Accident In The Workplace: A Case Study
The Law Of... hurting your foot at workMichael Kenny, a Maintenance Supervisor from Derby, injured himself while at work; a seemingly innocuous incident that led to a long battle for compensation.
Beginning the day like any other, Mr Kenny arrived at work, a trip to the hospital the last thing on his mind. At the time, the country was taking a battering from severe summer storms, and as he made his way to the workshop – his company being a supplier and distributor of bicycles, related accessories, and motorcycles – Mr Kenny noticed that various areas of the warehouse were partially flooded.
It was as he walked along the corridor outside, one used for both pedestrians and storage with yellow demarcation lines dividing the two, that the accident occurred.
Due to the age of the light fittings that lit his way, they regularly took 15-20 minutes to reach full luminescence. As it was still early morning, the lights hadn't long been switched on, and this made it difficult to see every last detail upon the grey, concrete floor.
The errant wheel nut, resting on its edge, went unnoticed right up until the moment Mr Kenny trod on it.
Health And Safety At Work
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 sets out what employers need to do in order to provide a safe atmosphere for their employees and covers most workplaces in the UK. The regulations within are enforceable by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Regulation 12 deals with the condition of floors and traffic routes, stating that:
- So far as is reasonably practicable, every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be kept free from obstructions and from any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall
Regulation 8 covers lighting:
- Every workplace shall have suitable and sufficient lighting […] enabling people to work […] and safely move from place to place. An employer has a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the welfare of all its employees and the Workplace Regulations expands on what these duties are
Treading down hard on the wheel nut caused Mr Kenny to lose his balance and fall to the floor. Recovering, he began to feel intense pain in his foot
and upon examining it found it to be swollen and turning red. The impact of the nut corresponded with where Michael Kenny had a verruca, aggravating the existing condition and, reporting the accident to his manager, he made a request to leave early so he could rest his foot.
The manager told Mr Kenny he could go once he'd assisted in fixing one of the leaks causing the floods throughout the warehouse. This was on the condition that he returned the next day to supervise some forklift training.
In a great deal of pain, Mr Kenny remained on site to help fix the leak, and reported to his manager before leaving, expecting him to record the incident in the accident book, as was company procedure.
Workplace Accident Book And RIDDOR
If an organisation employs 10 or more staff, it is legally required to keep an Accident Book on the premises. The book is used to record the date, time and details of an accident, including who was involved, the extent and cause of the injury, and the first aider attending. If the victim is in no fit condition to report their injury, the details of the person who does are also taken. It is a confidential document, which, by law, has to be retained and kept safe for 3 years.
The purpose of the Accident Book is to ensure that a timely account of the accident is logged and available for future reference, should a personal injury claim for compensation be necessary. It also allows employers to identify trends, so that changes can be made to reduce such incidents throughout the company.
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) is an item of legislation that requires certain accidents to be reported to the HSE.
- Breakages, other than to fingers, thumbs and toes
- Any accident that leads to an employee being absent, or unable to perform their duties for 7 consecutive days or more
The accident has to be work-related and result in an injury specified by the regulations
. Reports must be made within 15 days of the event.
Placed On An IV Drip
Mr Kenny's accident wasn't recorded in the accident book and, although he returned to work the next day and struggled through the fork lift training as requested, the pain did not subside. Despite two attempts to get the accident book filled out that day, neither was met with success (his manager being unavailable).
Due for an operation on his foot, for which he'd had to book two weeks holiday to accommodate, Michael Kenny finished that evening and the accident wasn't recorded. The following Monday he was in hospital, but due to the swollen condition of his foot, the surgery was unable to proceed. He was given antibiotics in an effort to clear it up.
The problem became so bad that Michael Kenny was eventually re-admitted to hospital and placed on an IV drip. The following month he was able to undergo the previously cancelled surgical procedure and once recovered, he attempted a return to work.
Offered no support by his employer and unable to return to his full duties within a timeframe that suited them, he was signed off sick and eventually resigned, having been placed under additional and persistent stress by the continued demands of the company. It was at this point that Mr Kenny approached Simpson Millar seeking legal advice. Gary Tierney, a Personal injury Solicitor
, took on his case.
It was asserted that Mr Kenny's employer had been negligent, breaching a number of its statutory duties, which included:
- Failing in its duty to provide a suitable and safe place of work
- Allowing an object to be and remain on the floor when it was a tripping hazard, contrary to common law
- Exposing Mr Kenny to the risk of an injury that was foreseeable in the circumstances
- Failing to provide a safe access route
Initially refusing to accept responsibility, independent medical reports were obtained and the employer finally conceded when the possibility of court action became a reality, settling for £2,000.
Pleased with the result Simpson Millar's Gary Tierney had achieved, Mr Kenny said:"My claim may have seemed trivial and flimsy to some, but I stuck by my principles and Simpson Millar stuck by me, all the way.""If I had to give advice to someone in a similar situation to mine, it would be to keep at it and don't let the employer bully you."
If, like Mr Kenny, you have suffered a workplace injury that wasn't your fault, contact our personal injury team
and find out if you could be entitled to compensation.