When is an Accident Book Required in the Workplace?

when is an accident book required in the workplace

If you’re establishing a health and safety policy for your organisation, you’ll inevitably ask: When is an accident book required in the workplace?

The quick answer is when you employ ten or more people. But if you only go by this rule, you’re missing out on benefits valuable for any size business. You may also find it harder to comply with social security and accident reporting legislation.

Read our guide to learn more about accident books in the workplace and why they’re a good idea, even when they’re not strictly needed.

When is an Accident Book Required in the Workplace by Law?

As mentioned in the intro, you need an accident book for your workplace if ten or more employees work there. This requirement comes from the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979.

Under these regulations, employers must record all workplace accidents in case they result in a social security claim. If this happens, accident records are valuable evidence in settling the claimant’s entitlement to payments.

Other Legislation

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) are also relevant. While these regulations don’t directly refer to accident books, they create a legal duty to record and report certain incidents.

Under RIDDOR, you must inform the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of:

  • Workplace deaths
  • Occupational diseases (diseases caused or made worse by work)
  • Any injury that counts as ‘reportable’ (these are generally severe, life-changing injuries – a full list can be found on the HSE’s website)
  • Any injury that keeps an employee off work for seven days or more
  • Any injury sustained by a non-worker (such as a customer or volunteer) that needs immediate hospital treatment
accident books and legislation

While you don’t have to notify the HSE, you must also keep a record of any work-related injury that keeps an employee off work for three days or more.

You don’t need to keep these records in an accident book, but having a single detailed record of all workplace accidents is helpful in case any are reportable.

Finally, there’s the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (the HSWA). The connection between the HSWA and accident books is somewhat abstract but worth mentioning.

Under the HSWA, employers must protect their staff (and anyone else in their workplace) from harm caused by work activities. Again, there’s no direct reference to using accident books to fulfil this duty. But resourceful business owners and managers can use accident records to identify and fix flaws in their work systems and safety arrangements, which we’ll come back to later.

Accident Investigation Training

Our Accident Investigation Training guides users through a step-by-step process for investigating workplace accidents. It helps trainees gather facts, identify root causes, interpret findings and implement measures to prevent future incidents.

When is an Accident Book Required in the Workplace for Small Businesses?

If fewer than ten employees work at your premises, you aren’t legally required to maintain an accident book.

However, you must still record and report certain injuries under RIDDOR, so there’s an excellent chance you’ll need to document an accident at some point. Because of this, there’s no real advantage to not maintaining an accident book of some kind.

And outside of compliance with RIDDOR, there are several other benefits of keeping an accident book, even if you don’t need to.

What are the Benefits of Keeping an Accident Book?

It’s already been stated, but the first benefit is compliance. If you employ more than ten people, you’re required to record all workplace accidents. (This is also a requirement for mines and quarries, regardless of employee numbers, but solo mining ventures are rare nowadays.)

Even if your business is on the smaller side, an accident book is helpful should you have to report a ‘specified injury’ under RIDDOR, which applies to all workplaces.

Then there’s the previously mentioned HSWA. Under the HSWA, you must ensure a safe working environment for your staff and anyone else on your premises. An accident book will help you do this because it’ll help you track incidents. If the same injuries keep happening, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. You need to investigate the incidents to find and fix the root causes.

How Can Accident Books Help Accident Investigations?

A well-kept accident book ensures all the important details about an incident are recorded. These details include the date, time, location, type of injury and, most importantly, how the accident happened. Having this information logged and available helps you investigate what happened and find the root causes.

Over time, accident records can show patterns and trends that might not be obvious from single incidents. For example, if several employees have slipped and injured themselves in the same corridor, it points to a recurring problem that needs fixing. Spotting these patterns helps you prevent future accidents and provide the safe working environment needed under the HSWA.

how can accident books help accident investigations

What Should an Accident Book Include?

An accident book should include the following:

  • Name, address and position of the person(s) injured
  • Name, address and position of the person recording the incident (this is sometimes the injured party)
  • Date, time and location of the incident
  • Suspected cause of the incident
  • Any first aid given

There’s a range of ready-made accident books available, including a version from the HSE.

It’s generally better to have the injured party fill in the details. They’ll provide a first-hand account of the incident, which should be more accurate and detailed. They’ll probably also offer a better description of the injuries sustained. And higher quality data makes for better accident investigation and resolution.

Are Physical Accident Books or Digital Records Better?

You don’t specifically have to record incidents in a physical accident book. The regulations only refer to a “readily accessible” medium for documenting accidents. Traditionally, this has been a paper accident book, but an electronic system might work for you.

We’ve summarised the advantages of each method below.

Advantages of Using a Physical Accident Book

A paper accident book has two key advantages: portability and accessibility.

You can bring an accident book to the incident site, which lets you record what happened as close to the time of injury as possible. We all forget details as time passes; a rapid response lets you document the incident while it’s fresh in people’s minds, giving you more accurate data.

Using a paper accident book is also generally more straightforward. Digital systems need hardware, usernames and passwords, plus more instructions to use compared with pen and paper.

While the injured party (or you) logs on and accesses the right digital files, memories might begin to fade. It’s also possible that whoever records the incident concentrates more on filling in the digital form correctly than the actual accident details.

Advantages of Keeping a Digital Record

The most significant advantage of using a digital accident book is the ability to categorise and search records more easily. Organising incidents by type makes it easier to spot accident trends that need further investigation.

If an incident needs to be reported to the HSE, it will also be more straightforward to find and share the relevant records.

Key Takeaways

  • You must maintain an accident book of some form if you employ ten or more people.
  • You need to be prepared to record injuries should you have to make an HSE report or provide evidence for a social security claim. Because of these requirements, all employers, regardless of business size, should consider using accident books.
  • Recording accidents accurately is fundamental to effective accident investigation and prevention.

Accident Investigation

Accident data is only useful if you know how to use it.

Our online Accident Investigation Training equips you with the knowledge and skills to reveal and resolve the underlying causes of workplace injuries. Only by identifying the real cause of an accident can you prevent it from reoccurring.

The training also enables you to avoid common mistakes that limit the scope and value of any investigation, such as blaming workers or superficial analysis. With the correct application of these strategies, your accident book will soon be left gathering dust.

About the author(s)

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Jonathan Goby
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