How to reduce the incidence of accidents and injuries in schools due to slips, trips and falls.
Reporting, recording and investigating accidents and injuries should be taken seriously as it can help prevent future accidents by raising awareness of problems. It also greatly helps the National Education Union in pursuing claims for damages on behalf of members.
Recording accidents and injuries at school
What should be reported?
All accidents and injuries should be reported. No matter how trivial you consider an injury to be, you must ensure that it is reported and recorded within school at the time it happens. Injuries which seem trivial at the time can have longer term serious consequences and the existence of a record can, as mentioned above, subsequently be very important in securing compensation.
Employers are required under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979 to keep a record of all accidents at premises where more than ten people are employed. Anyone injured at work is required to tell the employer and record details in an accident book, including the answer to the question ‘how did the accident happen?’ The employer is required to investigate and enter this in the accident book if they find anything that differs from the entry made by the worker. These regulations are intended to ensure a record is available in case there is a claim for compensation.
Whatever its size, a school should have an accident report book in which all accidents and injuries (including those due to assaults) should be recorded. Every member of staff should know how to complete it and where to go to do so. NEU safety representatives are entitled to inspect the accident book to check that proper records are being kept.
In response to concerns from some quarters that the right of safety representatives to inspect accident books could amount to a breach of the Data Protection Act 2018, the HSE issued a revised accident book with a tick-box indicating that the injured worker agrees to their personal information being given to the safety representative. It should be noted that even where such agreement has not been given, employers must still give the information to safety representatives, but should conceal the individual’s identity and details. This situation remains unchanged following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018.
Assaults on teachers, both verbal and physical, should be reported and recorded in the same way as accidents. ‘Near miss’ incidents which do not lead to injury should also be reported. For example, if a tile falls from the roof in a place where it might have injured a member of staff or a child throws a chair at a teacher but misses, this should be reported and recorded in addition to any other appropriate action taken
What details should be kept?
Details should be kept of:
- the date and time of the accident or injury
- the name of the person and nature of the injury
- the place where the incident took place
- a brief description of the circumstances including identification of the work or activity being undertaken at the time of the incident.
Who should investigate?
Employers should investigate the causes of all accidents and injuries reported to them and take action to remedy the situation so that it does not recur. This ensures that they are fulfilling their legal duty to take steps to safeguard the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees and others on the premises.
Trade union safety representatives also have the legal right to undertake an inspection in the event of an accident. If there is an NEU safety representative at your school, you should report the incident to them.
If you are a NEU safety representative, provided that it is safe, you’re entitled to carry out an immediate inspection of the part of the workplace concerned (with any facilities and assistance from management that they might reasonably require). You may also note the names of witnesses and take statements from them. In such situations, you are entitled to be released from your other duties to undertake the investigation. Some witnesses may prefer to talk away from the workplace. When questioning witnesses it is preferable to ask open questions such as ‘can you tell me what happened?’.
If you are an NEU safety representative, provided that it is safe, you’re entitled to carry out an immediate inspection of the part of the workplace concerned (with any facilities and assistance from management that they might reasonably require). You may also note the names of witnesses and take statements from them. In such situations, you are entitled to be released from your other duties to undertake the investigation. Some witnesses may prefer to talk away from the workplace. When questioning witnesses it is preferable to ask open questions such as ‘can you tell me what happened?’.
Action points for safety reps
Make sure that:
- proper records of accidents and injuries are kept by your employer as required
- members involved in accidents or assaults receive advice and assistance as set out above.
It is important to ensure that the injured employee has received medical attention. Make sure that photographs of injuries are taken; many doctors will do this but if not make sure that photographic evidence is taken.
Taking photographs, making sketches and taking measurements at the scene of the incident can be vital in establishing the facts. Where the incident has involved furniture or equipment, photographs of broken or failed items are important. Also photograph and record any items that should not ordinarily be in the environment as these could have contributed to the incident.
Taking these steps will be of great help if you or a colleague needs to seek damages or has problems with industrial injury benefit or occupational sick pay claims, especially as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) no longer keeps a log of injuries suffered at work before determining whether an accident counts as an industrial injury.
Should the accident or injury be reported to the employer?
The NEU believes that schools should forward details of all accidents recorded on accident forms to their local authority or academy trust, and that these bodies should, in turn, collate this information and analyse it to identify patterns and trends and inform their accident prevention strategies. NEU safety representatives are entitled to such information.
Benefits for members injured at work
Teachers’ sick pay scheme
The scheme provides specific benefits for teachers injured at work which are additional to the usual sick pay entitlements. In the case of absences due to accidents which have arisen in the course of a teacher’s employment, a minimum of six calendar months absence on full pay is allowed, regardless of length of service, in addition to the teacher’s standard entitlement to paid sick leave outlined in the Burgundy Book conditions of service. If the teacher is still not fit to return to work at the end of this six-month period, the employer can either extend the period or transfer the teacher to his/her standard sick pay entitlement under the Burgundy Book scheme.
Statutory sick pay (SSP)
SSP is payable to any employee for a maximum period of 28 weeks in any spell of sickness absence. Where members are receiving full sick pay, SSP will form part of that sick pay. Where members move on to half sick pay, SSP will be paid on top of half pay until the period of sickness absence reaches 28 weeks. Following this, members will be entitled to claim incapacity benefit.
