How much compensation can you claim for a slip or trip at work?
It is estimated from studies by the Health and Safety Executive's Labour Force Survey that around 52,000 people per year are sufficiently injured through slips, trips and falls in the workplace to need more than 3 days off work to recover. Similarly around 17,000 sustain injuries through falling from a height.
The accidents' causes vary, but all should be preventable if an employer is following regulations set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 clearly defines that an employer has a duty of care to protect the 'health, safety and welfare' at work of all their employees as far as is reasonably practicable - and that includes temporary and casual workers, the self-employed and any others on their premises such as clients, visitors and the general public.
However, to bring a successful claim for an accident in the workplace you need to demonstrate that your employer has been negligent and that negligence caused the accident and the injuries you sustained.
What are the most likely causes of workplace slip and trip accidents?
Slips, trips and falls may be caused by equipment or objects being left in unsuitable places, uneven flooring, spills that have not been cleaned up, or adverse environmental conditions that have not been adequately prepared for.
For example trips may be caused by trailing wires or loose flooring; slips by spilled water or water from a leaking roof or pipes, and falls from unsteady ladders or through ignoring correct procedures.
How can slip and trips at work be prevented?
To prevent accidents employers should carry out risk assessments to identify potential hazards and put in controls to reduce or eliminate them. This includes training staff to be aware of the risk of leaving wires trailing and equipment lying around; the importance of clearing up spills and the correct safety procedures for working at height.
The employer must also ensure the premises are in good repair by securing floors and floor coverings, stairways and handrails, and sealing leaks to prevent slippery surfaces.
Where leakages are unavoidable anti-slip mats, anti-slip coatings or anti-slip footwear should be provided.
Equipment such as ladders should be checked by the employer, but also checked each time they are to be used by the person using them.
Although adverse weather cannot be prevented, employers should take measures to ensure that surfaces under their control - such as the staff carpark and outdoor walkways - are free from ice and snow, by treating with salt or grit.
Common slip and trip injuries
95% of major slips, trips and falls in the workplace result in broken bones; other injuries include sprains, dislocated joints, whiplash and concussion, as well as cuts, bruises and lacerations.
The impact of these injuries may sometimes cause the injured party some psychological stress, which may lead to depression.
What losses can I claim for?
As well as claiming for the pain and suffering caused by your injuries you may also claim for loss of amenity. This refers to the loss of participating in pastimes, sports or hobbies that you previously enjoyed. For example, if you played in a brass band but were unable to do so for a period of time because you had broken some fingers, you could claim financial compensation for that loss.
You may also claim for special damages - those which compensate your financial loss - such as loss of earnings if you have had to take time off work to recover, and any out of pocket expenses associated with your injuries. This may be for private medical treatment, the cost of attending appointments (travel, car parking), or even help with shopping and household chores.
Will my claim be successful?
Your claim may be successful if it can be demonstrated that your injuries were caused by your employer"s negligence.
Also if your injuries were caused by another employee"s action - for example a colleague failed to secure a safety device on a machine causing you an injury - your employer may be held responsible for the actions or omissions of that colleague. This is known as “vicarious liability".
However, if you were partly responsible for your own accident - for example you ignored a wet floor sign then slipped - a Court may decide to reduce your compensation award by a percentage to account for your “contributory negligence".
How much compensation might I be awarded?
The amount of compensation awarded depends on the extent of your injuries, the short and long term impact on your life, and the costs of any treatment, now and in the future.