It is important to remain calm, but as Claire Simon, Partner and dispute resolution lawyer with QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright explains, ‘Keeping a level head and following a sensible, well thought out procedure to deal with what has happened, and to formulate an appropriate response, is the single best thing you can do to try to contain the damage and minimise the consequent fallout.’
Immediate action: checklist
You should have two initial concerns following a serious accident on your premises. The first is to ensure that the injured person receives appropriate medical care as quickly as possible, and the second is to ensure that the scene of the accident is made safe to avoid the risk of further injury.
After this, your next set of priorities should be to arrange for:
- details of the accident and the injury sustained to be recorded in your accident book;
- photographs of the accident site and surrounding area to be taken;
- CCTV footage to be reviewed to assess whether the accident was caught on camera;
- witnesses to the accident to be identified and asked what they saw or observed; and
- any dangerous machinery, defective equipment or hazardous areas to be sectioned off.
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)
Depending on the nature and severity of the injury sustained, you may also need to determine whether you are legally obliged to submit a RIDDOR report to the Health and Safety Executive.
This is likely to be the case where an employee or member of the public visiting your premises has been injured as a result of a work-related activity, and where the outcome is either a fatal injury or an injury which is categorised as reportable. This includes:
- a crush injury which results in a brain injury or internal organ damage;
- a scalping injury which requires hospital treatment;
- any loss of consciousness caused by a head injury or asphyxia;
- an injury which causes sight loss or blindness;
- a broken arm, hand, leg or foot;
- an amputation;
- serious burns covering more than 10 per cent of the body or which result in damage to the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs;
- an injury caused working in an enclosed space which leads to a hypothermia or heat-induced illness, requiring resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours;
- an injury which results in an employee being away from work, or unable to perform their normal duties, for more than seven consecutive days; or
- any injury sustained by a member of the public which results in them being taken directly to hospital (other than where their referral to hospital is purely for precautionary reasons).
A RIDDOR report will also be required in near miss cases that could have resulted in a serious injury, including those caused by machinery malfunction or hazardous workplace conditions.
If you are unsure about whether a RIDDOR report is required, then you should seek urgent legal advice as there are strict time limits of between 10 to 15 days following the accident in which a report must be filed and you could face a fine of up to £20,000 if you file your report late.
Finding out what happened
Once you have attended to immediate priorities, your next task should be to carry out an internal investigation to establish how the accident happened. This will help identify any gaps in your existing health and safety arrangements which may have been to blame and therefore need to be plugged, and the changes that need to be made to ensure that similar accidents do not happen in the future.
It is our strong advice that you get a solicitor involved to help you at this stage of the process, as the steps you take in response to an accident on your premises will be examined closely by the court in the event of a health and safety prosecution, and also by your insurer and the accident victim’s lawyers in the event that you are pursued for personal injury compensation.
Do not be tempted to destroy evidence uncovered during your investigation that you fear could be incriminating. This will only make matters worse and it is also an offence. Instead, take legal advice on the significance of the evidence and on what you can do to address or mitigate any problems or issues that the evidence might present in the context of a criminal or civil action.
How we can help
Our team of dispute resolution experts can help guide you through the post-accident process.
We can provide advice on your legal obligations under health and safety law, and support you in:
- filing a RIDDOR report, where required;
- carrying out an internal investigation;
- responding to enquiries made by the Health and Safety Executive or local authority;
- answering allegations of health and safety breaches, including at court; and
- making amendments to your health and safety policies to reflect any lessons learned.
We can also work alongside you and your insurer to defend or settle any personal injury claim that you may face, providing advice on:
- your liability for the accident;
- the severity of the injuries sustained;
- any treatment or rehabilitation that might aid recovery and reduce compensation;
- your options where you believe an injury has been faked or exaggerated;
- how you can support an injured employee to return to work; and
- dismissing an employee who is no longer able to work, even in an alternative role.
To find out more, or to make an appointment to speak to one of our expert advisors, please contact Claire Simon on 01905 721600 or via email at email@example.com
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.