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Every year, around 60 workers die in the Netherlands as a result of an accident at work. Moreover, there are around 2,300 serious accidents at work that require hospitalisation each year, some of which result in permanent injuries. How do you go about safety at work, and what should you do in case of an accident at work?
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Accident during working hours
An accident at work is an accident that happens during working hours and prevents you from doing your work. A cut that requires a plaster but does not stop you from working is not an accident at work.
Who is most at risk?
Painters, carpenters, plasterers, and bricklayers are at high risk of accidents at work because tripping/falling is at the top of the list of serious accidents at work. However, accidents at work are also common among bench machinists, mechanics, and repair people. You are also at greater risk of an accident if you work with hazardous substances, or under high work pressure.
When should you report an accident?
You must always report an accident to your manager or employer. And they must always report a serious accident (fatality, permanent injury, or hospitalisation) to the Inspectorate SZW (formerly the Labour Inspectorate, and which will be called the Netherlands Labour Authority (Nederlandse Arbeidsinspectie (NLA)) from 1 January 2022). Your employer must also keep a record of all accidents at work. The Inspectorate SZW is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week on the telephone number: 0800 - 5151 (free).
Is there a good safety policy?
A good safety policy has identified the risks, devised measures to prevent accidents, drawn up rules and procedures, and keeps a record of accidents. Your employer must ensure a safe workplace.
What can you do yourself?
Discuss it with your colleagues
Consult with your colleagues. Do they see the same kind of accident risks in your work? If so, take your complaints to the manager together. Together you are stronger.
Discuss it with your manager
Discuss what you consider to be hazardous working conditions with your manager. And ask if they are taking preventive measures. Make clear agreements. Who does what, and when? Don’t take “I’ll keep an eye on it” as an answer.
Involve the Works Council (ondernemingraad (OR)) or Staff Representation (personeelsvertegenwoordiging (PVT))
Discuss the problems with the Works Council (or staff representatives), preferably with your colleagues present.
Discuss it with the prevention officer
Discuss with the prevention officer where you think hazardous working conditions arise. Make it clear that you are looking for a solution that works for everyone.
Go to the occupational health and safety consultation hour
Go to your company doctor’s open consultation hour. This is possible even if you are not disabled, but you have been in an accident.
Check your RI&E
Check whether the risks and measures are included in the Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E) and the Plan of Action.
Send a complaint to the Inspectorate SZW
If talking does not help, file a complaint with the Inspectorate SZW. The Inspectorate SZW is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week on the telephone number: 0800 - 5151 (free).
First aid in case of accidents at work: this is how you respond
The emergency response team is not immediately present at an accident at work, so you must respond yourself. Make sure you know the step-by-step plan for first aid. You can save lives with it.
What is a serious accident?
if someone dies as a result of the accident
if someone sustains permanent physical or mental injuries
if someone needs to be hospitalised
Immediately report the accident to the company emergency response team. Tell them quickly but clearly where the accident is.
Send the emergency response team to a recognisable place and have someone take them to the scene of the accident.
Call 112 if necessary.
Let someone with a first aid or emergency response certificate provide first aid.
Do not change the scene of the accident until the emergency response team arrives.
Make sure that everyone stays away from the accident and give the emergency response team space.
Give attention and guidance to colleagues who were at the accident.
Accompany the victim and have the wound(s) taken care of by someone from the company emergency response team.
Report the accident to the victim’s manager and the manager of the department where the accident took place.
Protect yourself and make sure you are not in any danger.
Warn everyone in the area.
Close the doors to prevent the fire from spreading due to additional oxygen.
Extinguish the fire if possible. If you don't know how to do this, leave it to the experts.
There are three golden rules for anyone who is not an emergency response officer:
1. Take care of yourself.
2. Report the accident immediately.
3. Take care of the victim.
Who is liable in case of an accident?
If you are involved in an accident at work, a lot of damage can be caused. It is not always easy to recover this damage. Do you need help with this? Please contact the FNV personal injury team.
Most of the time, the employer is liable
The exact cause of the accident is very important to assess who is liable.
It is important to always have a registration or accident report drawn up by the employer for the accident that happened to you because this establishes that the accident happened while working. As an employee you have to prove this.
