Health and Safety at Work*
Employers must meet minimum health and safety standards to prevent their employees being involved in a work accident. Employers must provide:-
• A safe way for you to carry out your work
• Capable staff
• A safe premises/site in which to work
• Suitable materials and equipment
• A safe system of work with proper training and supervision
The legal duty of an employer is to minimise the risk of accident at work by taking reasonable care for the health and safety of an employee. This is embodied in both case law and in numerous statutes passed by Parliament for the protection of employees. There are in addition other circumstances where an employer may be absolutely liable for his acts or omissions which result in injury to his employees.
You may feel reluctant to make a work accident compensation claim against your employer for fear of victimisation or even losing your job. Your employer has a legal responsibility to provide a safe and secure workplace, provide competent co-workers, adequate materials and equipment, a safe system of work with proper training and supervision. Even if your work accident was caused by faulty machinery or equipment supplied by another company, the responsibility remains with your employer to ensure that it is safe for you to use and you have adequate training. If the work accident was not your fault, you’re entitled to reasonable compensation for your injuries, and the pain and suffering caused.
If your injury was caused by something a fellow worker did, or didn’t do, your employer will still usually be liable.
Industrial injuries at work are common and your employer should have insurance to cover work accident compensation claims from employers who have been injured at work. The case will be handled by the employer’s insurance company and victimisation is rare.
Compensation that can be claimed includes ‘pain and suffering’ for both the initial injury and for ongoing disability, together with compensation for any disadvantage on the labour market caused by permanent injury. In addition actual financial losses caused as a result of an accident at work can also be claimed including:
• loss of earnings
• special care aids and equipment
• adapted transport
• prescription charges and medical fees
• travelling expenses
• cost of care and assistance
• adapted accommodation
• costs of assistance for household chores
• other losses
DO’S AND DON’TS
Always report an accident to ones Employer or to the Supervisor or to somebody in authority.
If there is no record of the accident having been reported this will initially cast doubt on the claim in the eyes of the Employer.
Go to a Doctor or to Hospital if this is deemed necessary.
One of the questions which will be asked in connection with a claim is when you first attended with your doctor or at a hospital.
If therefore you feel that it is not necessary to go to a doctor and that the injury may go away, it is essential that you simply attend with your General Practitioner and inform him/her of your injury even if you have no intention of bringing a claim. The doctor will then have a record of the initial attendance and complaint in the event that subsequently the injury becomes more serious and it is necessary to bring a claim.
Remember that there is no obligation on an Employer to pay the employee whilst the employee is out of work.
This is one of the most misunderstood areas of the Employer/employee relationship. Many companies will have particular Insurance arrangements whereby an employee is paid whilst out sick. This is not however an obligation on the Employer. If one is out of work, the employee must seek Social Welfare benefit. On the other hand, you will normally at a later stage be claiming for your loss of earnings from your Employer because you are holding your Employer responsible for your injuries. The verified loss of earnings will be recovered when ascertained at the conclusion of your case.
Don’t sign an admission of liability or other document which holds you responsible for the accident.
This is often very difficult where an employee is pressurised to sign a statement and does not wish to jeopardise his job. Nevertheless wherever possible one should politely decline to sign such a document. It is worthy of note that if one does sign a statement in relation to ones accident it may subsequently be disregarded at the Hearing of your claim and it is not necessarily in itself deemed an admission of liability as far as the claim is concerned.
Don’t forget that insurance cover is very expensive in the Republic of Ireland in relation to Employers Liability claims.
This means that very often there is an excess on the policy. In other words the Employer will have to pay a given amount for example the first £5,000 in any claim. This may well mean that the Employer has significant influence and interest in the outcome of the case.
Don’t forget that although the employee may have a cause of action against the Employer for negligence which resulted in injury this does not mean that the Employer can necessarily dismiss the employee simply because a claim is being brought.
If the Employer tries to dismiss the employee on these grounds then the employee will have a separate action in the Labour Court for wrongful dismissal. Such an action on the part of the employee is quite separate to the action for personal injuries. Normally however, no Employer would risk an unfair dismissal action by letting an employee go following an accident. If there is a genuine accident at work the Employer realises that the employee is entitled to be compensated and that’s why insurance was arranged in the first place. An Employer may however be entitled to dismiss an employee for different reasons (nothing to do with the action for personal injuries) and the employee’s rights in these circumstances will depend on, among other things, whether proper warnings were given and whether the employee has worked with the company for a sufficiently lengthy period of time (normally twelve months) to acquire statutory rights. Naturally we would be pleased to advise on rights of this nature separately from personal injuries action if so required.
Immediate Callback from a Solicitor or Freephone: 1800 93 88 93
C.M. Haughey Solicitors, Christchurch Hall, High Street, Dublin 8, Tel (01) 421 4220, Fax (01) 454 8338
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.
*This statement is made in compliance with Reg. 8 of the SI 518 or 2002.