In: Industrial Disease

Injury Prevention Week

During Injury Prevention Week, we want to highlight some of the positive steps we can take to protect others. Managing risk in any workplace should be an important factor in the day-to-day workings of a business. In this article, we’ll look at why it is legally imperative for an employer to prove that they are reducing risk to their employees, and the right priorities that should be considered when managing risk.

What is an employer’s duty of care?

Whenever you are employed, or whether you are carrying out freelance work on a business’s property, the owner of the business has a duty of care towards you. This includes proving that they have done everything reasonably within their power to protect you. This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace. This includes:

  • Carrying our regular risk assessments about any dangers that could be present in the working environment
  • Providing information to employees about any of the risks that do exist, and how steps have been taken to provide protection from these risks.
  • Instructing and training employees on how to effectively deal with the risks.
  • Consulting employees on health and safety issues. This consultation must either be direct or through a safety representative that is either elected by the workforce or appointed by a trade union.

If it is found that you have suffered an injury due to your employer failing to carry out these steps, then you should seek legal advice and you may be able to claim compensation.

Read more on our accident at work claims page.

How should you manage risk as an employer?

To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level, there are several preventative measures that can be taken. The order in which these are prioritised can also make them more effective. The following list shows the ideal order to consider risk factors in construction activities. These are:

1.) Elimination

Redesign the job or substitute a substance so that the hazard is removed or eliminated. For example, dutyholders must avoid working at height where they can.

2.) Substitution         

Replace the material or process with a less hazardous one. Care should be taken to ensure the alternative is safer than the original.

3.) Engineering controls        

Use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height. Install or use additional machinery such as local exhaust ventilation to control risks from dust or fume. Separate the hazard from operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery/equipment. Give priority to measures which protect collectively over individual measures.

4.) Administrative controls   

These are all about identifying and implementing the procedures you need to work safely. For example: reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards (e.g. by job rotation); prohibiting use of mobile phones in hazardous areas; increasing safety signage, and performing risk assessments.

5.) Personal protective         

Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found ineffective in controlling risks to a reasonably practicable level, must personal protective equipment (PPE) be used. For example, where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall (should one occur). If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.

Each of these steps are important considerations in achieving a safe and injury-free workplace. Our specialist solicitor Nimish Patel has stated that, ‘It is vital that managers are given adequate training in carrying out risk assessments on a regular basis, which then need to be monitored and reviewed. Too often, they are treated as a tick box exercise and individual circumstances are not considered or the risk assessments are not reassessed with each job.’

During APIL Injury Prevention Week, we think it is a great opportunity to highlight how employers can do as much as is in their power to protect their workers and reduce the number of injury claims.

Hear more about the member(s) of our team featured above:

  • Nimish Patel - Senior Associate Solicitor/Team Manager

    Nimish Patel

    Senior Associate Solicitor/Team Manager view profile