As an employee, you are entitled to expect that your employer will provide you with a safe work environment. A failure in their obligation to do so, that results in an accident that causes you to suffer an injury, may give rise to a Personal Injury* action.
The law does not require that your employer completely remove the risk of your being injured at work – this is impossible. However, it does provide that where employers do not take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of your being injured at work, an action could be taken against them.
Workplace Accident Lawyers for Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Leinster & Beyond
Claims for financial compensation for accidents at work are very complicated, and demand the attention of lawyers that understand the process involved. The accidents at work team at Sherwin O’Riordan deploy their expertise and experience to ensure our clients are supported.
What counts as an accident at work in Ireland?
There is no legal definition of an accident, reflecting the fact that accidents can happen in many different ways, for example:
- Slipping on a corridor floor that has not been cleaned properly;
- Being injured as a result of using faulty equipment;
- An employer failing to provide proper training on how to carry out duties;
- An employer exposing employees to hazardous chemicals/materials without proper protection.
The defining feature of an workplace accident is that it will normally be the result of an employer either doing something, or failing to do something, that should have been avoided, causing someone to be injured as a result.
How does the law treat employers?
The main piece of legislation that outlines how the law expects employers to treat their employees is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. It imposes a duty on employers to cater for employees safety, health and welfare at work so far as is reasonably practicable. It goes on to state that in order to protect employees from injury or ill health at work, employers must take certain steps. These include:
- Providing instruction and training to employees on health and safety;
- Giving employees protective clothing and equipment;
- Taking steps to prevent any behaviour that could put employees safety at risk;
- Putting employees in a safe environment that allows them to carry out their duties
It is very important to note that your employer’s responsibility to protect you from harm at work is wide-ranging. If you develop an illness as a result of your activities at work, and had not been adequately shielded from such a risk, your employer may have breached their obligations towards you. Furthermore, if your employer becomes aware that you are vulnerable at a certain point in time, and does not take extra measures to address your increased risk of injury, they may also have failed in their obligations.
How does the law treat employees?
As an employee, you owe a duty to your employer to take reasonable care for your own safety, and to follow the necessary procedures that your employer has put in place. Under the 2005 Act, you must, amongst other things:
- Report any problems with equipment that you think could become, or are, dangerous;
- Take reasonable care to protect your own health and safety, and that of your colleagues;
- Not do anything that will cause you to be a danger to yourself or anyone else.
How can an employee bring a legal action?
If an employee suffers an injury at work because their employer failed to observe their responsibilities for employee safety, they may decide to take legal action. The steps involved depend on whether or not the employer disputes their liability for the employees injury.
In the first instance, the employee must apply to Injuries Board, an independent statutory body that will assess the claim for compensation. Where the employer agrees that it was legally responsible for the accident, the Board will issue an order for the employer to make payment of financial compensation.
If, however, the employer disputes responsibility for the injury, or either the employee or employer disagree with the Board’s award for compensation, the Board can refer the matter to the courts.
If the matter is to be referred to the courts, it is important to be aware of the following:
- A claim must be raised within 2 years of the date of the accident
- The courts enforce a time limit on claims for compensation arising from accidents at work rigorously. If the claim falls out with this deadline, the employee may have lost the opportunity to seek financial compensation.
- The employee will need to convince the court that your employer was negligent towards you
There will only be proof that an employer was negligent towards employees where there is evidence that:
- They owed a duty of care to protect employees safety – in most cases this will be easily established by virtue of an employment contract and the relevant legislation;
- They breached their duty of care towards the employee – in practice, this requires evidence that the employer did something, or failed to do something. This will normally be evidenced by expert witness testimony;
- The employers breach of their duty of care caused the employee to be injured – this is the most important criterion in the test for negligence: the breach of an employer’s responsibility to the employee must be the cause of the accident.
The court will determine the appropriate financial compensation.
If a court is satisfied that the employer has been negligent, it will consider the sum that the employee seeks in financial compensation. However, it is for the court to determine how much the final award should be. Furthermore, any evidence that the employee contributed to their own injury, i.e. not following the correct procedures or exposing themselves to real danger, may result in a reduction in the award they ultimately receive.
Accidents at Work Team at Sherwin O’Riordan Solicitors Based in Dublin, Ireland
At Sherwin O’Riordan, our experienced lawyers have over 40 years of experience in the field, and understand the concerns of individuals injured at work: their likelihood of future employment elsewhere; and the impact of the injury on their, and their family’s, quality of life.
Our team provide a professional service that meets our clients’ needs. Legal advice is available. Get in touch on touch +353 1 663 2000 to speak with one of our experienced solicitors.