Health and safety at work: do you know your rights?

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Whether you have a nine-to-five job in an office or you have a life-long career in extreme sports, every employee and employer has an obligation to ensure health and safety measures are adhered to in the workplace.

It was recently reported that a Game of Thrones stuntwoman is suing the popular TV show’s makers for a whopping £4 million after suffering what she describes as ‘career-ending’ injuries whilst performing a stunt during filming. Casey Michaels suffered catastrophic leg injuries after jumping from a platform onto an ‘unsafe’ landing area.

So how could this have been avoided? And what obligations do employees, as this stuntwoman was, and employers have to ensure workplace safety?

What is health and safety in the workplace?

Workplace health and safety is about managing risks to protect both employees/workers and the employer. Although the example of the Game of Thrones’ stuntwoman is an extreme one, workplace accidents can range from a back injury from lifting a heavy box incorrectly to a slip, trip or fall on a wet floor in the staff toilets. There are also ‘unseen’ injuries such as industrial diseases, which are more common in environments that involve hazardous substances or manual labour.

Having the correct health and safety measures in place can not only reduce injuries and accidents at work, but it can reduce the time employees take off work and subsequent disruption to the business.

Examples of health and safety measures

The types of health and safety measures employers need to have in place depend on the type of workplace, the role the employee has and the level of risk that is attributed to that job and/or working environment. Some examples of workplace health and safety measures include:

  • PPE. This was enforced in certain working environments long before the Covid-19 pandemic; many healthcare professionals are required to wear face coverings and protective clothing to keep themselves and their patients safe.
  • Protective clothing. Examples include high-vis jackets for workers on a building site, protective goggles for engineers and heat and flame-resistant uniforms for firefighters.
  • Training on heavy lifting. The majority of employees, no matter what their job is, will take part in some form of training on how to lift heavy items or boxes appropriately to avoid injury.
  • Use of cones to warn employees and/or visitors of wet surfaces that pose a slip hazard.
  • Checking desk/workstation set up. This is particularly relevant now that many of us work from home; employers must ensure their employees have an appropriate space to work from and this can include the type of desk or chair they are using and even the sound levels in the room.

Whose responsibility is it to enforce health and safety measures at work?

It is an employer’s legal responsibility to make sure that their workplace is safe for workers and any visitors. Business owners must carry out a risk assessment and enforce health and safety measures and staff training. Employers also need to ensure they have adequate policies in place (in line with HSE guidance) that outline how they control and manage risks.

However, employees also have a level of responsibility in that they should carry out any training provided by their employer when asked and to take care in the workplace. Health and safety goes beyond training videos and workshops; if employees are required to protect themselves from danger in the workplace through PPE or protective clothing, for example, it is their responsibility to ensure this happens.

Whilst employers must set out the risks and provide adequate health and safety training at work, employees have their part to play in reducing any further risk and reporting anything that they think is a risk that has not yet been managed or assessed.

I’ve been in an accident at work. Can I claim?

If you have been injured at work, you may be eligible to start a personal injury claim. To start a workplace injury claim, your solicitor will need to investigate how your injury occurred and the impact on your health to establish whether you have grounds for a successful claim.

To claim for an injury at work, your lawyer will need to prove that:

  • Your employer had a duty of care to protect your health and well-being at the time your injury occurred
  • Your employer failed in that duty of care
  • This failure directly led to, or contributed to, your injuries

The amount you can claim for a workplace injury depends on the severity and circumstances surrounding the incident. General damages covers non-financial losses, e.g. pain and suffering. In addition, you may be able to receive special damages which covers specific financial losses you have suffered or are likely to suffer as a result of the injury, e.g. loss of income and rehabilitation costs.

Can I claim compensation if I’m self-employed?

Self-employed workers also have health and safety protection and can therefore claim compensation for an injury at work.

Further information

Claiming compensation for an accident at work is sometimes the only way to get the closure and financial support you need to move forward. Whether it’s to replace lost income or to fund rehabilitation so that you can return to work when you are ready.

If you’ve suffered an injury at work through no fault of your own, our workplace injury solicitors are here to help. To speak to a member of our personal injury team, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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