According to the Health and Safety Executive there are 1.6 million workers in Great Britain suffering from work-related ill health. The two main causes are stress and musculoskeletal problems, both of which commonly affect people working in healthcare.
Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees. If this has not happened and a care worker or healthcare assistant suffers an injury or illness as a result, then they may be entitled to claim compensation.
Kenneth Amakye, a personal injury solicitor with Hatten Wyatt in Gravesend, who is experienced in helping workers recover compensation when they have suffered injury or illness, comments, 'We are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from people employed in healthcare. The sector was already in crisis before Covid-19, but the pandemic has resulted in some care workers being required to operate under increasingly difficult conditions which has added to the risks they face in the workplace.'
Common accidents involving care workers
Given the nature of the work that people in the healthcare industry carry out, there is a serious and ever-present risk of injury if procedures are not properly followed or tasks are not adequately risk assessed. Injuries can result from:
- physical assault by patients;
- lifting, moving or restraining patients;
- burns and scalds;
- viral infection from patients or colleagues;
- needlestick accidents; and
- slips, trips and falls.
Typical injuries suffered by care workers
Care workers, healthcare assistants and those who work in supporting roles are also vulnerable to a range of physical injuries. These include:
- muscular injuries;
- back injuries such as slipped discs and herniated discs;
- respiratory disease; and
- shoulder and arm injuries.
Care workers and work-related stress
In addition to suffering physical injury, workers in the healthcare sector are also at risk of suffering work-related stress.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, the number of care workers suffering stress has increased significantly. The Nursing Times reported that many healthcare workers feel forgotten.
Those providing care for patients testing positive for Covid-19 may have had to work with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Others may have had leave cancelled due to colleagues being sick or self-isolating.
The pressures and distress of working in an unsafe environment have been exacerbated by the high levels of patient deaths, which has exceeded 100,000 people. Public Health England has accepted that agency workers brought in to cover absent staff caused an increase in the spread of Covid-19.
Added to this, there have been instances where staff have felt compelled to blow the whistle when their employers have not let them self-isolate when a colleague has tested positive.
What training and risk assessments should an employer provide?
Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees. In particular they are required to:
- have adequate risk assessments in place, including for the risks posed by coronavirus to their staff while at work;
- implement preventative measures where risks are identified and inform staff of those risks and the preventative measures taken;
- monitor and review the risks;
- provide suitable training;
- ensure adequate staffing levels; and
- provide suitable PPE.
Whether working in a residential home or out in the community, care workers should have received guidance on how to identify risks to health, be provided with manual handling training and advised how to lift and move patients safely.
What to do if you have suffered an accident or illness at work
It is important to seek medical attention from your GP or a hospital as soon as you can.
You should notify your employer of the injury or illness and have it formally recorded. Most workplaces will have an accident book or recording system. Make a report of the injuries or illness you have suffered, and you should identify any areas where you consider your employer or another member of staff is at fault.
Keep the details of anyone who is a witness and retain any relevant documents. This might, for example, be a risk assessment carried out by your employer or written guidance given to you about PPE or other measures to avoid contracting Covid-19.
Finally, the sooner you speak to one of our specialist personal injury solicitors, the easier it will be for us to gather the evidence required to assess your case and advise you whether you would be entitled to compensation.
What compensation can be claimed?
Compensation can be claimed for both the physical effects of your accident or illness and any psychological problems suffered as a result. We can also recover lost earnings for time off work and related medical costs.
No win, no fee funding
We are able to deal with injury and illness claims in the healthcare sector on a no win, no fee basis, so do not let worries about funding legal costs put you off seeking justice.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.