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Accidents at work can happen to anyone, regardless of their industry or profession. Whether it's a minor slip or a more serious incident, reporting it quickly and providing relevant details is essential both for your wellbeing, preventing similar accidents in the future and compliance with health and safety law.

In the following blog post, the work accident claims experts at Ramsdens provide a comprehensive guide on how long you have to report an accident, how to go about making a report, and what you may be able to do if you do not report the incident on time.

What are your legal obligations when it comes to reporting accidents?

Both employers and employees have legal obligations when it comes to health and safety in the workplace.

Employers are bound by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which mandates that they must, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This involves conducting risk assessments, implementing safety measures, and maintaining accurate records of accidents.

Employees are also responsible for reporting any accidents or unsafe conditions to their employer, and are often required to cooperate in any investigations related to accidents. This could involve providing a detailed account, participating in interviews with police or other investigators, or presenting any evidence like photographs or witness accounts that they may have gathered.

A key regulation that governs accidents in the workplace is RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013), which outlines the types of incidents that must be reported and the procedures for doing so. Employers, or designated responsible persons, are obliged to report incidents such as:

  • Work-related deaths
  • Serious injuries (known as 'specified injuries')
  • Injuries after which an employee is unable to work for more than seven consecutive days
  • Work-related illnesses
  • Dangerous occurrences or near misses

Failure to report a qualifying incident under RIDDOR within the specified time frame can result in legal consequences, including fines.

Timeframe for reporting an accident

The timeline for reporting an accident varies depending on the company's internal policies. However, it is generally advisable to report any accident, no matter how minor, as soon as possible. Quick reporting allows the employer to take immediate action to address any safety concerns and prevent future incidents, and ensures compliance with RIDDOR requirements.

The severity of an accident or injury can also impact how long the reporting timeframe is. For example, fatal accidents must be reported immediately, while most other types of accident have a deadline of ten days after the incident for reporting. Diseases must be reported as soon as they have been confirmed by a medical assessment, and injuries that did not manifest straight away should be reported as soon as they become evident.

When it comes to claiming compensation, you generally have three years from the date of an accident to make a personal injury claim. This period is also known as the 'limitation period'. However, there are exceptions, such as in the case of industrial diseases, where the 'date of knowledge' - when you became aware of your condition and its relation to your work - marks the beginning of the limitation period. For work-related accidents that involve children, the limitation period for making a claim does not begin until they reach the age of 18, but the accident itself should be reported as soon as possible.

There can be exceptions and special circumstances that alter these timeframes. For instance, for members of the Armed Forces, the limitation period can sometimes be extended. Such exceptions are rare and typically require expert legal consultation to navigate.

Understanding these timeframes and reporting an accident promptly not only safeguards your rights but also contributes to a safer working environment for everyone.

How to report an accident at work

Reporting accidents is generally simple and should be made so by your employer. By law, all workplaces must have an accident logbook to record details of accidents in. All accidents and injuries, even minor ones, should be recorded in the accident logbook. Even if your accident didn't result in injury, neglecting to report the accident might mean the hazard that caused it is not remedied, and it can lead to further accidents and potential injuries.

Here is what you should consider when you have an accident at work:

  • Immediate steps: first and foremost, you should inform your supervisor or line manager about the accident. Promptly seek medical attention, even if the injury appears minor, as some conditions manifest symptoms later.
  • Formal reporting: after receiving medical care, you should complete an accident report form. Make sure you collect evidence such as photographs, CCTV footage if available, and the contact details of any witnesses to the accident.
  • RIDDOR reporting: certain severe incidents or near misses will also need to be reported under RIDDOR. The responsibility for this usually falls on the employer, and failure to report can result in legal consequences.

Consequences of late reporting

The ramifications of failing to report an accident at work within the prescribed time limits can affect both employees and employers.

For employees, one of the most immediate consequences is potentially jeopardising your ability to make a personal injury claim. Failing to report an accident in a timely manner could weaken your case, as vital evidence may be lost or the credibility of your account may be questioned.

Many companies have internal policies that provide medical coverage or other benefits to workers in the event of an accident. By delaying your report, you might forfeit these benefits.

Additionally, late reporting may also impede the identification and correction of safety hazards, potentially endangering other employees. Depending on the company’s policy, the employer could take disciplinary action, including warnings or even termination in extreme cases.

For employers, late reporting can leave them subject to legal action. Under regulations like RIDDOR, failure to report certain types of incidents within the stipulated time frame can result in fines, and in severe cases, imprisonment. Companies that fail to comply with health and safety regulations may also suffer from reputational damage, which could impact business operations, customer trust and increased insurance premiums.

Delays in reporting can also affect an employer’s ability to act swiftly in implementing new safety measures, thereby increasing the risk of further incidents.

Common law requires all parties to act responsibly and take reasonable steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the workplace.

What to do if you’ve missed the deadline

If you’ve missed the deadline for reporting an accident, seek legal advice. There may still be exceptions or special circumstances that allow you to make a late report or claim.

Ramsdens Solicitors can provide expert advice on liability and eligibility to claim. With extensive experience in personal injury claims related to accidents at work, our team can guide you through the entire process. Contact us today for a free initial consultation by calling 01484 821 500 or fill out an online contact form to arrange a time for us to call you back.