Workplace accidents can and will happen

A great tit emerges from a safety cone

It's crucial to learn from accidents at work says Prettys' Louise Plant - Credit: Archant

No matter how comprehensive and robust a business’s health and safety policies are - accidents can and will happen.

Employers have a responsibility to protect their staff from harm and should seek to control any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace.

But if an accident does occur, it is crucial the business learns from it, and adapts and builds on its health and safety management where appropriate.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, an average of 250 workers are killed each year as a result of accidents at the workplace, with a further 150,000 sustaining major injuries.

Accidents at work harm not only the employee, but the business itself, so it is important that lessons are learned.


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If a business does not do a thorough investigation following an accident to consider their workplace practices and procedures to eliminate risks, not only do they open themselves up to litigation and reputational damage, it can also send a message to their employees that their health and safety is not taken seriously.

Nobody wants to work for an employer who does not care for their safety.

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Workplace investigations should be bespoke to each incident – minor incidents may only require a limited investigation, while others may need a full-on probe.

The point is, if you do not investigate, and there could have been something done to have prevented the accident from taking place, you will never learn from those mistakes to prevent a recurrence.

The purpose of an investigation is to look at what has happened and to come up with remedies to avoid it happening again.

If you haven’t done that vital work, you could come a cropper at a later time.

Even if the incident is perhaps a simple tripping incident with very minor injuries, you will need to do some form of investigation, even it is just filling out an accident report and considering briefly that has happened.

From a health and safety perspective, whatever the circumstances, generally if you haven’t done any investigation, and do not have the information you need, there is a high chance if someone later brings a claim, you will not be able to defend it.

All businesses need to have a robust process to investigate and log any incidents – if your process is not up to scratch, you put yourself and your employees at risk. Advice and guidance on how to conduct an investigation can be found at www.hse.gov, however, seeking professional advice is the best way to make sure you are doing the best for your business and your staff.

Louise Plant is a senior associate in Prettys’ Personal Injury and Insurances Services team

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