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ACCIDENT AT WORK

February 23, 2016
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Q: I had an accident at work 6 months ago, my doctor tells me that I will be out of work for at least another 6 months.    Can I bring a claim against my employer’s for compensation for my injuries?

A: You haven’t said how the accident happened or what injuries you suffered but if you are to be out of work for 12 months, then the injury must have been serious . In order to have a claim for compensation, you must be able to prove the accident was your employers fault- for example an unsafe system of work, faulty work equipment, inadequate training. There are a lot of protections for the safety of employees, including those in your work contract, at common law and in specific Health and Safety Acts.  Many employers will delegate the responsibility for safety at work to a Health and Safety Officer, who must be trained to do the job competently, or to a specialist Health and Safety Company. No matter what your working environment, your employer has a duty of care in respect of your safety when you are at work and if your employer has failed to discharge this duty, you may be in a positon to make a workplace accident claim.

Your employer has a duty to provide you with a safe working environment, the work area  should be kept tidy, floors and corridors should be free from hazards, doorways should not be obstructed, there should be sufficient room to move (or to move equipment if necessary) around your work area.  The work that you do should be assessed by your employer or a suitably qualified person to ensure that there are no risks of accidents associated with carrying out this work and if there are risks then procedures or equipment should be put in place to minimise or eliminate this risk.  A risk assessment should provide you with a safe system of carrying out your work and a document should be prepared setting out the safest way of doing your job.   You should receive appropriate training to carry out your work and this training should be updated regularly.  You should be made aware of the contents of the Risk Assessment document prepared in respect of your job and if you are unsure of any matters in the Risk Assessment they should be explained to you.  The Risk Assessment should be reviewed or added to if there are any changes in your work, such as location, new equipment etc.

To enable you to carry out your job safely it is also important that your co-employees are also properly trained and/or experienced and are aware of the matters arising in your Risk Assessment.  In the event that there is a common practice among your fellow employees of not following the system of work set out for you, or there is some horseplay or inappropriate behaviour at work, then it is the responsibility of your employer to notice this behaviour and to point out the correct behaviour in work.  If the incorrect behaviour continues that there should be consequences for your fellow employees for not working in a safe manner.    If you use equipment in your job, your employer must ensure that it is serviced regularly and repaired promptly.  If your place of work is large there may be a necessity to have a system of reporting and logging faulty equipment.

Some jobs require specialist protective clothing know as Personal Protective Equipment.   Section 8 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 places a duty on employers to supply PPE where “risks cannot be eliminated or adequately controlled”.   This equipment should be provided free of charge by your employer.  Such clothing or equipment could include hard hats, reflective jackets or steel toe boots on a construction site; or items such as goggles, protective gloves, ear defenders, dust masks; in certain types of employment it could include full protective overalls and breathing apparatus.  Equipment should not only be supplied but reviewed regularly to ensure that it is not damaged and it should be replaced where necessary.

Accidents at work should be reported to the Employer, Manager and/or Health and Safety officer immediately or as soon as possible and be recorded in an Accident Report Book and an Accident Report Form completed.  An accident at work must be reported to the Health and Safety Authority if the injured party cannot perform their normal work for three working days after the date of the accident.

You should bring any claim for compensation within two years of the date of your accident. This period is easier to determine where your injuries arise from a single event at work, however it may be that your injury are cumulative in nature from a job that you have been doing for a number of years.  It is very important that you discuss your circumstances and get advice from a solicitor who specialises in work related personal injury claims without delay so that appropriate steps can be taken to investigate your accident and ensure that you get appropriate compensation.

Sarah-BreslinSarah Breslin is a Senior Solicitor with many years experience in Litigation matters with Stone Solicitors, a law firm practicing from The Bull Ring, Wexford. Stone Solicitors is a Gold standard Q6000 law firm assessed under an independent risk management review by The Institute of Legal Research and Standards. Stone Solicitors can be contacted on 053 9146144 or by e-mail at info@stonelaw.ie .

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