Getting injured at work

Tony Security Leave a Comment

The prospect of getting injured at work is a reality for many in the security industry. I get at least 1 query a week from security staff who have been hurt while at work. Many will immediately think of assaults but the reality is that these are only a portion of the injuries suffered. Many are injured in manual handling incidents, slips & trips or other occupational injuries or illnesses. Some employers manage these risks very well and others don’t. I’m not just here to talk about employers though. Many of these injuries are caused by or certainly contributed to by employee negligence with their own safety. This article is going to cover both the employer and employee responsibility to prevent and manage injuries at work and what can go wrong.

Duty of Care works both ways

Duty of care is a phrase often thrown around when talking about accidents and incidents in the security industry. It’s a really easy thing for injured security staff to deflect to when they have been hurt at work. The company should have done this or that to keep me safe. Absolutely, they should do everything reasonable to keep you safe but duty of care works both ways. Employees primary duty of care is to themselves. If you as an employee take stupid risks and get yourself hurt because of it then you have no business complaining to your employer. Policies and procedures are great but they are no replacement for  a reasonable person making a common sense decisions regarding their own safety. I am  not going to list all of the duties of employers and employees in this article as it would take up far too much time. if you want to view them you can click the links below.
To view employer duties click here
To view employee duties click here
The general idea is that employers must do all that is reasonable in terms of policy, procedure, training, equipment, supervision and PPE. In tangent with that the employee must comply with all of these procedures and do all that is reasonable to keep themselves safe. Just because you dont feel an employer isn’t doing what you think is enough to keep you safe doesn’t mean that you should should take any additional risk with your safety. In fact you should be following health and safety procedures and reporting, reporting and reporting where safety issues are identified. Of course where some companies aren’t fulfilling safety measure that can conflict with an individuals duty of keeping themselves safe.  When that happens the final decision is individual but you are quite entitled in health and safety law to refuse to engage in the activity until the employer can make it safe to do so. You cant be penalised in terms of hours or pay because of this. It works the other way as well however. If you knowingly and recklessly put yourself in danger and go against the company’s  procedures they are quite entitled to take disciplinary action against you.

Personal attack benefit

For many years the unfortunate reality of violence in the security industry is that it was just part of the job. In recent years violence at work is a recognised safety issue which has to be risk assessed and controlled. Even with this though employees were often left out of pocket when they were out of work injured. To prevent this the Joint Labour Commission for the security industry inserted a personal attack benefit into the security industry ERO. Under the current ERO the below arrangements apply.
A non-contributory Personal Attack Benefit will apply, after 6 months’ service with the employer, to all workers covered by this Employment Regulation Order, who are attacked in the course of their duty, resulting in an injury.
The amount payable will be as follows:—
• After 6 months’ service 10 weeks’ basic pay, less Social Welfare
• After 18 months’ service 15 weeks’ basic pay, less Social Welfare
• After 30 months’ service 20 weeks’ basic pay, less Social Welfare
• After 42 months’ service 26 weeks’ basic pay, less Social Welfare
An employer shall ensure that appropriate physical and psychological support is available, on request, to any worker who has been subjected to violence as a result of carrying out his/her duties.
As we said above though not all injuries or illnesses are caused by violence. There is also a mandatory sick pay scheme for the sector which can be viewed here.  Of course as I said above none of this applies where the employees acts frivolously and recklessly to contribute to their own injury.

Reporting the incident

I’m not talking about writing incident reports here although these are important. Every injury suffered at work must be reported and employees have a legal duty to report safety issues and incidents. If you do not report an injury it can be difficult to claim the personal attack benefit or complain in any way about it afterwards. Similarly if you dont report safety issues and then get hurt then guess who is liable? That’s not the point here however. Many security operatives and employers aren’t aware that if a person is injured at work (not just from violence) or relating to work then miss 3 consecutive days at work because of it the employer is legally obliged to report the incident to the Health and Safety Authority (IR1 form) . The Authority is then obliged to investigate the incident and make recommendation or enforcement. The employee is also entitled to a copy of that report or to make the report themselves if an employer hasn’t or wont do it.

Civil case

One thing I am glad to see increasing is the number of security staff taking individual civil personal injury claims against members of the public who have injured them. For many years this has been a one way street in the opposite direction. Somebody assaults a security person and in order to claim some compensation for their injury the person was forced to take a claim against their employer. That is fine if the employer was deficient but they aren’t always. Sometimes the blame should be laid squarely at the door of the person who caused the injury. Thankfully that is starting to happen more often now. Its something that I encourage and that employers should encourage as well. Maybe more of it will act as a deterrence to people who see attacking security as an easy target.
Another area I can see growth in is where employers begin to bear the cost and burden of these benefits and lost time following incidents that they would themselves begin to take civil cases against members of the public for damages. Again this is an area I can see happening more into the future. Not only as an offset to the costs of an injured employee but also to show solidarity with employee.

Investigation and discipline

All of the above are outside of the internal investigation and disciplinary procedures. An employer has to investigate incidents to get to the root cause. If the employer finds that the security operative acted recklessly or breached procedures then they are entitled to discipline that person. Nothing wrong with that at all in my opinion. It works both ways. If you are injured because of your own actions then you deserve to be disciplined up to and including dismissal. The internal process however does not preclude the person from accessing justice through a civil case against the employer or a member of the public. Also  the employee cannot be disciplined because they are taking a civil case or seeking personal attack benefit.

Summary

Getting injured at work is never pleasant. Sometimes it happens and cant be avoided. Many times however it is both predictable and  preventable. It has been caused by or at least contributed to by deficiencies either in the employers duty of care requirements or the employees. In both cases fairness and justice should be served. Where an employee has failed then they deserve what they get in terms of disciplinary and lost wages for their own actions. Where it is an employers failure then the employee should never be put of pocket and they should get whatever compensation they deserve. Finally where a third party has contributed then they should face the full cost of their actions in a civil case either by the employee or the employer or both. All of those scenarios are in  the interest of a balanced, fair and professional industry and are something we should all strive towards.

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