Working life brings with it many risks. One of these risks is that someone may suffer an accident while working, be it an accident on a building site or an accident in the office. Accidents at work can have a tremendous impact on both employees and employers, and this is why the law sets a minimum level of protection that must be observed.
Working in an office is viewed by many as being largely risk/ accident free; a controlled environment not impacted by external factors e.g. weather; fixed machinery e.g. printers, computers; and a relatively predictable working pattern i.e. workers begin work at a certain time and finish at a certain time, with few unexpected arrivals. This is why many people believe that the risk of an accident in an office environment is rather low. However, the risk of an accident in an office environment is arguably no less than in any other working environment.
What Might Cause Office Accidents
While the machinery of an office may be fixed, this does not remove the risk of an accident. Computers and printers may themselves be fixed to a desk or wall, but the power cables and connection lines represent a tripping hazard to employees. Also, it is not unusual that the cleaning of an office environment can present particular hazards to employees e.g. a freshly cleaned office floor may be wet and cause employees to slip.
It needn’t necessarily be the case that an accident at work is as obvious as any of the examples listed above. An unsuitable chair that causes damage to an employee’s back, or a keyboard that does not provide the necessary wrist support can also impact office workers and could potentially result in an accident at work claim. These are only some of the ways that accidents can occur in an office environment.
As part of an employee agreeing to work for an employer, the employer is expected to take reasonable care of their employee. If an employer fails in this duty, the employee can sue for damages via a personal injury claim. Employers must also ensure that they have ‘Employers Liability Insurance’. This is a particular kind of insurance that employers must have, and will ensure that they are able to pay compensation to employees in the event that a claim for an accident at work is brought against them. The insurance also ensures that employees that make a claim of this kind cannot be subjected to disciplinary action for doing so.
Employers Responsibilities For Safe Working
Employers must ensure that the working environment of their employees is free of the following;
- Unsafe, inadequate or damaged equipment
If an employer provides equipment that they know is in one way or another, unsafe, an employee is injured through its use e.g. a printer in the office that has faulty electrical wiring that results in an employee being electrocuted, then the employer is liable for the injury.
- A lack of safety equipment
It is a requirement by law that employers provide their employees with the necessary safety equipment that will be required, for them to carry out their duties. Employers are obliged not only to provide this, but also to train their employees in how to use it.
- Dangerous working practices
This is quite easy to understand. Employers must take care to ensure that nothing they do in the working environment exposes their employees to dangerous working practices. It is important to understand that this needn’t relate to anything too sophisticated; employers that engage in a practice of leaving a freshly cleaned floor unmarked, exposing their staff to the risk of slipping and hurting themselves, could also be failing in their duty to keep their employees safe.
Reasonable Care For Office Workers
It is important to understand that unless there is a specific piece of legislation that sets out the detail of an employer’s duty to protect their employees in a particular instance, the duty of employers as noted above is only to take reasonable care. This means that employers are not expected to ensure that office workers for instance are never harmed; they must take the necessary measures to select the best people for a particular job, and protect their employees including those that they know to be at a particular risk e.g. if an employee is known to be epileptic then they must take account of this in designing their working practices and the job role.
However, employees must assume a degree of responsibility in observing the rules and procedures that their employers promulgate to protect them from harm. Furthermore employees must also be diligent in looking after both themselves and their colleagues in their day-to-day activities, in order to assist them in meeting their legal obligations as employees.