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Do I need an accident book?

13/08/2018

At Safety First Aid we sell accident books in both A4 and A5 sizes, and if you’re an employer, or responsible for ensuring compliance with employment law at your company, we highly recommend you have at least one for each premises your business owns. But in answer to the question, ‘do I need an accident book’, the answer is that you either must use an accident book or an approved electronic equivalent, and that having an accident book is the simplest most reliable way to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.

What laws apply to recording accidents?

The first law to discuss in relation to this topic is The Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979. Under the section ‘obligations of employers’ the law states that:

  • Every employer must take reasonable steps to investigate every accident
  • Any employer required to do so by the Secretary of State must provide information of an accident or alleged accident resulting in death or incapacitation
  • Every owner or occupier (i.e. employer) of any mine or quarry or any premises which the Factories Act 1961 applies to, and every employer with 10 or more persons normally employed at the same premises, must keep readily accessible a means of recording the details of any accident causing personal injury, and must preserve this record for a period of at least 3 years

This last point is the most crucial. While the regulation technically allows that this means of recording the details of an accident may be in a book or by unspecified electronic means, having a physical book which can be taken to the accident and made visible and widely accessible makes recording the accident easier and makes compliance with other regulations (notably data protection) more straightforward. Relying on IT to keep your accident records complicates things. There could be technical problems with the software or hardware, or the person with the required logins or process knowledge may be unavailable. Note that the law requires the method of accident recording to be readily accessible.

Accident books contain forms with spaces for all the details needed. Anyone can fill in the accident form, and then it’s removed from the book where it can be put into secure storage until needed. This is also a more reliable way of ensuring the records are kept for the required duration of time, as records stored electronically could be lost much more easily.

As demonstrated, if you have 10 or more employees on a single premises, you must keep a readily available accident book or an electronic equivalent. The other key law which is relevant to accident books is the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). This law specifies that all employers must report and keep records of:

  • Work-related deaths
  • Work-related accidents which cause certain specified serious injuries (as described here) or which result in a worker being incapacitated for more than seven consecutive days
  • Cases of listed industrial diseases
  •  Certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (i.e. near-miss accidents. For these, we have a separate near miss record book available)
  •  Injuries to a person who is not at work (i.e. clients, members of the public) which are caused by an accident in your workplace and result in admission to hospital

In addition, records must be kept of all injuries which cause a person to be incapacitated for more than three consecutive days, but these don’t have to be reported unless the worker is unable to work for more than seven days. The HSE website notes that ‘if you are an employer who must keep an accident book under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979, an entry about an over-three-day injury is a sufficient record for the purposes of RIDDOR’.

Note that on the HSE’s own website, the assumption is that if you’re an employer with over 10 workers, you must keep an accident book. Not only that, the Social Security Regulations require all accidents causing injury to be recorded and investigated, so that means you should record any of these in your accident book and not wait for them to cause incapacitation for more than three days.

What if I have less than 10 employees?

Legally with less than 10 employees you aren’t obliged to keep an accident book readily available, and under RIDDOR you’re allowed to download forms online. However, recording all accidents in an accident book is nonetheless a highly convenient way of complying with RIDDOR and meeting your other obligations under the Social Security Regulations, as well as simplifying compliance with privacy laws.

Firstly, it’s unwise to dismiss what may at first glance appear to be a minor injury and fail to record it under the assumption that it won’t cause incapacitation for more than three days. What if what at first appears to be a minor injury turns out later to be worse than originally thought? Additionally, what may start as just a minor injury resulting from a workplace accident may develop into something more serious if the employee continues to exert themselves. Bear in mind that even minor cuts can become infected and result in a much more serious condition.

Even if an injury doesn’t result in over three days of consecutive incapacitation, there’s every chance an injury can cause problems further down the line that result in a claim being made against you. You’re also required to investigate all accidents, and an accident book record can be a crucial piece of evidence. The safe thing to do is record all accidents thoroughly and accurately, and then there’s no danger of not having the required information.

Secondly, an accident book guarantees your employees won’t be prevented from recording the accident promptly when the necessary information is available and fresh in everyone’s mind. Any issues with the HSE website, your business’s internet connection, your IT systems or security access could prevent the necessary forms being downloaded, completed and stored securely.

Finally, accident books are written and designed to comply with data protection laws and give you a simple, no-nonsense way of complying and safely storing the information for at least 3 years. Simply remove the completed record from the book and physically secure it in a safe or other lockable container. The form only asks you to fill out the minimum information that is required for legal compliance and can be easily destroyed after three years or retrieved if a request for information is made. IT systems can fail, and files can easily be lost or forgotten when key personnel leave the business. A physical record is the most reliable way of keeping your accident records.

Browse our accident books here. We have A4 and A5 accident books which can be wall mounted in accident book stations to make sure your accident books are visible and easily access and will always be completed when an accident takes place.

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