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What happens if I’m injured at a client’s premises? Laws on lone-working explained

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.

[Article updated 2016]

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 recyling 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 are not injured while working and that members of the public are not 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 are 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 5 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 7 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

  • Death

  • 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 are ill or have sustained an injury while working, as you will not be entitled to sick pay from the employer.

As a self-employed person you are 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 are 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 are 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 cannot help you with Personal Injury claims or recommend a Solicitor for you.

The Laws on Lone-Working –

At the end of 2014 national convience store retailer McColl’s was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £78,000 in costs for failing to do enough to protect its employees from 6 violent robberies at 4 branches. They had not carried out lone-working risk assesments.

So what it the law on lone-working? While there are no general legal restrictions on working alone, employers have to consider Section 2 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which requires Employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, so far as is reasonably practicable. And also consider regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which requires employers to make a suitable and sufficient assesment of the risks to the H&S of employees while they are at work. Assessments should include defining the minimum number of staff and their experience levels necessary. While resources and costs will be a relevant factor in making an asessment of whether there is a need or requirement for lone-working, it should not be the sole factor. The HSE have guidance which emphasises the importance of training for lone workers and to have procedures in place to monitor lone workers. You can read our full Guide to Lone-Working here.

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.

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