According to the Health and Safety Executive, the cost of work place injury and illness in 2015/16 was £14.9 billion. It states:
“Latest estimates show that annually between 2014/15 and 2016/17 an average of 614,000 workers were injured in workplace accidents and a further 521,000 workers suffered a new case of ill health which they believe to be caused or made worse by their work.1”
For example, accidents at work can occur, as a result of manual handling, working at height, exposure to dangerous substances (electricity, fire, gas, and chemicals), working with equipment/machinery, slips and trips, from transport, from noise and the actions of fellow workers etc.
So, what should employers be doing to prevent such accident occurring?
The risk assessment: Every workplace needs to take steps to prevent accidents by carrying out what is known as a ‘risk assessment’ to ascertain the hazards, dangers and risks to employees.
The HSE puts this simply: “A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.”
The emphasis is not to eradicate all hazards and risks, but to consider risks as part of the general management of the business, with a view to taking sensible steps in order to be able to reduce accidents and harm, where possible. Hazards and risks should be discussed with employees, training provided, records of any accidents kept and necessary equipment and methods provided to reduce the risk of injury.
By way of a summary, the HSE recommends that employers should:
- Identify hazards looking at both obvious risks and by for example, reviewing previous accidents and by looking at uncommon tasks employees have to carry out;
- Consider who might be injured at the work place including visitors and members of the public and take into account any extra needs for workers with disabilities or those of a vulnerable state;
- Look at reasonably foreseeable injuries. Assess how the risk of such injuries can be minimised and put in measures to prevent the risk. This could be by issuing protective clothing or boots or preventing the employee from being able to access dangerous equipment;
- Make a record of the above steps (if there are less than 5 employees, there is no legal requirement to write anything down, but it would be advisable) and to discuss these with employees;
- Continue to make regular checks to ensure the risk assessment is up to date.
My colleague Rachel Steel, Legal Executive at Hodge Jones & Allen has summarised the steps to be taken should an accident occurs.