Steps to follow
Employers have a duty of care to their workers and to visitors to their premises.
Their duty extends to providing a safe place to work, preventing risks to health, ensuring plant and machinery is safe to use, providing adequate training, and setting up safe working practices.
The working environment should be well-lit, well-ventilated and of a comfortable temperature (a minimum of 13 degrees C for physical work and 16 degrees C for sedentary work). Where this is impossible, the employer should take action to minimise the discomfort, for example, by providing waterproof clothing or reflective jackets.
Water, toilet and rest facilities should meet health and safety requirements.
If you see a hazardous work practice or suffer an injury, or near-miss, you should immediately report it to your line manager. The manager should log it in the accident book or take steps to prevent it happening again. If he or she doesn’t then keep a note of it yourself!
If no action is taken, you could raise a grievance with your employer. This would draw attention to the risk.
Where five or more people are employed, the employer must produce an official health and safety statement. They should consult with employees about this to make sure they are aware of all potential hazards.
By law, your employer should display a health and safety poster in a prominent position in the workplace.
Employers should keep an accident book in which all accidents, even small ones, are recorded. Small companies are exempt from this requirement. You should report any accident to your line manager.
Employers have to report serious accidents and injuries where the employee is off work for more than three days or where there is a work-related disease to the Health and Safety Executive. This is a legal requirement.
If you are off work following an accident, your employer may provide sick pay. If no sick pay scheme is in place then you will be eligible for statutory sick pay from the fourth day of absence and up to 28 weeks. Your employer is responsible for paying this.
If your accident or injury has been caused by the negligence of your employer, for example, by not labelling chemicals properly, then you can bring a personal injury claim for compensation. Nearly all employers should have employer’s liability insurance in case of such a compensation claim arising.
When choosing an employment lawyer, look for expertise in your area. Some lawyers specialise in a particular claim, for example, asbestos-related injury, and will be better placed to fight your case.
What to watch out for
You, the employee, also have duties of care. You can refuse to do something that isn’t safe without being threatened with disciplinary action. If your employer makes you do something you feel is unsafe, you may be able to claim constructive dismissal if you leave. This depends on the nature of the job. Similarly, if you are careless with health and safety and endanger other employees, your employer would probably be justified in sacking you for gross misconduct.
Solicitor’s top tip
As well as ensuring safe working premises, the employer is responsible for your safety off-site. This means your employer’s duty towards your health and safety continues if you travel out to do a job. However, the law is not always black and white. The employer’s duty is to take reasonable care to prevent against foreseeable injury.
Injury of a member of staff at work
Overview of accidents at work
Choosing an employment lawyer
Overview of employment rights business
Overview of employment rights personal
Overview of environmental health and safety requirements