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As a law student working part-time in a major DIY shop, I see firsthand on almost every shift how easy it is to suffer an accident at work. Such accidents can come from practices such as bad forklift operation, climbing the shelving and racking, slips and trips and inappropriate lifting. The difficulty with accidents at work in this environment is proving that you were not at fault, as health and safety procedures and expected store conduct is always being drilled into you informally, and every six months on a formal basis.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (s2) outlines that employers have a duty to protect their employees and are legally obliged to report certain accidents and incidents. All major incidents need to be reported by your employer to the Health and Safety Executive. These are death, bad injuries, dangerous incidents, injuries that stop an employee working for over three days and disease. Employees are also expected to take care of themselves and their colleagues (s7). So when I fell off the well-known aircraft style step ladder at work and my right shin was black and blue for days, should I have reported this in the store accident log? The law says that all injuries, even minor ones like my impressive bruising, should be reported in the company accident book.

If I was unfortunate enough to be injured (more seriously than my bruising!) at work within my twelve hour working week, how would I go about making a claim? I would first need to be sure my employer was at fault, and it wasn’t just me being clumsy, negligent or basically just not paying attention. A claim for compensation must be made within three years of the incident. Employer insurance is crucial: employer not covered = unsuccessful claim. Also, I cannot expect “mega bucks” if my claim is successful; the whole point of the claim is to give me what I would have earned if the accident hadn’t happened. It’s always best to seek legal representation before going about making your claim. Thompsons Solicitors will try to win compensation for your pain and suffering, loss of wages, help provided to you by your family and any other financial losses.

With nearly 5 million people suffering from accidents at work in the EU every year, it is clear that the law needs to be effective in this area. My colleagues and I at the major DIY chain want to feel safe in the knowledge that if we are hit by a forklift truck, or if one of us breaks a bone due to slipping over a spillage of white spirit, that the law and proper application of it by experienced lawyers can make us feel better by winning a claim for compensation. If only broken bones could be mended in this way! 

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