While the latest figures from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) show that the total numbers of accidents at work fell compared to the previous year, serious incidents, injuries and accidents unfortunately still happen and the rate of fatalities at work hovers between 0.45 to 0.5 per 100,000 workers.
The HSE oversees the implementation and enforcement of the UK’s Health and Safety Regulations and publishes yearly figures:
- In October 2013 they reported that fatal accidents in the workplace fell from 171 in 2011/2012 to 148 in 2012/2013. In 2013/14 it was 136 workers, and 144 workers were killed while at work in 2014/15 and in 2015/16. The majority of fatal accidents were in the construction industry followed by agriculture, manufacturing and in the waste and recycling industry
- Major injuries in the workplace fell from just over 22,094 in 2011/2012 to 19,707 in 2012/2013.
All businesses have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that all their staff and freelancers aren’t injured while working and that members of the public aren’t injured in accidents connected to work. In 2015/16, 103 members of the public were fatally injured in accidents connected to work.
If an employee or freelancer is injured through employer/client negligence they’re entitled to compensation for those injuries and for any resulting financial loss (time spent unable to work, medical expenses etc.). Employers are required to have employers liability insurance in place for such claims, although insurers may refuse to pay compensation on occasions (deny liability).
Employers with over five employees are required to have a written Health and Safety Policy and all employers must record certain accidents that happen at work, to the HSE’s Incident Contact Centre, under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) legislation:
The following must be reported (more details about RIDDOR are here):
- Any work related injury that leads to a member of staff being absent from work for more than seven working days
- Fracture other than to fingers, thumbs or toes
- Amputation of an arm, hand, finger, thumb, leg, foot or toe
- Dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine
- Loss or reduction of sight (temporary or permanent)
- Any crush injury to the head or torso causing damage to the brain or internal organs in the chest or abdomen
- Any burn injury (including scalding) which covers more than 10% of the whole body’s total surface area or causes significant damage to the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs
- Any degree of scalping requiring hospital treatment
- Injury resulting from an electric shock or electrical burn leading to unconsciousness or requiring resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours
- Any other injury arising from working in an enclosed space which leads to hypothermia, heat-induced illness or unconsciousness; or requiring resuscitation; or requiring admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours
- Injuries to non-workers – injuries to members of the public who are taken from the scene of the accident to a hospital for treatment for that injury.
The situation for freelancers/contractors
A positive work-life choice for many, being self-employed can cause problems when you’re ill or have sustained an injury while working, as you won’t be entitled to sick pay from the employer.
As a self-employed person, you’re responsible for your own health and safety while working (changes were introduced regarding health and safety obligations for freelancers/contracts in October 2015, which you can see here), but you’re not responsible for an accident that happens to you while working where you have no control over the safety in the workplace (and where you may work under the control of a third-party). Therefore, freelancers also may make personal injury claims.
Making a personal injury claim
If you suffer an accident or injury at work (as an employee or freelancer) you’re advised to find an experienced personal injury solicitor to investigate your situation and help you pursue a claim for compensation if this is appropriate. The solicitor will send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to your employer and pursue the case for you.
You can find an appropriate Solicitor through the website of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers – many of which work on a ‘No-win No-fee’ basis.
Please note – this website can’t help you with Personal Injury claims or recommend a Solicitor for you.
The laws on lone-working
Check out our guide to the law surrounding lone-working for more information.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.