Workplace Accident

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Learn how to protect your staff from workplace accidents, how to report accidents, and what your duties are after an incident occurs.

Work accidents can happen from time to time. So, every employer has a legal responsibility to deal with each incident in the best manner.

This ensures that similar accidents can be prevented in future. Not to mention, it helps employers remain compliant with their legal Health & Safety duties.

If you fail to deal with an accident at work properly, you could end up facing serious consequences. Like work compensation claims, business closure, and even potential imprisonment in some cases.

In this guide, we’ll look at what an accident at work is, what your legal duties are, and how to report accidents correctly.

What is a workplace accident?

A workplace accident happens when a person suffers from an injury or illness due to their employment duties, conditions, or environment.

Lack of training, improper facilities, and even negligence can all lead to an accident at work. They can happen unexpectedly - at any given time. So, it's best to know how to deal with them correctly.

Employers can manage an injury internally; for example by initiating first aid practices. But there are certain incidents where you must report accidents through formal methods.

Examples of common workplace accidents?

There are so many different incidents that classify as an accident at work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outline seven of the most common accidents and what their causes are:

Slips, trips, and falls

These incidents occur when employees work in unsafe, cluttered, or unclean environments. The most common injuries caused by slips, trips, and falls include bruising, sprains, and fractures.

Manual handling

These incidents occur when you transfer objects in an unsafe or incorrect way. The most common injuries sustained by manual handling include back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, and soft tissues injury.

Struck by falling objects

Again, these incidents occur when transferring objects, either through manual labour or by machinery. The most common injuries caused by falling objects include lacerations, spinal cord damage, and brain injury.

Falling from height

These incidents occur by working unsafely at a certain height, like on a ladder or on scaffolding. The most common injuries sustained include crushed limbs, broken bones, and serious brain injury.

Workplace violence

These incidents can range from verbal abuse to bodily assault. The consequences leave victims with physical or mental health conditions. The most common injuries caused by workplace violence include psychological, emotional, and even physical damage.

Contact with moving machinery

These incidents occur when the correct safety measures aren't followed when using moving machinery. The most common injuries sustained by machinery include skin abrasions, crushed limbs, and broken bones.


These incidents occur when you collide with stationary objects that are hidden or stored incorrectly. The most common injuries caused by collision include bruising, cuts, and soft tissue injury,

Other injuries

Other common injuries can come from:

  • Toxic fumes: Caused by inhalation which can lead to respiratory damage.
  • Industrial deafness: Caused by poor protection which can lead to hearing damage.
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI): Caused by repeated labour which can lead to numbness, cramp, and muscle pain.

Who is legally responsible for an accident at work?

Ultimately, an employer holds full legal responsibility for any accident that occurs in their workplace.

This duty can fall on other people, like a health & safety officer or the employee who caused it. But the ultimate responsibility falls on you. When an accident at work happens, an employer must comply with:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR).
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).
  • The Health and Safety at Work Order 1978.
  • The Equality Act 2010.
  • The Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA).
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

An employer also has a legal duty for the safety and wellbeing of their employees. This also extends to non-employees found on their work premises, like customers or self-employed contractors.

This legal duty includes carrying out risk assessments, offering safety training, or assigning first aiders. If you neglect these, you could end up facing personal injury claims, business closure, and even paying an unlimited compensation award (depending on the injury).

Do employees have a legal responsibility for an accident at work?

Employees also have a legal responsibility when an accident at work happens.

They must take reasonable care of their own health and wellbeing. For example, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent an abrasive injury. Or following the correct safety standards needed for their job.

They're also legally obliged to report an accident when it occurs during work. That way, their employer can deal with them in the best manner. It'll also help prevent future accidents.

Can employees be dismissed after an accident at work?

You cannot dismiss an employee after an accident at work. This is regardless of whether they caused the accident - with or without intent.

If you decide to unfairly dismiss them, they could decide to raise this to a trade union or employment tribunal (ET). Here, an employee could be reinstated and paid compensation, (along with legal fees) if their unfair dismissal claim is successful.

You can counter the compensation claim if it's found that the employee caused the accident with intent or through negligence. After investigations and hearings, the tribunal will decide which party was ultimately responsible for the accident.

Do employees get sick pay after an accident at work?

Some employees may be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) after an accident at work. This may be in addition to sick leave.

Certain accidents result in a minor injury which can heal quickly. Other times, they could leave employees with semi- or permanent medical conditions. That's where employees may be entitled to sick pay and leave.

If they don't qualify for these benefits, you could offer contractual sick pay instead. That way, employees are financially supported whilst they take time off to recover.

Can employees claim compensation for an accident at work?

Yes, if an employee was injured (where the employer was partly at fault), they can raise a compensation claim.

They could raise them to either their trade union or an employment tribunal (which usually has no upfront costs). They could force payment through the employer's insurance company, as well as other legal costs, if they're found guilty of negligence.

Employees are entitled to raise workplace accident claims without facing discrimination, harassment, or victimisation due to their actions. This can lead to an additional tribunal claim on top of workplace accident claims.

Do you have to report every accident at work?

An employer is only legally obliged to report a certain type of accident at work.

If they're considered as minor incidents, you should seek medical attention for the injured person. It's also good business practice to keep a record of it within your company accident book.

You are legally obliged to report serious accidents under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations or RIDDOR. This legislation requires the employer (or safety officers) to report:


All deaths to employees and non-employees (like customers or the public) must be reported if they're linked to a work-related accident.

This includes death that occurs to employees working on or off-site. An employer doesn't have to report suicides; however these incidents may be subject to further investigation.

