Accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurances at school

This briefing sets out advice on the requirements for reporting accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences which happen in schools and colleges and on supporting NEU members in casework arising out of such events.

Accidents and injuries are dealt with in the first section of this guidance; diseases and dangerous occurrences are covered subsequently.

The importance of reporting accidents and injuries

Accidents and injuries in educational buildings must be taken seriously.  HSE statistics for 2015-2016 show that there were 1,668 major injuries to teachers and other employees in schools, 2701 injuries that resulted in seven or more days of absence, and one fatality. HSE statistics for 2020-21 show that there were 53,000 injuries to education staff, a quarter of which resulted in three or more days absence and almost a fifth of which involved over seven days absence.

Ensuring that accidents and injuries are reported, recorded and investigated is important for a number of reasons.  It can help prevent future accidents by raising awareness of problems and making sure they are investigated. It also greatly helps the NEU in pursuing claims for damages on behalf of our members.

The following guidance looks firstly at the general principles which should be followed in making sure accidents and injuries are reported to the employer and recorded in an accident book at the workplace.  It also looks at other steps which should be taken to support NEU members who have suffered injuries in order to make sure they are fully protected, and on the benefits which may be available in cases of injury.  Finally, it looks at the specific legal provisions under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) regulations which require employers to report certain kinds of serious accidents and injuries to the Health and Safety Executive.

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  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 10 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, however, your school or college 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 data protection legislation the Health and Safety Executive (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, however, 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 GDPR in 2018.

Assaults on employees, 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; and
  • 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 for an inspection to be undertaken, you are 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) and 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’.

It is of course 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 parts are important.  Also photograph and record any items that should not ordinarily be in the environment as these could have contributed to the incident.

All the above 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 DWP no longer keep a log of injuries suffered at work before determining whether the accident counts as an industrial injury.

Most importantly members need to seek advice as soon as possible, from the NEU Adviceline in England and Wales, or NEU Northern Ireland.  They will provide advice and assistance.

Should the accident or injury be reported to the employer?

The NEU believes that schools/colleges 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 in order 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 teachers’ sick pay 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 under the Burgundy Book sick pay scheme.  If the teacher is still not fit to return to work at the end of this six month period, the employer can either extend this 6 month period or transfer the teacher to his/her standard sick pay entitlement under the Burgundy Book scheme.

For support staff, the Green Book scheme states that “Absence in respect of normal sickness is entirely separate from absence through industrial disease, accident or assault arising out of or in the course of employment with a local authority. Periods of absence in respect of one shall not be set off against the other for the purpose of calculating entitlements under the 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 employees in their early years of service, whose entitlements under the Burgundy Book/Green Book scheme and entitlements to Incapacity Benefit will be limited but who may be entitled to receive SSP for the full 28 weeks.  Further advice on SSP can be obtained from the NEU Adviceline (England and Wales) on 0345 8118111 or, in Northern Ireland from 028 9078 2020, or from the DWP website.

Employment and support allowance

If you have exhausted your statutory sick pay entitlement but are still unfit to return to work, you may be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance.

You may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance if any of the following apply to you:

  • your Statutory Sick Pay 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 getting special medical treatment

More information is available here.

Industrial injuries disablement benefit

The industrial injuries benefit scheme provides compensation through state benefits to claimants who are able to show that they have been injured as a result of 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%.  In the case of an accident, claimants make a claim nine weeks after the accident if they are still disabled at that point in time.  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 6 months of the accident since the benefit is actually payable 3 months after the accident and cannot be backdated more than 3 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.

The criminal injuries compensation scheme

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a government funded scheme designed to compensate blameless victims of violent crime in Great Britain.  The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), administers the Scheme and decides all claims.

The rules of the Scheme and the value of the payments awarded are set by Parliament and are calculated by reference to a tariff of injuries.   Further information can be obtained at here. See NEU guidance on violence in schools and colleges.

Ill-Health Retirement

An overview of the ill-health retirement provisions of the Teachers’ Superannuation Scheme has been set out at Appendix 1.  Further information on these provisions is available on request from NEU Adviceline (England and Wales) at  0345 8118111 or in Northern Ireland from 028 9078 2020.

Reporting accidents and injuries to the HSE

HSE advice for schools on the RIDDOR regulations’ requirements on employers to report accidents and injuries to the HSE is set out in the HSE Information Sheet, “Reporting School Accidents”.

The RIDDOR regulations require that employers must inform the HSE of the following:

  • all accidents to employees resulting in deaths or “specified injuries”[1] 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”); and
  • 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 3 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.

Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences

The RIDDOR regulations also require that employers must inform the HSE of the following:

  • any incidents of reportable work-related diseases; and
  • any dangerous occurrences which do not result in a reportable injury but which clearly could have done[2].

