Falls at work fall into two very different categories – falls from height, and slips, trips and falls. Falls at work, which are from a height, are responsible for some of the most devastating injuries in the workplace, whereas falls at work which are the result of a trip or slip are the most common way in which employees sustain musculoskeletal injuries.
Both types of fall can result in lifelong health problems, and it is important that whenever falls at work occur, the victim receive emergency medical treatment. Some of the injuries which can be sustained include:-
Sprains, Strains and Tears – Depending on where and how you fall, you could sprain an ankle, strain a muscle, or tear a ligament. In falls at work where the victim hits their head on the fall, whiplash-like injuries can be sustained as the muscles of the neck are hyper-extended.
Head Injuries – Other head injuries can occur in falls at work when the head comes in contact with a solid object – such as the floor. Brain damage can result if the impact is hard enough as the brain will ricochet against the inside of the skull, damaging tissue and tearing nerves.
Knee Injuries – Damage to the knee can result in a long period away from work if you break the patella (knee bone) or tear the anterior cruciate ligament – one of the four main ligaments which connect the bones of the knee.
Back Injuries – Landing awkwardly on your back can cause vertebrae to fracture and discs to be herniated. There is also risk of damage to vital organs within your body – such as your lungs and kidneys.
The Causes of Falls at Work
There are a number of reasons why falls at work occur. Scaffolding is incorrectly constructed, ladders are poorly maintained, stairs and floorways are slippery due to spillages or obstructions are placed in the way of somebody carrying a bulky item. These are just some of the health and safety issues which cause falls at work and there are many more.
Your employer has a legal obligation under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to provide a safe environment for his employees to work in, and this includes eliminating hazards which result in his staff experiencing falls at work. However, if you experience an accident of this nature, you first consideration should not be about making a falls at work compensation claim.
Action to be Taken after Falls at Work
Your only consideration after a fall at work should be that of your health. Wherever possible, avoid moving and wait for an ambulance to be summoned. Movement can intensify an injury and possibly turn it into a lifelong health issue. If your injury is considered not to warrant an ambulance, you should still immediately go to the accident and emergency department of your nearest hospital for a precautionary examination.
Many injuries sustained in falls at work (whiplash-like injuries for example) may not manifest for several days, so it is best to get a medical examination as soon as possible and take a colleague along with you to the hospital in case you suffer delayed shock from your accident. A report should be made in your employer´s “Accident Report Book” and, where your injuries have been caused by an employer´s negligence, you should obtain a copy of this report to submit as part of your Falls at work compensation claim.
Claiming for Falls at Work
Claims for falls at work are initially assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland, and you should complete an application form and submit it along with your medical notes and a copy of the employer´s accident report. The Injuries Board Ireland will organise an independent medical examination to assess the injury that you have sustained and calculate how much compensation you are entitled to receive.
The Injuries Board Ireland will make two assessments – one for General Damages, which is an amount for physical injury based on figures published in the Book of Quantum – and the second for Special Damages, which account for any psychological trauma you have sustained, any consequences to your quality of life because of your injury and any out of pocket expenses you have experienced.
Falls at Work Compensation
Because the Special Damages can make up a considerable proportion of the total falls at work compensation settlement, most people choose to engage the services of a solicitor to help them complete and submit the application to the Injuries Board Ireland. A solicitor will be able to advise you on all the Special Damages you are entitled to receive and ensure that your application is completed to reflect these.
A solicitor will also be already familiar with the circumstances surrounding your falls at work claim if it is contested by your employer, or he claims that you contributed to your injuries by your own lack of care. In these events, the Injuries Board Ireland will decline to assess your falls at work claim and issue you with an authorisation to pursue your claim through court. Often, your solicitor will be able to avoid the necessity of a court appearance by negotiating an appropriate settlement with your employer’s insurers.
- Falls at work can occur in almost any profession and can result in the most debilitating injuries
- Health and safety regulations provide employers with guidelines to prevent falls at work
- If these guidelines are ignored, and you suffer an injury as the result of a fall at work, you are entitled to compensation
- The amount of compensation you receive is assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland following an independent medical examination
- The Injuries Board Ireland assessment includes compensation for the physical injuries you sustained and Special Damages
- Special damages an make up a considerable part of the award when you are likely to be off work for a long time
- Consequently, most people choose to use the assistance of a solicitor to ensure that they receive their full entitlement
If you or a loved one have sustained injuries from falls at work, and wish to establish if you are entitled to claim for compensation, you should contact a solicitor at your earliest opportunity to discuss the points mentioned in the above article.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have been unfortunate enough to have suffered a fall of work and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2009-2014 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.