Each year many employees are suffering from injuries resulting from warehouse accidents. Unfortunately it happens regardless of all those efforts made by the warehouse (distribution centers) companies to provide training, better control and supervision, more safe machinery and equipment used in our everyday work.
Those employees affected by accidents at warehouses not only suffer from injury, but very often they are also at risk or they are in fact losing their source of income as they remain unfit to work for a period of time.
Warehouse accident - what it is
Warehouse accident is an event or situation causing an injury, which results from some activity at work and for which activity we can blame or assign responsibility to your employer. Health and safety regulations are designed in such a manner, that it is for the employer to ensure that they took all reasonable steps and actions to ensure that there is no risk or minimal risk that any accident at work may occur.
You will be entitled to claim compensation as a result of an injury suffered at warehouse (distribution centre), if you will be able to prove, that your employer bears responsibility for the accident and your injuries.
Your employer is also responsible for any actions of any fellow workers in the workplace, if those actions of other workers caused the accident and injury.
The definition of the accident suggests, that it is an isolated once off incident, which has a certain date, time and place. However among the cases where employees are claiming compensation as a result of a warehouse accident, there are also cases where employees suffered an injury as a result of existence of some dangerous factor over a period of time, which could be several days, weeks and sometimes even years:
- Working in an unhealthy position which causes a back injury will be one of the examples of a factor that may be in existence over months or even years.
- everyday lifting which is "picking" hundreds of kilograms or even tonnes of goods under time pressure
- unsafe product "picking" for many days in a row without job rotation may cause back and hand injuries
- injuries caused by unsafe "picking" from locations with so called "pyramid picking"
Warehouse accident - what you should do and what you should be aware of
- As always first you should make sure that you are safe and also take care of your health.
- You should notify or ask someone to notify, that the accident occurred to a person who is a first aider at the construction site. You should also inform your supervisor, team leader or manager of the fact that the accident happened.
- If possible try to take photographs of the scene of the accident or ask your coworkers to do it for you. It also includes taking photographs of the machinery, of equipment which has a link to your accident and injury. The number of pallets, their location, how they were loaded and if pyramid picking occurred may change very quickly. Taking photographs as soon as possible is therefore very important in warehouse accident cases.
- It often happens that the pain which signals that there is some injury may only appear after hours or days after the accident, when your stress levels are down. You should visit your GP with any health complaints that you may have, even if you consider them not to be serious. It is worth to do so, even if in the future you make a decision, that the injuries thankfully were not serious and you are not taking any compensation case.
- You should be very careful what is included in accident report form and how your statement was taken. Under no circumstances you shall sign such a report or statement, if you do not agree with the content of same. If there is a language barrier you shall ensure that there is someone who can translate the documents for you.
- It happens often that after the accidents the employers are trying to quickly send employees for some training. You shall take part in such training, if you are required to do so by your employer, but please make sure to put the correct date on the protocol or list that you sign when you are attending the training, so there is no question when in fact the training took place, which would be after the accident.
- Do not sign any document where you admit your liability or responsibility for the accident. We are strongly recommending solicitor’s consultation before doing so. It also relates to any disciplinary actions in the workplace following the warehouse accident. Our office provides professional legal advice in all aspect of employment law and accidents at work.
- retain, if possible, copy of picking list from the date of accident
- retain copies of your rosters showing long days working long hours at the same position without proper work position rotation
Warehouse accident - report
It is employer’s obligation to prepare an accident report. What is your obligation as an employee, who was involved in an accident, is to make sure that the accident was properly reported to your supervisor or manager. If there is any doubt, we recommend that you send a text message and email or a message on social media, so you will have a proof that the accident was in fact reported by you, if there are any future problems. If accident is properly reported it is outside of your control, if the employer will prepare accident report form.
You shall not sign any part of the report or statements with which you do not agree. Ask your employer to implement appropriate changes to the report or statement and if they are not forthcoming you shall consider putting your objections to the content of the report or statement in writing and sending them to your employer. It will allow to avoid a situation in the future, where someone will be using a report that although you did not sign is the only existing document describing the accident.
Warehouse accident - healthcare
Beside evident situation, where you will immediately go to the doctor, to hospital or you are taken by ambulance from the warehouse, in less serious injuries, they may become symptomatic only after hours or even days, when the levels of stress and adrenaline caused by the accident are down.
We recommend that it is worth to report to your GP even very minor symptoms, which appeared following an accident in which you were involved. Even if in the future you will decide, that the injuries were finally so minor and not last long that you are not taking any compensation case. That will allow to avoid a situation, if you will decide to pursue your case, that the insurance company or their solicitors will be trying to say, that the fact that you reported symptoms only days after the accident means, that the injuries were caused by some other accident or situation and not by the accident in which you were involved. It will also allow the doctors, who will be preparing reports, if they have a notification of your early symptoms to properly link all your symptoms as the consequences of particular accident.
Please also remember in case you will attend company doctor, so some medical appointments arranged by your employer, that this doctor is not to provide treatment to you. The job of the company doctor is to assess your health and assess if you are fit to work in particular employment. Therefore, think twice and apply common sense, when you are using company doctor and in case of any doubts if this is about treatment or only assessment, you shall establish contact with the GP or if you have any doubts, please contact us and we will provide a proper advice.
Another important aspect - you shall not arrange specialist doctor’s appointments or diagnostics such as x-rays, MRI scan or any blood tests, or other diagnostics without referral letter from your GP. We know that in many EU countries it is possible to go directly as a private patient and make a specialist appointment or to have for example an MRI scan, but it is not a common practice in Ireland and normally you will be expected to have a referral letter before such diagnostics are taking place. That will allow in the future to avoid a situation where someone will say, that you were trying to self treat or self heal yourself without your GP’s knowledge. Such self referrals may also affect your case. Of course it makes no difference, if it is about a real danger to your health and when the time is of an essence. However each time and whenever possible you shall consult your GP before making such scans or specialist appointments.
Warehouse accident - your wages
Your employer is not under legal obligation to pay your wages, when your out sick following your accident, unless it is provided in your contract of employment.
Some employment contracts provide, that the wages are paid for a certain number of days or weeks after the accident. We are strongly recommending to seek a legal advice before you will sign any documents for your employer, which were presented to you as a condition of receiving your wages during your sick leave following accident at work.
Also some of the employers may decide to pay you, for a period of time, the difference between Social Welfare payments and your normal weekly wages.
It is also important, that you claim as soon as possible Social Welfare payments and you shall apply for an Injury Benefit, if your medical condition is a result of an accident at work. You can read more about this here.
Warehouse accident- when to start your case
We are recommending that you make a contact with your solicitor as soon as you look after your health and safety. It is important as the Civil Courts and Liability Act imposes an obligation, that you shall inform of your injuries and your intention to claim compensation in a letter, which should be sent within a month from the date of the accident. If this is not done it may have an implication for your case in the future in particular in the area of legal costs. Our office will send such a letter within one month from the date of the accident and as soon as we will receive a proper authority to act on your behalf, and we will do it even quicker after you make a contact with us in order to protect your interests.
Contrary to some people, who say or advise that you may wait with the start of your case till you recover from the injuries, we are saying that the letter notifying the other party of your intention to claim damages and indicating that you were injured in that accident shall be sent and it does not make an obligation on you to pursue your case in the future in case you change your mind.
You shall also MAKE A DIFFERENCE between the date which is called the statute of limitations and which is currently for personal injuries two years, (so you have two years to claim compensation from the date of the accident). You shall differentiate this date from the one month period to send a letter indicating your intention to claim compensation.