Legal Advice

Accident at work? Accident reporting and employer responsibilities

5 Feb 2021

One of your most important responsibilities as an employer is to protect the health and safety of your employees at work. This takes a number of forms, including:

  • Taking measures to ensure the workplace is safe

  • Recording and reporting any accidents or injuries

  • Dealing with compensation claims for injuries caused by your company’s negligence.

If an accident occurs in the workplace, you may also be required to put specific measures in place to prevent recurrence.

Preventing accidents at work

Accident prevention is the most important aspect of your health and safety responsibilities. You must take measures to ensure that your workplace is a safe environment for your employees.

Identify risks

To identify areas where accidents could potentially occur, you should carry out regular risk assessments and take measures to limit or eliminate risk.

Any equipment or machinery on your site must be safe to operate and have protective guards where necessary. You must carry out regular maintenance and safety checks to manufacturers’ guidelines and ensure that operators have been trained to use equipment correctly.

Walkways and other access areas must be kept clear of hazards or snow and ice that could result in falls. If there are hazards, such as wet floors after cleaning, you must put up hazard warning signs.

If employees have to work at heights or lift heavy loads, you must provide equipment that enables them to carry out their work safely.

Provide training

Before employees can operate machinery or carry out tasks that involve working at height or heavy lifting, you must provide appropriate training and maintain a record of the training. As part of the training, you must make employees aware of any risks associated with their job — for example, letting employees know the maximum weight they can lift at work.

You should also offer all employees training in general health and safety matters and explain their responsibilities for working in a safe way. Publishing health and safety guidelines as part of an employee handbook reinforces the training. And you should also display a copy of the “Health and Safety Law” poster – or give your employees individual copies which you can download and print here for free.


Provide protective equipment

For employees carrying out hazardous jobs or working in hazardous conditions, you must provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, such as safety gloves, hard hats, safety glasses and high-vis clothing.

Appoint a safety officer

It’s essential that your business has a ‘responsible person’ to oversee health and safety on site. The safety officer should be familiar with health and safety legislation so that they can ensure your business is compliant.

They should also understand the procedures for recording, reporting and analysing accidents, as well as knowledge of any emergency measures that might come into play.

Recording and reporting accidents at work

Preventative measures like those go a long way to reducing the risk of employees having an accident at work. However, if an accident does occur and an employee is injured, there are procedures you must follow by law and you must also understand an employee’s rights if they are injured at work.

Your responsibility for recording and reporting accidents is governed under law by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and RIDDOR - Reporting  of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.

Types of accident

Accidents at work can take many forms, some more serious than others. These range from cuts and bruising, soft tissue damage and sprains to fractures, serious burns and even death. While all accidents must be recorded, some require reporting under RIDDOR.

Related: HR Services for small businesses

Employees’ responsibilities for recording accidents at work

If an employee has an accident, they must report it to the safety officer or to a supervisor or line manager. If the employee is injured, obviously they must be given help and medical assistance if necessary.

A responsible person must take the details of the accident and record them in the Accident Book, which is a document required by law if you have more than 10 employees. The report must include the following information:

  • Injured employee’s name and contact

  • Name and contact of person reporting the accident

  • Date, time and location of the accident

  • Details of the accident – type of injury and its severity

  • Description of the cause of the accident.

Accident descriptions

As well as a description of any injuries, employees or their representative should provide information on the possible cause of the accident. Was a machine faulty, was equipment overdue for maintenance, were there hazards that were not identified, was the employee trained to carry out the task that led to the injury?

This information can help determine if the accident was due to some form of negligence by your company, or if the employee had caused the accident themselves.

Reporting accidents subject to RIDDOR

If an accident comes under the scope of RIDDOR – death, incapacity for work, occupational illnesses or dangerous occurrences – you must report it to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). A comprehensive list of injuries that should be reported under RIDDOR is available from the HSE website.

A RIDDOR report form is available on the HSE website. This should be completed by a responsible person and submitted within 10 days of the accident. If the injured employee has to take more than 7 days’ sick leave as a result of the accident, the deadline is extended to 15 days.

The report must include the following information:

  • Date of submission to the HSE

  • Name, job title and contact details of the person submitting the report

  • Name, address and contact details of the company where the accident occurred

  • Location, date and time of the accident

  • Name, job title and contact details of the injured employee

  • Description of the accident and any subsequent injury.

As an employer, you must ensure that a RIDDOR form is submitted for any accidents under its scope. If you fail to submit the report, you could face a severe fine from HSE.

Responding to accidents at work

If an accident has occurred and has been recorded and reported in line with legislation, you must take action to remedy any problems that led to the accident. You must also recognise your employees’ rights in relation to injury at work and deal with any legitimate claims for compensation.

Analysis and remediation

If the accident was caused by something that was preventable, you have a responsibility to make improvements to ensure the accident does not recur. That may mean increasing inspection or maintenance routines, for example, or providing better forms of training.

The Accident Book provides useful information that can help you identify the cause of the accident. The information also helps determine if the accident was due to negligence and therefore subject to compensation.

Employees’ rights

Determining who is responsible for the accident can sometimes be difficult to establish. As an employer, you have a duty of care under law to provide a safe working environment. If you have taken all reasonable steps to ensure safety, then responsibility for the accident will lie with the employee.

However, in the event of a dispute about responsibility and liability, the employee has the right to refer the matter to arbitration by a body such as Acas.

If the accident was due to negligence, you would be held responsible and could face personal injury claims for compensation, with the size of claim in line with the severity of the injury. So that you can provide cover in the event of a claim, you must hold liability insurance.

Employees have up to three years following the accident to make a claim. This time frame allows for claims based on injuries or other problems that have arisen since the accident and are caused by the original accident.

Statutory sick pay

If the employee is unable to work because of the injury or some form of occupational sickness caused by negligence, you must pay Statutory Sick Pay, which is payable for a maximum of 28 weeks. If the employee is unable to return for a longer period, you may have to make other forms of sickness payment, depending on the agreement with the employee.

If an accident occurs, you cannot sack an injured employee unless you can prove that the employee caused the accident through gross personal negligence. However, this is not a straightforward issue and you may need to take legal advice before considering dismissal.

Take professional advice

Employment law and issues around accidents at work can be complex. If you would like professional advice to help you comply with your legal responsibilities or to deal with a claim, our team of lawyers can help. Please contact our employment law experts on 0207 043 4000  or