Covid-19 and RIDDOR

If a worker has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence to suggest it’s caused by occupational exposure, ie the worker caught the disease whilst at work, then the employer must by law (under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) report to the HSE using the form Report of an Occupational Disease (hse.gov.uk).  The requirement does not apply in relation to pupils or members of the public, eg visitors to the school such as parents.  There is also a requirement to notify the HSE if a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent.  For an incident to be reportable as a death due to occupational exposure to coronavirus there must be reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure caused the worker’s death.  There also needs to be a confirmed diagnosis –with a positive test from a public testing body counting as a diagnosis.  There does not need to be a written diagnosis from a GP.

There must be reasonable evidence linking the nature of the person’s work with an increased risk of becoming exposed to coronavirus.  In terms of ‘reasonable evidence’ the HSE refers to the following relevant factors but states that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • whether or not the nature of the person’s work activities increased the risk of them becoming exposed to coronavirus? (Given the spread of the virus across schools and colleges anyone working in education is at a higher risk than many other occupations).
  • whether or not there was any specific, identifiable incident that led to an increased risk of exposure?  (In schools this could be that a member of staff tested positive after contact with another member of staff or pupil who had tested positive).
  • whether or not the person’s work directly brought them into contact with a known coronavirus hazard without effective control measures, as set out in the relevant PHE guidance, in place such as personal protective equipment (PPE) or social distancing (This could apply if a member of staff had to look after a child with symptoms without PPE).

Other relevant factors could include: whether there were examples of the risk assessment not being adhered to, or communicated, or whether the risk assessment was inadequate.   In some cases, there may be no other rational explanation, if the infected worker was only mixing with groups of people at the workplace.

It is important to note that making a report to the HSE doesn’t mean that the HSE will investigate. It is, however, important that these reports are made.  Extensive enquiries in seeking to determine whether a COVID-19 infection is work-related aren’t necessary, it should be easily established if work is reasonably likely to be the source.

The Burgundy Book (teachers) and Green Book (support staff) sick pay schemes provide that absences due to infectious illness contracted at work should not count against normal sick pay entitlement.  Ensuring that RIDDOR reports are routinely made will help make this case if there are disputes about this provision.

Dangerous occurrences

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 over 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 the 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.

Further information

Details about the extent of the reporting obligation, including detailed guidance on “specified injuries”, “occupational diseases” and “dangerous occurrences” can be found at RIDDOR.

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); or
  • online (for all other incidents).

Action Points for Safety Reps

Make sure that:

  • proper records of accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences are kept by your employer as required; and
  • members involved in incidents eg accidents or assaults receive advice and assistance as set out above.


Notes on ill-health early retirement

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme has a two-tier benefits system for people who meet the overall ill health retirement criterion.  There is a distinction between the benefits you can get depending on whether you are viewed as suffering from ‘total incapacity’ or ‘partial incapacity’.

Total incapacity

This is the higher level of incapacity payment. To qualify for Total Incapacity Benefit, you must be assessed as being permanently unable to teach and in addition 90 per cent unfit for all work and likely to be 90 per cent incapacitated permanently.

If you qualify for Total Incapacity Benefit, your pensionable service will be enhanced by half your prospective service to your normal pension age. As all teachers are now in the career average section of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme this means your state pension age (67 or 68 for most members). There is no actuarial reduction to your pension for retiring early.

Partial Incapacity

Partial Incapacity Benefit is the lower level of incapacity payment. It would be awarded if you were classified as permanently unable to teach, but able to do other work.

If you only qualify for Partial Incapacity Benefit, your pensionable service is not enhanced, so you receive your accrued service only. However there is no actuarial reduction for early payment. There would be no review of your pension should other work be undertaken.

Who can get total incapacity benefit?

Total Incapacity Benefit can be awarded provided the member left service on grounds of incapacity and applies within two years of leaving either pensionable employment or ceasing the payment of combined contributions or reservist contributions.

You can also be considered for Total Incapacity Benefit if you apply while on sick leave (but receiving at least half pay), maternity leave, paternity or adoption leave (while receiving at least half pay or statutory pay).

Deferred members

If you are not in pensionable employment and do not meet the above criteria, only Partial Incapacity Benefit can be awarded (i.e. no enhancement of benefits). However to qualify for Partial Incapacity Benefit in this case, you must meet the criteria for Total Incapacity Benefit.

How do I apply for ill-health early retirement?

If you are still employed you should get the two forms required for your application from your employer. One form is for you to complete with your employer, the other is for the medical evidence to support your application.

If you are no longer employed as a teacher you can download the forms from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme

You and your employer’s occupational health advisor, with your medical practitioner, need to provide the medical evidence and complete the application forms.

If you left pensionable employment within 12 months of submitting your application, the medical information sections of your application form must be completed by your ex-employer.

If you are considering making an application for ill health retirement, make sure you contact the Union before the application is submitted.


NEU Personal accident insurance 

Members of the NEU have access to a comprehensive personal accident insurance policy.  Full details can be found here