Under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, most employers are legally required to insure against liability for injury or industrial disease incurred by their employees at their place of employment.
While a liability insurance policy is in place to cover the specific activities that relate to the business, an insurer cannot refuse to pay compensation simply because, for example, reasonable protection has not been provided to employees against injury and disease or any legal requirement connected with protection of employees has not been met.
Employers liability “get out”...
However, taking out an Employers’ Liability insurance does not mean that an employer can simply imagine they are legally “covered” and the “insurance will pay for anything that happens to their employers.” In other words, a convenient “get out” for employers to not carry out adequate risk assessments and take all “reasonably practicable measures” to protect employees and report incidents.
Across Britain there are a significant number of companies who neglect or wilfully fail to undertake their legal responsibilities. Between, 2011 and 2012, there were 22,433 serious injuries and a total of 111,164 reported non-fatal injuries reported by the HSE, with the most common type of workplace accident still involving slips or trips (2 in 5), and falls from a height (more than 1 in 5). During the same period, HSE prosecuted 551 cases in England and Wales, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year, securing 506 convictions while 95 cases in England and Wales were prosecuted by Local authorities.
Many serious injury claims cases are brought to a court hearing because an employer’s negligence was to be shown to be the cause of a workplace accident or injury. While accidents, such as slips, trips and falls can often result in minor injuries, where machinery, industrial process or moving vehicles, such as forklifts are involved, accidents can be life changing or even prove fatal.
However, it’s more than likely that employees may simply keep quiet rather than risk losing their job or negatively affect the relationship with their employer despite suffering quite serious injuries, which may even require days off work. Even the most mundane of workplace accidents can have unexpected results, from a skin cut, which turns septic to a bruised rib shown in an x-ray as actually being fractured.
An accident “not worth making a fuss about...”
One recent type of workplace accident, usually considered “not worth making a fuss about” involved a 60 year old security guard who slipped on a toilet floor, which led to knee surgery and four months off work. It was found that the floor surface was wet because of a leaking tap. However, there was a slight complication due to the acceptance of liability based on who was responsible for not fixing or replacing the leaking tap – the employer (the occupier) and the owner of the site.
Due to the lack of a system for proper maintenance a seemingly small - and what should have been - an easily resolved problem, i.e. a leaking tap, led to a serious consequence and accident compensation claim.