.
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit may be available if a person is disabled due to an accident at work or ill or disabled as a result of a disease or condition caused by work.