SSP is most relevant to teachers in their first years of service, whose entitlements under the Burgundy Book scheme and to other benefits will be limited but who may be entitled to receive SSP for the full 28 weeks.
Employment and support allowance (ESA)
If you have exhausted your statutory sick pay entitlement but are still unfit to return to work, you may be eligible for ESA.
You may be able to claim this if any of the following apply to you:
- your SSP has ended, or you are not eligible for it
- you are self-employed or unemployed and not claiming job seekers allowance
- you have been getting statutory maternity pay (SMP) and have not gone back to work for your employer because you have an illness or disability which affects your ability to work
- you are under state pension age.
You must also either:
- have had an illness or disability which affects your ability to work for at least four days in a row (including weekends and public holidays)
- be unable to work for two or more days out of seven consecutive days
- be receiving special medical treatment.
Industrial injuries disablement benefit
The industrial injuries benefit scheme provides compensation through state benefits to claimants who can show that they have been injured by an accident at work or have contracted an industrial disease. Industrial disablement benefit is available whether or not the claimant is at work and is payable to anyone who has suffered loss of physical or mental faculty as the result of an industrial injury or disease provided that the disability is assessed at more than 14 per cent.
In the case of an accident, claimants make a claim nine weeks after the accident if they are still disabled at that point. In the case of an industrial disease, a claim can be made straight away. In any event, claims for disablement benefit should be made within six months of the accident since the benefit is actually payable three months after the accident and cannot be backdated more than three months unless there is a very good reason for a late claim.
In order to claim industrial injuries disablement benefit, you need to complete form BI 100 for an industrial disease and B1 100A for an accident at work. These forms can be obtained from your local Jobcentre Plus office, or online.
Constant attendance allowance
This payment is made when someone’s occupational injuries have resulted in 100 per cent disablement and, as a result, they require constant care and attention. The rate at which it is paid depends upon a doctor’s assessment of the claimant’s needs. The claimant must be claiming either industrial injuries disablement benefit or a war disablement pension.
Exceptionally severe disablement allowance
Those in receipt of the highest two rates of the constant attendance allowance and who require permanent care and attention may also be able to claim the exceptionally severe disablement allowance.
Suing for damages
The NEU provides a professional legal casework service to members injured at work and obtains millions of pounds in compensation each year in such cases. Recent cases have included compensation for matters such as injuries due to assaults, injuries caused by defective equipment and injuries caused by lifting and handling, as well as the usual compensation for injuries caused by slipping, tripping and falling. Strict time limits apply, however, and advice should be sought promptly.
Reporting accidents and injuries to the HSE
RIDDOR requires that employers must inform the HSE of the following:
- all accidents to employees resulting in deaths or ‘specified injuries’ and all accidents which result in an employee being off work due to injuries for more than seven days (referred to as ‘over-seven-day injuries’)
- all accidents to non-employees which result in them being killed or taken to hospital and which are connected with work.
Employers must also keep records of occupational injuries that result in a worker being away from work for more than three consecutive days.
The definition of accidents includes assaults so that injuries resulting from assaults are also reportable.
The responsibility for making reports to the HSE rests with employers. The vast majority of RIDDOR reports (with the exception of fatal and specified incidents) must be reported via the HSE’s on-line system. Employers are also required to keep records of all accidents or injuries reported to the HSE.
If local authorities have sent guidance to schools on how to report accidents and injuries, including the HSE forms which must be used, school managers can report these directly to the HSE and send a copy to the local authority. If no such guidance has been sent to schools, then the accident should just be reported by the school management to the local authority, or other employer, which is then responsible for making the official report to the HSE.
RIDDOR also requires that employers must inform the HSE of the following:
- any incidents of reportable work-related diseases
- any dangerous occurrences which do not result in a reportable injury but which clearly could have done.
The list of reportable dangerous occurrences includes some which might happen in schools, including collapse of scaffolds, fires or explosions causing suspension of work for more than 24 hours, and accidental release of substances which may damage health.
The release of asbestos fibres into the air is an example of a dangerous occurrence. As well as reporting this to the HSE, staff who may have been affected should put details of any possible exposure in writing to their employer and their school, and keep their own copy. Affected staff should also visit their GP and have the exposure recorded on their medical records. In the event of any future claim for compensation, such evidence is of great importance.
Accidents and injuries to pupils, visitors and other non-employees
Accidents and injuries to volunteer staff and visitors should be reported, recorded and investigated within the school in exactly the same way as incidents involving employees and pupils in order that safety standards are maintained. Safety representatives have the right to investigate in such circumstances since it may be employees who are affected in any future incidents.
As noted above, some incidents involving non-employees must be reported to the HSE. Playground accidents due to collisions, slips and falls are not reportable unless they arise out of, or in connection with, work - for example, the condition of the premises or equipment, or the level of supervision. If, however, someone is killed or taken to hospital and the accident was caused by the condition of the premises, or lack of supervision, then the accident must be reported to the HSE without delay.
How to report an incident to the HSE
The simplest ways to report an incident to the HSE are:
• by telephone, on 0345 300 9923 (for fatal and specified incidents only)
For more information, please read 'Accidents and injuries at school'