Causes and consequences of workplace accidents

Philip McKeever

February 18 2020

Accidents in the workplace are still a common occurrence despite improvements in employers adhering to Irish and European health & safety regulations. Although typically associated with construction or building site injuries, work injury claims also include slips, trips and falls. So, as you can imagine, the main causes of accidents in the workplace are difficult to define.

But why do accidents happen in the workplace and what are the consequences of workplace accidents? Let’s find out.

Your responsibilities

As an employer, you might ask what the ways to prevent accidents in the workplace are. Well, you must meet the minimum Health & Safety Act 2005 standards to prevent your employees from being involved in a work accident.

You must provide:

  • A safe way for employees to carry out their work.
  • A safe building in which to work.
  • Suitable materials and equipment.
  • A safe system of work with proper training and supervision.

Your legal duty is to minimise the risk of accident at work compensation claims by taking reasonable care for the health & safety of your employees. There are also additional circumstances where you may be liable for acts or omissions that result in injuries to employees.

Accident reporting procedure in the workplace

Employees who are involved in accidents at work or on the way to work should inform you immediately. You must report these accidents to the Health and Safety Authority when an employee misses three consecutive days of work (not including the day of the accident).

Sick leave and sick pay

You should check if you're required to pay employees during sick leave in the terms and conditions of your employment contract. In general, an employee has no right under employment law to be paid while on sick leave.

For further information on sickness and employment contracts, download our free Long-term Sick Leave and Employment Contracts guides.

Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme

The Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme is a group of benefits for employees injured or incapacitated by an accident at work or while travelling directly to or from work. Injury Benefit is a weekly payment made if they’re unfit for work due to the accident.

Employers’ liability insurance

Employers’ liability insurance cover enables you to meet the cost of compensation for an employee injury or illness which occurred at work.

Personal injury claim

When it comes to compensation, employees cannot seek any from an employer under health & safety legislation. However, they can make a personal injury claim through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). If either you or the employee rejects the assessment, PIAB will issue the employee with an authorisation allowing them to make a claim through the civil courts.

PRSI and tax

If one of your employees is out of work, they may qualify for a credited contribution. A credited social insurance contribution is a contribution given to employees and recorded on their social insurance record. Credit contributions are important because they may use them to qualify for a social insurance payment.

Employees may also get a tax refund if they’re out of work due to illness. This will depend on the length of time they've been unemployed, the amount of tax they’ve paid, the amount of tax credits they’ve used and their weekly social welfare payment.

Employees returning to work

Policies and procedures provide your business with cover. A sick leave and return to work policy can prove to be a crucial piece of documentation. The policy will support a safe return for an employee who has had an illness or injury.

You may also require employees to attend a medical expert to obtain medical evidence upon return. If unfortunately, an employee becomes disabled through an accident or illness, their disability may require that your workplace adapts or provides special equipment that they need to perform their job.

Dismissal

The situation may arise whereby you dismiss an employee while they’re on long-term certified sick leave. Under certain conditions, the employee could bring a claim for unfair dismissal against you. This makes dismissal an issue that needs to be carefully navigated.

To ensure you avoid a claim for unfair dismissal, download our free Unfair Dismissal guide.

Recent workplace accidents

Two recent cases highlight the importance of being proactive when it comes to workplace health & safety.

Cleaner awarded €105,000 after serious workplace injury

A 79-year-old woman who fractured her shoulder has received €105,000 in damages after slipping on a wet surface.

The accident occurred as she was walking down wet stairs which were open to the elements. The court ruled in favour of the woman as the proprietors did not do everything reasonable to highlight the danger.

Proactive barrier

To prevent a situation like this, utilise signage for wet floors or salt to reduce the chance of slipping. This kind of proactive approach to health & safety can save you from a hefty claim that can affect bottom-line numbers and your reputation.

Back injured lifting 20kg onions from the top of a pallet

A supermarket worker settled out of court after injuring his back lifting a pack of onions from the top of a pallet. The claimant was on his tippy toes and stretching to reach the 20kg bag and pulled something in his back. The claimant claimed his company “did not train him in the correct procedures to safely carry out his duties”.

Proactive barrier

To prevent this kind of situation and injury, train your staff in manual handling. If your employees are trained in manual handling, they will understand the risk involved in reaching for heavy goods at height.

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on workplace accidents from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 1890 252 923 or request a callback here.

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