Incapacitation from work

An incapacitating injury usually prevents an injured person from walking, driving, or doing normal activities they could do before.

If an injured person is unable to attend work for at least seven days, it must be reported. If they're incapacitated for three days, it must be documented but doesn't necessarily need to be raised through a RIDDOR report.

Specific injuries

Under RIDDOR, there are numerous specific injuries that must reported, like:

  • Fractures (not including fingers, thumbs, or toes).
  • Amputations.
  • Sight loss (semi- or permanent).
  • Damage to limbs and organs (like the brain or internal organs).
  • Burn injury (including scalding).
  • Loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia.

Sometimes, you might not know the full extent of a workplace injury. For example, the employee's medical records aren't currently available. Here, the employer isn't required to process the RIDDOR report until their injury leaves them incapacitated for seven days or more.

Occupational diseases

An employer must report any occupational diseases and illnesses that are linked to their workplace. These diseases are either caused by or worsened due to an employee's current job.

Occupational diseases that must be reported include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Cramp in hands or forearms.
  • Occupational dermatitis.
  • Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
  • Occupational asthma.

Dangerous Occurrences

Dangerous occurrences are often referred to as near misses. This is when an incident has the potential to cause a serious injury or even death.

These occurrences don't require complicated analysis or assessments. Rather, the employer needs to make a reasonable judgement on whether the incident could potentially lead to a real risk. This is when it's best to raise it as a RIDDOR report.

How to manage an accident at work claim

Remember, it's the responsibility of the employer to manage incident or accident at work claims.

As mentioned, your first call of duty is to attend to any injured person or parties. Once they are safe and content, you should take reasonable steps to deal with the safety risk or hazard.

Let's look at how to manage an accident at work claim:

Seek medical attention for the injured person

The first step the employer should take is to seek medical attention.

You need to make sure their immediate needs are met by a medical expert. Even if their injury doesn't seem serious, encourage them to get first aid help as soon as possible.

Anyone with sufficient first aid training can also help them. Although, it's still best to contact medical experts for a serious injury.

Record incidents in an accident book

Employees can face an accident at work claim at any given time. When you do, it should be recorded in an accident book. This is a legal requirement if you hire more than 10 employees.

The employer must document what kind of workplace injury it was, as well as the severity of it. You also need to explain how the accident happened, contact details of the injured person, and what injury they sustained.

You can document a less serious injury within your accident book. However, serious ones must be reported to the HSE. Your company accident book can also act as legal evidence should you face a future workplace injury claim.

Report to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if necessary

Some accidents must legally be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE is a governing body who regulate safety standards in the workplace. They help employers determine ways to prevent workplace injuries, fatal incidents, and ill-health.

If the accident at work claim needs to be reported to the HSE, it should be done through one of seven ways:

  • Report of an injury.
  • Report of a dangerous occurrence.
  • Report of a case of disease.
  • Report of flammable gas incident.
  • Report of a dangerous gas fitting.
  • Report of an injury offshore.
  • Report of a dangerous occurrence offshore.

Investigate how the accident happened

The next step involves the employer investigating how an accident occurred in the first place.

You can run risk assessments to investigate workplace accidents. From here, you'll be able to gather photographic evidence or witness accounts, ready for future hearings.

Write up your investigation findings and update your Health & Safety policy. This will help address such situations and prevent the accident from happening again.

Be cooperative with every accident at work claim

Every employer should be cooperative when faced with an accident at work claim.

Reporting an accident within the time limits can prove to be difficult. But you need to ensure you've fulfilled all your obligations before an employee processes their accident at work claim.

If you remain cooperative during this time, it reflects well on you and your business. Courts could lessen a compensation award, as they’ll acknowledge that you've taken the correct steps to manage the incidents.

Prevent future accidents from happening

Every employer will probably deal with accident at work claims from time to time. Whilst they're unavoidable, you may learn ways to prevent a future workplace accident claim from arising. For example:

  • Carry out risk assessments to identify any safety hazards.
  • Implement all necessary safety measures to prevent employees getting injured or becoming unwell.
  • Ensure all staff receive proper safety training for their job.
  • Provide policies and procedures which highlight how to stay safe at work.
  • Display cautious signs and safety posters to alert employees about potential hazards in the workplace.

How do you manage an accident in a high-risk workplace?

Some workplaces are at a higher risk compared to others.

For example, construction, steel, and energy industries are prone to higher accident at work claims. That's because these workplaces deal with greater safety risks; like exposure to toxic chemicals or complex machinery.

In these businesses, it's important to control and reduce these work-related accidents. Employers must report accidents appropriately, keep HSE-compliant, and maintain a safe working environment.

Is there a difference between a workplace accident and an incident?

There is a distinct difference between a workplace accident and an incident.

An incident is classed as a near-miss or a dangerous occurrence. Depending on the severity of the injury, an employer may be legally obliged to report it under RIDDOR regulations - but not all of them.

The good way to separate the terms is to think of incidents as an accident waiting to happen. They don't always result in an actual injury; but you may still need to hold investigations and reports for them.

Get expert guidance on workplace accidents with Peninsula

It’s so important for every employer to control all potential risks and hazards which may lead to an accident at work claim. This extends to employees, self-employed contractors, and any other person in connection with your work premises.

Failing to comply with workplace accident laws could lead to court proceedings. If you're found guilty, you could face financial losses, business closure, and even potential imprisonment in some cases.

Peninsula offers expert guidance on accident at work claims. Our HR team offers 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year.

Want to find out more? Contact one of our HR consultants today. For further support, call our telephone number 0800 028 2420.


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