Wed 26 Jun 2024

Workplace Accidents: Key Steps for Employers

All employees have a legal right to work in a safe and healthy environment, and all organisations have a duty to ensure they manage health and safety risks in the workplace effectively. However, sometimes, accidents do happen, and it is useful to know what practical steps you should take in the aftermath and to be aware of which organisations may become involved if the accident is serious.

Practical steps after a workplace accident

In the immediate aftermath of an accident at your organisation, you should first of all assess the scene and confirm if it is an isolated or ongoing accident with immediate risks to people and property. If the accident is ongoing, steps should be taken to manage further risks. You should check whether first aid is needed. If hospital treatment is required, the first aider should liaise with the hospital and ambulance crew. You should make sure that any witnesses to the accident are ok too. 

Once all immediate risks have been identified and dealt with and the people affected have received treatment and support, a complete and thorough investigation of the accident will need to be carried out and recorded.

What responsibilities does an employer have?

Under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), employers and people who are in control of the relevant premises are under a duty to report certain accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). There is also a duty to maintain records of certain occurrences which include:

  • Work-related accidents which result in death;
  •  Work-related accidents which can cause serious injuries (reportable injuries);
  • Diagnosed cases of certain occupational diseases e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome, occupational dermatitis and tendonitis;
  • Certain 'dangerous occurrences' with the potential to cause harm; and
  • Gas-related incidents.

A 'work-related accident' is defined as 'an accident arising out of or in connection with work', so the work activity needs to have contributed to the injury. 

Reportable injuries include fractures (other than to fingers, thumbs and toes), amputations, permanent loss of sight or reduction of sight, crush injuries, serious burns and unconsciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia. An accident should also be reported if, following the accident, the employee is off work or unable to perform their normal duties for more than seven consecutive days. 

In the aftermath of the accident, the organisation must ensure that a report is made to HSE as quickly as possible, and, in all cases, within ten days of the accident. Every organisation should have a designated person who is responsible for making RIDDOR reports. There are also recording requirements which must be adhered to. If your organisation has more than ten employees, you must keep an accident book. Accident books can be a useful way to identify patterns of accidents and help you to manage risk in the workplace.  

You should also check your insurance. Most insurance policies require the accident to be reported to the insurer within a certain time period. Keep a record of any correspondence with the insurer.


HSE is the central enforcement body for health and safety law in the UK. They have powers to issue improvement and prohibition notices. An improvement notice will be issued if an organisation has breached, or is likely to breach, health and safety law. A prohibition notice requires the immediate cessation of the unsafe activity which cannot be restarted until the inspector is satisfied that it can be conducted safely. It is a criminal offence to not comply with a notice.  

HSE (and other enforcing authorities) have powers to investigate. This includes the power to enter premises, to order that areas are left undisturbed, to take measurements and recordings and to require anyone they believe might give them relevant information to answer their questions and sign a declaration of truth. You will need to cooperate with requests from HSE and the Police. If you have any concerns about what it being asked of your organisation, you may wish to take advice from a lawyer.


Once the Police or HSE have carried out their investigations, they will submit a report to COPFS setting out the evidence gathered, analysis of potential breaches and their recommendations for further proceedings, such as if they recommend prosecution for criminal offences. The Crown Office decide whether or not there is to be a criminal prosecution. They are not bound by HSE's recommendations. They may opt to bring different charges or decide not to bring any charges at that time.

Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI)

If there has been an accident in the workplace resulting in a death, there must be a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI). An FAI is inquisitorial. It does not attribute blame. The purpose of an FAI is to establish what happened and prevent future deaths from happening in similar circumstances.

Practical steps organisations can take now

Health and safety is important, to reduce risk and avoid accidents occurring in the first place. Organisations can also take steps to reduce the number of accidents to their workforce, and also to ensure they are prepared to deal with an accident if it does happen.

Most important of all, organisations should provide support and assistance to those affected by the accident and take steps to improve safety for the future.

How we can help

Our health and safety team can help you in the event of an accident to ensure that you comply with health and safety legislation and provide you with advice should subsequent proceedings follow. Reach out to a member of our team.  

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