Occupational accidents can occur for many reasons. They can arise because of short-term inattention, lack of caution or even inconsistency. It is important to take the strongest possible measures to minimise the risk of occupational accidents. Legal regulations governing the duties of employers in the field of health and safety at work state directly that sometimes it is not possible to fully eliminate the risk of occupational accidents. However, it is important to take all possible steps to limit them and to prepare measures to eliminate them.
An occupational accident is damage to an employee's health suffered while fulfilling work tasks or caused as a direct consequence of fulfilling those tasks by way of a short-term, sudden or violent action or occurrence.
The consequences of an occupational accident may be relatively minor, and might not necessarily result in the incapacity of the employee to work. However, an occupational accident may also result in serious damage to the health of an employee, or even death in extreme cases.
From the point of view of the employer´s liability for an occupational accident, it is important to meet all obligations consistently in the field of health and safety at work. The employer is obliged to prepare the full range of relevant documents in the field of health and safety at work. The employer is also obliged to update those documents on a regular basis, to make the employees familiar with the regulations, and to request the employees' compliance with those regulations. The employer should make the necessary checks to ensure that employees are complying with all the regulations in the field of health and safety at work.
It is very difficult for the employer to avoid liability for occupational accidents. The employer should not be liable for an occupational accident arising as a result of an employee's violation of the health and safety at work regulations, where the employee has been made conversant with those regulations through a system involving the relevant checks. The same applies if the occupational accident was incurred by an employee under the influence of alcohol, narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, meaning that the employer was not able to prevent the occupational accident.
Employers often undervalue the need to fulfil the following obligations: the setting of safe working procedures; the issuing of internal regulations; preparing, evaluating and updating of safety policy; the identification and consideration of risks and dangers; and, the provision of breaks as required under health and safety at work regulations. Employees are often motivated to perform to high levels in their job through the method of remuneration. Under the health and safety at work regulations, employers are not allowed to use methods of remuneration that might endanger the safety or health of their employees due to increasing job performance levels to the extent that employees are exposed to an increased possibility of occupational accidents.
Managers at all levels of a company must fulfil the obligations of the employer in the field of health and safety at work. In the case of work procedures, this means that the authors of the health and safety regulations are obliged to evaluate ineliminable dangers and risks in the procedures, and to propose protective measures. The statutory body of the employer is obliged to ensure the implementation of the necessary measures. If life or health is in danger, the statutory body is obliged to act immediately.
Liability for occupational accidents, or the consequences of occupational accidents from the point of view of an employer may be divided into four areas. In the event of an occupational accident a fine is imposed on the employer by the labour inspectorate. The fine may range from €1,000 ($1,150) to €200,000.
The injured employee is entitled to compensation for the injury they have incurred, and they may also request indemnification, depending on the gravity and consequences of the occupational accident, which may amount to tens of thousands of euros.
Depending on the gravity and consequences of an occupational accident, a particular manager could be deemed criminally liable. In the event of criminal liability for damage to health (an occupational accident), the element of intention does not need to be demonstrated. This means that a person who has neglected they were not aware of the duty concerned. In the event of any occupational accident a manager at any management level may be punished by prison sentence for up to one year depending on the circumstances. If there is serious damage to health leading to work incapacity, or to a recovery period of at least 42 days, the manager could be subject to a prison sentence of one to five years. Serious health damage could mean, for example: mutilation; loss or substantial reduction of the capability to work; torturous suffering; or, damage to a major body part. In extreme cases, if an intention can be proved, the offender could be punished with a prison sentence of 12 years.
We recommend that employers document all their health and safety at work activities, both in writing and, if possible, through image documentation. Statutory bodies should not ignore information about defects in health and safety at work in their companies. Statutory bodies might be prosecuted if all other managers involved have fulfilled their duties relating to their labour classification in the company management structure.
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