The employer is obliged to protect your health and safety. This means that in case of an accident at work:
The employer must inform the Netherlands Labour Authority (Nederlandse Arbeidsinspectie) in the event of fatality, permanent injury, or hospitalisation. This applies not only to their own employees, but also to everyone who works under their authority.
Sometimes several parties are liable for the damage, for example if the accident takes place on a construction site where subcontractors are also working in addition to your employer.
If you are a temporary worker, both the employment agency and the employer to which you are seconded can be liable. This could also include a (single-vehicle) accident while driving from one location to another for work.
The employer may be ordered to pay your personal injury compensation as a result of the accident.
Most employers have liability insurance. The insurer then handles the personal injury claim on behalf of the employer. If liability is acknowledged, you will receive compensation for the personal injury.
Sometime employers have employee's compensation insurance. With such an insurance, the issue of liability is not taken into account and your personal injury claim is dealt with immediately.
Some employers also have collective accident insurance (collectieve ongevallenverzekering (COV)) in addition to the insurances mentioned above. Collective accident insurance usually pays a one-off amount two years after the accident if there is still permanent injury. The actual costs are not taken into account.
Burden of proof lies with the employer
Once it has been established that the accident happened while you were at work, the burden of proof lies with the employer. This means that the employer must prove that they have done everything to ensure a safe work situation. They must also prove that they have provided sufficient information and supervision at the time of the accident.
Intent or deliberate recklessness
The employer is not always liable for the accident at work. If the accident is a result of intent or deliberate recklessness on your end, the employer can invoke this. Previous court cases show that this is only the case in very exceptional cases. Careless behaviour certainly does not mean that it is immediately reckless.
High fines in case of negligence
Employers who do not provide a safe and healthy workplace can be fined by the Inspectorate SZW. These fines are in addition to the costs associated with the employee's absence such as continued payment of salary in case of illness.
This is how you prevent accidents
The top five serious accidents at work: tripping/falling, lack of oxygen in a confined space, accidents with forklift trucks or conveyor belts, accidents with rotating parts of machines or machines that have not been switched off. Prevention is of course better than cure. Check how you can do your work as safely as possible.
Avoid the danger of falling
Falling is very common, especially in construction. This includes tripping, falling from scaffolding, stairs or objects, for example concrete plates, falling on someone. But there are rules for working at heights. Your employer must take measures so that you can do your work at heights safely.
Working in confined spaces
Many accidents are the result of lack of oxygen in the workplace, for example in manure silos, sewers, tankers, beer cellars, or cold stores. Crawl spaces, basements, and pipelines also constitute a confined space. Know in advance what to do and follow the safety instructions. Make sure that there is always someone supervising when you have to work in a confined space.
Working with (rotating) machinery
If you remove the protective cover from the machine, you can adjust or clean it faster. Yes, maybe, but if the machine has rotating parts, an accident can happen more quickly.
Follow the safety instructions.
Only work with machines for which you have been given instructions.
Use a machine for its intended purpose.
Keep away from the danger zone of a machine.
Always turn off a machine and apply the brakes to a moving machine before performing any maintenance or cleaning work.
Never climb on a machine.
Talk to colleagues about unsafe behaviour.
Carry out timely maintenance and repairs.
Not enough time is never a reason to risk an accident.
Learn from other people's mistakes.
Safe on the forklift
Working on forklifts, or with a crane, conveyor belts and elevators on company premises can cause serious injuries.
Don't get rushed. Accidents often happen when you rush.
Always check the forklift while keeping in mind that serious situations could arise.
Consider incidents and situations that just end well as clear warnings.
Make sure that the walking areas and forklift roads are clearly separate.
Do not drive with a lifted load (the tipping point is high, especially when taking a corner).
Do not drive with an unstable load.
Drive extra slowly in blind spots.
Pay attention at charging stations: there is often little visibility here.
It is strictly forbidden to let people ride along (on the forks).
Keep your limbs within the forklift cab posts.
Comply with the minimum requirements:
Be well prepared
Check the condition of the forklift. Know which parts to check and set. So, test the brakes, tires, the lifting mechanism and forks.
Be handy with the controls
Drive responsibly and place loads safely. You can handle various types of loads. You can also read a load diagram and indicate a centre of gravity of a load.
Operate the forklift correctly
You use the lifting and lowering system in the right way, and you apply the tilting mechanism properly. You also choose the right position for a warehouse rack when picking up and placing a load. You also know how to change an LPG tank or traction battery.