Employee’s Communication Of An Accident

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of….things left unsaid” Dostoevsky

It can happen to you!
Hope you are not one of the approximately 20 000 people who got injured during the last month. Does it sound impossible? Surely so many people cannot get hurt in a month! Well if you believe the Compensation Commissioner’s last Statistics Report, and I have no reason to doubt this figure, it is not far-fetched. But let me qualify this statement, it actually means that approximately 20 000 accidents have been reported to the Compensation Commissioner’s office. That is a totally different story. How many accidents were not reported by employers? The figure is a matter for speculation; the fact is many more than 20 000 were injured during this period. Why is it then possible that the so-called number of injuries published in reports, press releases, etc does not necessarily reflect the true picture? As in the case of so many problems in life it emanates from one denominator namely communication or rather insufficient or the total lack of it. Let me try to illustrate this problem with the hope that you can benefit from the content that will follow.

Report the incident (employee)
When something happens to you at work that causes an injury, you must report this incident to your immediate supervisor, the manager or any person who is responsible for your well being. The COID Act stipulates that you should report this to the employer “as soon as possible”. In practice this means at the first available opportunity. I use the term “incident” and not “accident” on purpose. The first, namely an incident, is anything which happened whilst you are busy performing your duties. An accident is the legal term that was given to an incident in the COID Act. This happens as soon as the Compensation Commissioner’s staff has decided that the incident qualifies as an accident in accordance with the definition of an accident in the COID Act. At the moment we are only discussing the term accident and not an occupational disease. The latter will come later, so watch this space. You might at the time think that the incident that caused your pain or discomfort is not important. What is important is that you tell the person who you think should know at work about what has happened. Telling your husband or wife tonight at home might bring the desired attention, that is fine but not as far as the COID Act is concerned.

Let me demonstrate, by way of the example of a case that I have personally dealt with, the consequences of not reporting an incident.  Mr A whilst, working, injured his neck.  He then consulted his doctor who prescribed medication and physiotherapy; which he received after work and of which the employer was totally unaware. He passed the medical accounts for this whole episode he passed on to his medical aid and they paid for it.  He never informed his employer or the Compensation Commissioner’ office. More than a year later he started suffering from severe neck pain associated with spasm.  He then went back to his doctor, medical diagnostic procedures were carried out and it was discovered that he was suffering from pathology that the doctor and specialist who subsequently saw him attributed to the incident at work more than a year before. It was decided that an immediate operation to perform a fusion was necessary. It was done and the prescribed forms for reporting the accident were only then submitted to the Compensation Commissioner’ office by the employer. The latter, when reporting it to the Compensation Commissioner, indicated on the Report of an Accident that they were not aware of the accident and that they are reporting because the Act requires in section 39(7) that it should be done. The Compensation Commissioner refused the claim stating that it had prescribed as neither the employer nor the Compensation Commissioner was made aware of the incident within 12 months form the date thereof. (See section 44 of the COID Act).

As soon as possible
The COID Act in section 38 prescribes that it must be reported as soon as possible. It means exactly that, not as soon as it is convenient for the injured person. The fact that prescription only sets in 12 months from the date of the accident does not imply that the employee can wait months before making an effort to report it. The longer an employee waits the more difficult it becomes to for him or her to prove that the accident actually happened.
Employers!! Why do you not inform the employees about these statutory provisions, it can save you a lot of effort and money, they are after all entitled to it because you pay for it. Please do so.
Next month the employer and communication in connection with reporting of accidents, an even more important issue, will be discussed

See you again.