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What are employers’ responsibilities to staff after an accident?

Item from SHP August 2023  “What are employers’ responsibilities to staff after an accident?

Workplace accidents refer to any unplanned, unexpected incidents that result in injury or harm to employees during the course of their work.

When these accidents occur, anyone who is considered an ‘employer’ by UK legal standards has what is known as a “duty of care” to respond properly and take care of their employees and avoid further issues.

It is critical that you really handle these situations with sensitivity, acting swiftly to provide medical care and support while investigating the incident and preventing future occurrences. A thoughtful, thorough response demonstrates the employer’s commitment to employee wellbeing and safety. Proper handling of workplace accidents is both a legal obligation and an ethical imperative for companies to adhere to.

List of employers’ responsibilities

Providing first aid

When a workplace accident occurs, administering prompt first aid should be a top priority for employers. They have a duty to provide immediate medical care to injured employees until professional medical services can be accessed. Companies should have a medical kit readily available, stocked with items such as bandages, plasters, and antiseptic available depending on the situation.

If the injury is serious, it’s a must to contact emergency services straight away and facilitate swift transportation to hospital facilities. Providing emergency first aid demonstrates the company’s commitment to employee safety and can minimise pain, as well as short and long-term damages from injuries.

Investigating the incident

After providing emergency care, you have a duty to thoroughly investigate the accident to determine its underlying causes. This allows appropriate corrective actions to be taken, preventing similar incidents in future.

A robust internal investigation should analyse factors like unsafe conditions, procedural failures, training gaps, or equipment issues. Detailed records of the incident, investigation findings, and resulting actions should be maintained. It is always a great idea to file reports with health and safety authorities, such as the Health And Safety Executive (HSE), as quickly as you possibly and sensibly can.

Then fully cooperate with any external investigations.

Prompt and thorough incident investigations demonstrate an employer’s commitment to continuous safety improvement. By pinpointing causal factors, appropriate controls can be implemented, improving overall workplace safety. It is similarly very important to ensure that you remain well informed of all up to date information associated with health and safety, to ensure that the workplace progressively assesses and operates within current safety guidelines.

Facilitating medical care and compensation

Reasonable medical expenses, like hospital treatment, rehabilitation services, and prescribed medications should be covered. Employees may also receive compensation for lost wages if they are unfit to work during recovery.

The employer must handle related paperwork and insurance claims promptly and sensitively. In the UK, employers must have valid employers’ liability insurance to cover workplace illness and injury compensation. Rules for statutory sick pay must be followed properly.

For more serious or prolonged injuries, a claim may be filed with the Department for Work and Pensions for government compensation.

Throughout this process, employers must provide clear communication and progress updates to the affected employee. Ensuring smooth access to medical care and due compensation demonstrates an employer’s duty of care and compliance with legal responsibilities.

Making accommodations for the employee

As mentioned above, you have a duty of care to your employees and this extends to a duty to provide reasonable accommodations when employees are recovering from workplace injuries. This may involve modifying the employee’s regular job on a temporary or permanent basis to enable them to work safely and productively. Examples include altered schedules, light duty assignments, assistive equipment, or physical workspace changes.

In more severe cases, transferring the employee to an alternate suitable role may be required. Employers should engage in an interactive process, discussing limitations and possible accommodations directly with the employee.

Accommodations should follow disability discrimination laws and healthcare provider recommendations. Providing appropriate accommodations demonstrates an employer’s diligence to supporting recovery and enabling qualified employees to continue working after an injury. It is a key component of ethical and compliant disability management.

Legal liability and lawsuits

While most workplace accidents are handled internally, in some cases employees may pursue legal action against their employer for compensation. They may file lawsuits alleging negligence, unsafe working conditions, or inadequate safety procedures.
Common claims include pain and suffering damages, lost income reimbursement, and medical expense coverage. Employers can be sued for injuries causing long-term disabilities if proper accommodations are not provided. In the UK, claims typically must be filed within 3 years of the accident.

To avoid litigation, employers must thoroughly follow health and safety, employment, and disability laws. All incident response and compensation processes should be handled sensitively, with compassion and care for the affected employee. Clear communication and fair treatment reduce legal risks.

However, if a claim is filed, seeking prompt legal counsel is advisable. With proper incident handling though, most situations can be resolved amicably without needing to resort to lawsuits.

Reintegrating the employee

The return process should be handled sensitively, recognising that lingering physical, mental, or emotional effects may still be present. Employees should be consulted about their comfort level and any concerns.

Workloads and schedules may need to be adjusted temporarily to ease the back-to-work process. Refresher training and close supervision may help reorient and reassure those who have been away for extended periods. Open communication and emotional support creates a welcoming environment.

Celebrating the employee’s return fosters morale. Continuing any accommodations ensures ongoing ability to perform duties. While reintegration can be challenging, employees should feel that the company is invested in their long-term wellbeing and success after an accident. With compassion and flexibility, employers can facilitate a successful return that benefits both parties.

Maintaining best practice

Employers’ responsibilities have important legal and ethical duties when responding to workplace accidents. Providing prompt emergency care, investigating causes, facilitating medical treatment, making accommodations, and supporting reintegration demonstrate an employers’ responsibilities to staff wellbeing and safety. Handled with compassion and fairness, most situations can be resolved smoothly.

Ultimately, proper accident response protocols and policies benefit all parties, helping injured staff recover while protecting companies from further issues. With care, compliance, and communication, employers can effectively meet their obligations to employees following workplace incidents.
Read about IOSH Managing Safely Course offered by Bravanark Network.