I had an Accident at Work – Is My Employer Liable?

The short answer to the question is that of course it depends on what kind of accident you had and why it occurred. The fact is that an employer is responsible in law for the safety of all employees whilst on company premises and/or carrying out work or training for the company.

Following the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 employers have been obliged to ensure safe and hazard-free working conditions and could potentially face legal action from an employee injured as a result of a workplace accident. There are cases where an employer could still be held responsible even if a worker injured themselves through their own careless actions or behaviour if the employer’s negligent actions were considered to have contributed, or led, to the accident. However it is worth looking into exactly what your responsibilities are as an employee before rushing to lodge a claim against your employer.

Your Responsibilities as an Employee

Although an employer is legally bound to ensure health and safety regulations are strictly followed in the workplace – and out of it where necessary, on external training courses for example – workplace safety is an issue for all. Many workplace accidents are reported every year across the whole spectrum of industry but thankfully the accident statistics are falling. Some of these accidents will undoubtedly be as a result of faulty or non-existent attention to safe working practices but unfortunately a good many of them won’t be.

There are certain instances when an employee may have an accident and sustain injury through their own negligence. This means that if it can be proved that your accident occurred because of your disregard of health and safety rules, for instance, your employer may not be held fully responsible. Other instances in which an accident could be construed as being the fault of an employee rather than an employer include:

  • Where an employee wilfully indulges in substance abuse which impairs their judgement and affects their behaviour whether whilst at work or not
  • Where an employee partakes of alcohol so that it affects their behaviour and impairs their judgement
  • If they indulge in reckless behaviour that could put them and/or their work colleagues in danger
  • If they wilfully show disregard of or disobedience of health and safety rules and safe working procedures

Forklift trucks are one of the big causes of workplace injuries and anyone driving a forklift truck must be competent to do so and must have the relevant certificates. An employer should also ensure that the relevant caution and hazard signage is in place where forklifts and moving machinery are operating. An employer may be tempted to ask a worker to ‘do a one-off job’ with a forklift when a regular driver is unavailable. If you are asked to drive a forklift even though you are not qualified to do so and you then have an accident in which you are injured or you cause someone else to be injured then this could be a case where the employer is held liable. However if you are driving a forklift truck in a careless manner whether you are qualified or not, you and your employer may be legally liable.

Your Rights as an Employee

The health and safety of all workers in all forms of industry is of paramount importance and government and EU rulings have enshrined this in law. Workers also have a number of rights at work including the right to immediate medical attention when accidents occur and a right to claim compensation where possible. An employee has the right to object to working where there are avoidable hazards.

How to Prove Your Employer is Responsible for a Workplace Accident

According to a guide to an injury at work claim there are several instances where an employer could be proven liable for your accident by their negligence. They must prove that you have received all necessary training and safety equipment to allow you to do your job safely. In order to ensure that workplace accidents are avoided as much as possible an employer is also responsible for the implementation of regular risk assessments.

If your job entails manual handling procedures, in other words using physical strength to move things around or operate heavy machinery there are regulations covering this. Likewise, any task which entails working with hazardous chemicals is covered by separate legislation. So put simply, if it can be proved that your employer has failed to follow the correct procedures and regulations before allowing you to perform a task then they could be held liable if you have an accident and you could have a claim for compensation.

In conclusion, your employer can be held responsible for your accident if they have not taken proper steps to eliminate any possibility of danger, even if the accident was brought about by carelessness.