Legal Guide

Who is Responsible for Accidents in the Workplace?

Being safe and free from danger at work is something most of us take for granted. However, certain types of employment are more hazardous by their nature and the potential accident risk is ever-present.

While some injuries are unavoidable or simply unfortunate, many workplace accidents can be prevented. However, there is often confusion as to who is responsible for making this happen. You can argue that an employer needs to do all they can to prevent risks, yet the workforce also need to be fully aware of any dangers that exist.

Employer’s responsibilities

By law, it is an employer's responsibility to protect the workforce's health, safety and welfare. According to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, this duty extends to:

  • Keeping dust, fumes and noise under control
  • Ensuring plant and machinery are safe to operate and regularly maintained. Systems used must also be safe.
  • Where necessary, provide protective clothing
  • Report any work-related diseases and injuries to the relevant authority
  • Provide adequate first-aid equipment and facilities
  • Take fire safety precautions that include providing an adequate means of escape and tools to fight fire
  • Assess any risks associated with work practices such as using a computer and ensure these don't cause injury

The main piece of legislation that covers these examples is The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It is advisable for an employer to carry out a full and comprehensive risk assessment to identify such problems.

A 'competent person' is required to oversee health and safety responsibilities and will often be trained in accordance with this. Any risk assessment should include an official record of what dangers are found and a plan to deal with potential hazards. A formal health and safety policy including protection arrangements will be the result. 

An employer who does not carry out this duty is responsible for any accident that occurs. Therefore any employee injury could qualify for a work accident compensation claim.

If you are in a situation where the workplace is unsafe, take the necessary precautions. Talk to your trade union if you have one or contact the Health and Safety Executive.

Employee’s responsibility

Any member of staff should cooperate with their employer to make the workplace a safe environment. Personnel should be aware of any dangers that might exist and always act in a responsible manner.

It is the worker’s responsibility to ensure they wear any personal protective or safety equipment their employer provides. If there is a safety or health concern that arises during work, the individual should report this problem to their employer.

Taking regular breaks and having time off is down to the worker, as fatigue can have serious consequences. An employee should also take reasonable care not to endanger fellow workers or members of the public.

If at any time the worker feels they are not properly trained to carry out any job correctly, it is advisable to request help. Minor injuries, strains or illness should also be assessed because this could affect carrying out work.

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