Q.Recently one of our employees fell over and struck his head while working as a machinist and was unconscious for a few minutes.
An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital. It was reported under RIDDOR 95 and the appropriate accident report form filled out and signed.
The employee has returned to work having been away from work for three consecutive days. We are concerned as his employer if there is underlying health problems connected with this occurence that he may suffer the same occurence while working on the machines.
What is the procedure with regards to him returning to his normal duties given that he may have some underlying health problems?
(Mr John Colligan, 26 September 2008)
A.First of all, it is to be applauded that you are concerned about your employee’s welfare and that you are keen to ensure that he is fit enough to return to work so soon after his accident. You have also followed the correct procedure in the way you have gone about reporting the accident.
Unfortunately, accidents do occur in the workplace from time to time as you will be aware and a fall resulting in an employee falling unconscious is quite a serious one. However, it was simply that, an accident, so unless the fall was caused by some kind of negligence in terms of the company not taking correct safety precautions when it comes to slips, trips and falls and you have given no indication of that, then the chances are that it was simply a ‘one off’ accident that could not be helped.
In terms of your concerns however, there is no specific evidence mentioned in your question which would lead to the belief that the member of staff is not fit enough to return to work. He obviously feels fit enough to return or he wouldn’t have done so until he felt fit and able to do so and no doubt you have spoken to him since he came back and discussed his well-being with him.
However, in order to put your mind at rest with regards to not only your employee’s welfare but also about any possibility of any company liability issue arising down the track should he encounter any further health problems as a result of this incident, you may wish to have him examined if you employ an external Health Assessor. Alternatively, ask the employee to go and visit his GP. Here, he should explain the nature of the accident and what took place and he should tell the GP what his job entails. Then, it should be left to the GP to determine whether or not your employee is fit enough to return to work. From a liability perspective, you might also consider asking for a written letter from the GP to verify that he/she has given your employee a clean bill of health to return to work although there is likely to be a small charge for this which obviously, you should foot the bill for, given that you have requested the visit.