Reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences 2013 (RIDDOR) – ignore them at your peril
In the recent case of R (HSE) v Paul Adams 2021, there is a salutary reminder of the importance of prompt reporting of serious accidents to the appropriate regulatory authority, as Philip Tracey, Head of Regulatory Health and Safety Law at Plexus Law, explains…
Philip Tracey, Plexus Law
Over the last 18 months we have been living and working through a period of uncertainty which most of us have probably never experienced before. The focus for most has probably been to ensure business survival and maintaining normal output. Nevertheless, perhaps what might be considered routine functions as remain important as ever and you ignore them at our peril.
RIDDOR places an obligation on employers (and in certain cases others) to notify the appropriate authority of accidents resulting in specified injuries, disease or occurrence which arise from a work-related activity. Reg 4 of RIDDOR sets out the specified injuries which must be reported. It includes amputations. It also includes accidents which result in absence from work for more than seven consecutive days. The report to the regulator in respect of specified injuries must be made within 10 days (15 days for seven-day absences).
This is a self-reporting requirement and places the burden firmly on the dutyholder to report serious accidents, usually to the HSE or in some circumstances the Environmental Health Office of the local authority (see Health and Safety(Enforcing Authority) Regs 1998).
The report is the first notification to the HSE and is usually the catalyst for any HSE investigation. A failure to report can have serious consequences for the dutyholder as Mr Adams found to his cost.
Mr Adams was engaged in constructing a two-storey house in New Malden. He employed a Simon Lewis to assist. On 18 January 2019, Lewis was clearing part of the site using an excavator, which tipped and trapped his leg. His leg was subsequently amputated. Mr Adams did not report the accident in accordance with RIDDOR. Mr Lewis, however, did lodge a complaint with the Health and Safety Executive some 7 months later. Mr Adams had no EL insurance, no health and safety documentation and had not obtained any health and safety qualifications during his 50 years of work in the construction injury. He had not investigated the accident and blamed Mr Lewis. Mr Adams was prosecuted for breach of RIDDOR in failing to report the accident. There were clearly aggravating factors which demonstrated a general failing to treat health and safety sufficiently seriously by Adams. Mr Adams was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.
Complying with legislation
The case serves to emphasise the importance of complying with health and safety legislation – it is not an optional extra. A failure to comply does not just run the risk of a significant fine but can lead to incarceration. Any injury in the workplace can have serious consequences for a business particularly small and medium size ones. It is important not to ignore the legal requirement.
RIDDOR reporting is a simple process. It is now completed online. There are a few points to bear in mind when completing the online document as follows:
- Record the facts only as you know them. Do not offer any opinion, supposition or guesswork as to the cause of the accident.
- Make sure you print out and keep a copy of the RIDDOR before sending it to the HSE.
Because of the time limits involved in reporting, by the time you have to report any investigation into the circumstances is still likely to be ongoing as to what was the cause of the accident and therefore you are unlikely to be able to comment on the cause of the accident at that stage. It may be necessary to engage an expert to advise on the cause of the accident.
Finally, it is important to notify your insurers (make sure you have EL insurance as it is an offence not to do so). A serious accident is likely to be disconcerting and has a potential to have a devastating impact on your business. It is likely to be a novel experience for you. It will not however be a novel experience for your insurers who will be able to assist you by engaging specialist legal and other expert advice on your behalf to guide you through the difficult process.
Click here to read more about this prosecution.
 It was reported that although Mr Adams had no employer’s liability insurance, it seems he was not prosecuted in relation to that offence.
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