Health and safety breaches are too common
Over one million people sustain a work-related illness or injury each year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In a majority of cases, the accident is caused by the employer's failure to follow a specific health and safety rule or procedure.
If you have been injured or fallen ill at work, it is possible to claim compensation for your injuries. To make a successful claim, you must demonstrate that you have suffered actual harm as a result of health and safety violations.
What are your employer's duties?
The primary piece of legislation is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Under this Act, employers have a general duty to assess all work tasks and take adequate steps to minimise the risk of harm. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 gives specific instructions to help employers fulfil this overriding duty of care.
Other health and safety legislation covers specific risks in the workplace. Depending on the type of work you do, your employer may have to comply with:
- The Noise at Work Regulations 1989 which seek to regulate harmful noise levels in the workplace and reduce the risk of industrial deafness
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 which requires employers to control exposure to toxic substances in the workplace
- The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations 1992 which guides employers in selecting, using and maintaining appropriate safety equipment such as hard hats, goggles and gloves
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 which ensures that workplace equipment is used correctly and is suitable for purpose
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 which regulates the lifting, carrying and transporting of loads
- The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 which sets out what people in the construction industry need to do to manage the safety risks of a building site.
Safety breaches could be relatively minor, such as leaving a box or other trip hazard on the floor. Or they could be potentially very serious, such as not erecting scaffolding properly causing workers to fall from height.
The size of the safety breach is not important. Employers are expected to comply with the legislation in full and may be found to be negligent if any breach, even a minor breach, causes someone to suffer harm.
What to do if you have been injured by a health and safety breach
Accurate medical records
If you have sustained a serious injury or one that needed urgent medical attention, you will probably have already seen a doctor or visited A&E.
You should ask for a copy of your medical report, and check that the report accurately describes your injuries. If some injuries are missing from the report, or the report suggests the injuries are less serious, it can be more difficult to claim the full compensation you are entitled to.
Keep a record of your accident and injuries
A record will make it easier to claim:
- Injury compensation
- Any benefits you are eligible to receive
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
It is a good idea to make a record while you still clearly remember what happened, and while it is easier to get photos and contact details of witnesses.
You should report the accident
If possible, you should notify your employer about any accident at work. If your employer was unaware of the breach, they can act to remedy this and prevent further accidents.
Your line manager or health and safety rep will complete a record for the company accident book.
Can I claim for a health and safety breach?
You may be able to claim if you were injured in an accident at work, or if you have developed an occupational illness due to your working conditions. You must start your claim within the three-year time limit.
You may also be able to claim even if you caused the accident yourself, if you were asked to do something dangerous without training or supervision, or without proper equipment and protection.
Can I claim for a breach if I wasn't injured?
You cannot make an injury claim solely because a breach has the potential to cause harm, but no injury has actually been sustained. Nevertheless, such breaches should still be reported to the appropriate authority once identified.
Compensation depends on the type and seriousness of the harm you have suffered and not on the employer's behaviour.
The court may consider an employer's ongoing failure to deal with a known issue as evidence of the employer's negligence, but a "bigger" breach will not result in more damages unless the scale of the breach caused more serious injury.
When will I get financial support?
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is normally paid through your employer in the same way as your salary. You should receive SSP weekly or monthly, depending on how you are normally paid.
Other support, such as disablement benefit and injury compensation can take longer to claim. If you urgently need support, your solicitor may be able to arrange for an interim payment to be made to you before your injury claim is settled.
How will my employment status affect my right to claim?
The claims process for full-time workers is generally simpler than for self-employed contracts or agency workers, but you should still be able to claim compensation.
Read more about claiming if you are:
How much can I claim for a health and safety breach at work?
Health and safety breach claims cover just about any injury or illness in the workplace. According to the HSE, the most common types of workplace injury include:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (fractures, strains, sprains and other conditions affecting the bones, muscles and tendons)
- Skin diseases for example, allergic reaction to chemicals and industrial dermatitis
- Asbestos-related disease
- Work-related hearing loss
- Industrial cancers
- Respiratory disease
The compensation you can claim for an injury or illness at work is worked out in two parts:
- General damages - based on the seriousness and type of your injuries, and
- Special damages - based on your financial losses, like lost wages and treatment costs
If you were not injured, you cannot claim compensation, even if the breach could have potentially caused very serious injury.
The Work Accident Advice Centre online calculator sets out what you can claim for, and how much compensation you could claim.
No win, no fee health and safety breach claims
Work injury claims in the UK are usually made with the help of a solicitor. Most work accident solicitors work on a "No Win, No Fee" basis. This means that you will only pay any legal fees if your workplace injury claim is successful.
The solicitor's fees will be paid out of the compensation award.
Speak to us today if you have any questions about how No Win, No Fee injury claims work.
Our work injury advisors will:
- Offer free, impartial advice
- Explain how No Win, No Fee works
- Recommend the right solicitor