Health and safety is an integral part of your business and following it not only keeps people safe but protects your business from lawsuits and claims. No one wants to see a colleague seriously hurt at work and then face the double blow of seeing their business suffer as well. It’s really important to not see health and safety as an inconvenience that protects your from your workers, but as a guide to help you do the best for them so they do their best for you.
So, let’s cover off a few obvious, and a few obscure, facts about work injury claims. Your Legal Friend has helped us pull together some titbits you might not know to ensure you’re implementing your health and safety correctly.
You have a duty of care
It might be an obvious one, but you have a legal duty to ensure you are doing all you can to keep workers safe as they carry out their duties. It’s so obvious, in fact, that you might wonder how you’d go wrong.
What if you asked one of your machine operators to lend you a hand moving boxes of office paper and they injured their back doing so? Would you be liable for that injury even though they do a physical job day-to-day? The answer is ‘yes’ if they’ve never received any manually handling training, but ‘no’ if they have. It’s very easy to accidentally step outside of this simple rule. And just a tip; every employee should be trained in manual handling, even office staff, as it’s a very common injury.
You have to be insured by law
You have to buy business insurance, and the bit of that insurance we’re focused on is the part that covers worker’s compensation and accident liability. Let’s say it once again – you need comprehensive business insurance by law, so don’t bury your head in the sand; get it.
This insurance serves two purposes; firstly, to pay out compensation to workers who need the financial help after an injury, and secondly, to ensure that paying that injured employee doesn’t bankrupt the business. Going beyond that, if you don’t have insurance, quite often, a solicitor won’t pursue a case which you might think is ideal, but if you care about your employees, you’ll want to see them taken care of with a reasonable settlement.
Now we’ve covered the basics of health and safety legalities, let’s get into the nuances.
Training and equipment are equally important
Health and safety, as you’ll know, comes in two main forms; training (which can mean professional certifications) and PPE (personal protective equipment). What can sometimes be missed is the important relationship between the two. For example, telling your workers that they have to wear ear protection around loud machinery is all well and good but what you really need to do is give training on exactly why it must be worn, how to wear it correctly, how to spot if it is faulty, how often it should be replaced and where to get a replacement.
Failing to follow the appropriate steps leading to a worker using PPE not up to standard for the job could mean a claim headed your way. It’s also important to get employees to confirm they understand the training and that they agree to adhere to it; this usually means them doing a short questionnaire and signing a document. And this leads nicely on to our next fact…
Employees can be responsible for their own accidents
If an accident happens within your business, it’s always best to treat your investigation of it objectively, even if you have suspicion of one party being at fault over the other. Being unbiased means you can see holes in your procedure but also aren’t deliberately looking for an error on the employee’s part. The best place to start looking is at the records for training provided. This is where proof of an employee’s understanding can reveal a lot.
An accident might take place where someone trips over wiring by their desk and breaks their arm. Your investigation of the incident reveals they moved a piece of computer equipment, causing the lose wiring, and were aware of the wires being a hazard but did not inform anyone who could have rectified the problem, in line with health and safety training provided 3 months prior. In this situation, the employee is responsible for their accident. And this segues on nicely to the next fact…
You can both be partly responsible for the accident
Taking that same example of a trip hazard, a small adjustment could make you partly responsible for the accident. If your health and safety training for this employee was only carried out when they joined, four years ago, and there was no evidence the employee knew the procedure for moving equipment or reporting hazards, then you’d be partly responsible. The reason you wouldn’t be wholly responsible, is that the employee took it upon themselves to move something and didn’t know who to report a problem to but wires are an obvious hazard that should have been addressed.
Figuring out the level of responsibility for an incident is difficult and the numbers may not fall the way you’d anticipate them to. Being partly responsible for an accident is usually calculated as a percentage in a settlement. And you’d therefore pay a percentage equal to the amount it is found you are accountable.