Accidents at work

Specialty of Forensic medicine

What are work accidents?

The definition of a work accident can differ between countries, governing bodies and industries, but generally, a work accident can be defined as any bodily injuries caused as a result of the work they perform. Hence, for an accident to be considered a ‘work accident’ the following should apply:

  1. The worker suffers an injury (wound, blow or illness).
  2. The accident is due to work and there is a direct causal relationship between work and the injury (i.e. the injury by itself does not make it a work accident).

The following are generally considered work accidents:

  • Accidents suffered when going or returning from work.
  • Accidents suffered when performing a regular task at work during working hours.
  • Accidents suffered when performing irregular tasks, but which have been requested by the employer.
  • Illnesses contracted due to their job, but this must be proven.
  • Diseases or conditions previously suffered, but have been made worse or aggravated by an accident at work.

However, the following generally are not considered work accidents:

  • Accidents caused by external, major events not related to work (e.g. terrorist attacks or natural disasters).
  • Accidents caused by the recklessness of a worker.
  • Accidents caused by another worker that are not related to work (e.g. fights or pranks between workers that result in injury).
  • Accidents suffered as a result of intentional crimes being committed.

What happens after an accident at work?

Following a work accident, the general response may include:

  • First aid by a trained first aider (this is often a number of elected volunteers within the workforce)
  • Any necessary emergency services being called out
  • Logging of the accident and how it occurred
  • Notifying any relevant trade unions
  • An investigation by a third party of the accident
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