By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
The whole concept of occupational health is to ensure that workplace changes take place to benefit the health of an employee without reducing that employee´s productivity. Occupational health covers every area of employment, from builders working at height on a construction site to assembly workers performing repetitive manual tasks in a manufacturing environment. Regulations determining what safe practices should be implemented in the workplace are legislated for in various Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Acts and EU Directives.
Occupational health regulations are intended to guide employers in their risk assessments, to ensure that workers receive adequate protection from dangerous physical and non-physical hazards, and also to ensure that employees are provided with a safe environment in which to work. In a factory, for example, the regulations would not only include the necessity for a safety inspection program for all machinery and tools which are used in the performance of a task, but also that operators are fully trained on how to use them, and that the tasks are performed in an environment which is free from excessive noise or extremes of temperature.
Occupational health also covers topics such as psychological health and safety in the workplace, with emphasis on the elimination of bullying, harassment and victimisation. Because of this element, a whole new sub-branch of occupation health has developed to focus on the psychosocial characteristics of a work environment and how they contribute to work-related health problems for the people who work in them. It is to an employer´s benefit to ensure that occupational health practices are followed in his company, as it establishes good working relations within his workforce, ensures that he loses fewer days productivity due to work-related health issues and that he will gain a good name amongst the wider business community.
Who is Responsible for Occupational Health in the Workplace?
Ultimately, your employer is the person who is accountable for implementing good occupational health practices in the workplace, but he may employ occupational health staff to specifically manage this area of his responsibilities or outsource to a specialist occupational health company to provide employee assessments and training on his behalf. Nonetheless, your employer will be the person responsible for agreeing to certain occupational health practices to be introduced and monitoring the effect they are having on the health of his workforce and any increase or decrease in productivity.
Typically the duties of staff employed to implement occupational health practices include:-
- Assessment, planning and development of occupational health practices in accordance with the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Acts and EU Directives
- Liaising with department supervisors on all aspects of occupational health
- Preparing occupational health policies and procedures
- Organising and providing occupational health training to employees
- Following-up any employees who have been involved in accidents at work
- Carrying out pre-employment medical examinations
- Maintaining employee medical records
- Ergonomic assessment of work stations
Occupational Health and Accidents in the Workplace
Each employer has a duty of care to his employees, but despite all the regulations and guidelines promoting occupational health, accidents sometime happen. This may due to a circumstance which could not have been foreseen or an error on behalf of the employee. However, when injuries occur because occupational health regulations have not been implemented by the employer, you are entitled to claim compensation for his negligence and failure to maintain his duty of care.
Your first course of action when sustaining a work-related injury should be to seek medical attention. If your accident is serious, an ambulance should be called or you should go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. If you have only a minor injury, or suspect you may be developing a work related disease, you should make an urgent appointment to see your family doctor. Even when your employer has medically trained occupational staff working for him, it may still be in your best interests to have an independent medical examination rather than one by somebody paid by your employer.
When you have sustained an injury in a workplace accident, it is also advisable wherever appropriate to take the details of any colleagues who may have witnessed how your injuries were sustained and ensure – in the event of an accident – that the circumstances are recorded in your employer´s “Accident Report Book”. Thereafter, you should speak to a specialised personal injury claims solicitor about making a claim for compensation in respect of workplace-related injuries you have suffered.
Claiming Compensation for Work-Related Injuries
Once any immediate threat to your health has been taken care of, you should seek advice from a solicitor familiar with claims for compensation against an employer. The solicitor will be able to tell you whether you have a case for a compensation claim which is worth your while to pursue, and advise you on appropriate steps to take should your employer deny liability for your injuries or claim that they were of your own making. A solicitor can also assist you with the application form to the Injuries Board Ireland to ensure that you receive a fair and adequate amount of compensation for your injuries and appropriate damages for out of pocket expenses or any loss of earnings you may have experienced.
Therefore, if you have suffered an injury in the workplace due to occupational health practices not being implemented or followed, you are invited to call our free advice line on 1-800 989 900. We have assembled a panel of experienced Irish solicitors, many of whom have contributed to this website, or who staff our free advice line. They will be able to offer you free and impartial advice, without any obligation on you to proceed with a claim once you have spoken with us.
You can call between 8am and 10pm seven days a week on our freephone number or you can complete your name and number in the call back box below and a solicitor will call you back at a suitably convenient time.
- Occupational health regulations exist to protect the employee in the workplace. When an employer fails to implement these regulations, should you be injured at work, you are entitled to make occupational health compensation claims.
- Psychological wellbeing is also covered by occupational health guidelines, and occupational health compensation claims can be made if your employer fails to prevent bullying, harassment and stress in the workplace.
- Before making occupational health compensation claims, you should seek medical attention and, wherever possible, acquire a copy of the report of your accident made in your employer´s “Accident Report Book”.
- Making occupational health compensation claims with the assistance of a personal injury claims solicitor will reduce the potential for awkward workplace confrontations when you are fit enough to return to work, so speak with a solicitor today on our free advice service.
This article should not be taken as medical advice – you should always see a doctor as soon as possible. The information in this article is only to provide a broad understanding of the topic of Occupational Health and is not in any way complete. Due to the rapidly changing nature of medical research regarding occupational health, the Legal Advice Ireland can not be held responsible for the reliability, accuracy, timeliness, usefulness, and completeness of the content. You should never ignore medical advice from a doctor. You should never self-manage any health problems. You should always see a doctor as soon as possible if you have any occupational health symptoms.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary 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.