Limitation of reporting an accident at work

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Recently, an employee came to a health and safety specialist who claims that he had an accident at work two years ago, and the effects of this accident have become apparent only now. Can we refuse to carry out an accident investigation? Is there such a thing as a statute of limitations for reporting an accident at work?

 

Karolina, Kolo

It may happen that an accident occurs while you are working. Then you need to complete a few formalities. How should I report an accident? When should this happen?

Accident at work

Art. 3 of the Act on social insurance against accidents at work and occupational diseases introduces the definition of "accident at work". According to him, an "accident at work" is a sudden event caused by an external cause, resulting in injury or death that occurs:

  • during or in connection with the performance of ordinary activities or orders of superiors by the employee;
  • during or in connection with the performance of activities by the employee for the employer, even without instructions;
  • while the employee is at the employer's disposal on the way between the employer's seat and the place of performance of the obligation resulting from the employment relationship.

In order for a given event to be considered an accident at work, all elements listed in the definition must be present jointly. It is from the correct assessment and interpretation of the incident by the accident team that the accident is considered an "accident at work".

In order for an event to be considered an accident at work, it must meet all the criteria by definition:

  • be related to work;
  • be an emergency;
  • occur due to the action of an external cause;
  • it must result in injury or death to the worker.

An accident at work is also a sudden event caused by an external cause, causing injury or death, which occurred during the period of accident insurance on a given title during:

  • practicing sports during competitions and training sessions of a person receiving a sports scholarship;
  • performance of paid work on the basis of an assignment to work while serving a sentence of imprisonment or pre-trial detention;
  • performing the mandate of a deputy or senator (receiving a salary);
  • undergoing training, internship, apprenticeship for adults or apprenticeship at work by a person receiving a scholarship during this training, internship, apprenticeship for adults or apprenticeship at work on the basis of a referral issued by the poviat labor office or by another managing entity, a scholarship under the provisions on employment promotion and labor market institutions during postgraduate studies;
  • performance by a member of an agricultural production cooperative, a cooperative of agricultural circles and by another person treated as equal to a member of the cooperative within the meaning of the provisions on the social insurance system of work for these cooperatives;
  • performance of work on the basis of an agency contract, contract of mandate or contract for the provision of services, to which the provisions on mandate apply in accordance with the Civil Code;
  • performing work on the basis of the activation agreement referred to in the Act of February 4, 2011 on the care of children up to 3 years of age;
  • cooperation in the performance of work on the basis of an agency contract, contract of mandate or contract for the provision of services (to which the provisions on mandate apply);
  • performing ordinary activities related to non-agricultural activities within the meaning of the provisions on the social insurance system;
  • performing ordinary activities related to cooperation in non-agricultural activities within the meaning of the provisions on the social insurance system;
  • the performance by a clergyman of religious activities or activities related to entrusted pastoral or religious functions;
  • performing alternative service;
  • studies at the National School of Public Administration by students receiving a scholarship;
  • performance of work on the basis of an agency contract, contract of mandate or contract for the provision of services (to which the provisions on mandate apply), or a contract for specific work (when it has been concluded with an employer with whom the person is employed);
  • performance of official duties by a customs officer.

The Accident Act distinguishes three types of accidents:

  • fatal, as a result of which death occurred within a period not exceeding 6 months from the date of the accident;
  • severe, as a result of which severe bodily injury occurred, i.e. loss of eyesight, hearing, speech, reproductive ability, other bodily injury or health impairment, violating the basic functions of the body, incurable or life-threatening disease, permanent mental illness, total or partial inability to work in the profession, permanent, significant disfigurement or distortion of the body;
  • collective, which occurs when two or more people have been injured as a result of it.

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Limitation of reporting an accident at work

As a rule, after reporting an accident at work, the employer is obliged to carry out an accident investigation. The regulations, however, do not specify the deadline for the notification in question. Consequently, it can be concluded that there is no such thing as a statute of limitations for reporting an accident at work.

The statute of limitations for reporting an accident at work does not exist.

§ 2 of the Regulation of the Council of Ministers on the determination of the circumstances and causes of accidents at work specifies that an employee who has suffered an accident at work should immediately inform his supervisor (if his health condition allows it).

An employee who has had an accident should immediately inform his / her supervisor.

An explanation of the issue should be sought immediately in the case law, which does not agree on it.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of May 28, 1997 (file reference number II CR 623/90, Biul. SN 1991/10/20):

"(...) for typical situations, where the circumstances do not indicate anything else, it should be assumed that the performance of the performance immediately after the debtor's request for performance (...) means the fulfillment within 14 days of the request (...)" .

The judgment of the Supreme Court of March 22, 2001 (file reference number V CKN 769/00, OSNC 2001/11/166):

“(...) The term“ immediately ”cannot be equated with the immediate term. There are also no grounds to conclude that in typical situations, when the circumstances do not indicate anything else, it should be assumed that the performance of the service means fulfillment within 14 days of the summons (...) ".

It follows that it is not possible to notify about the accident later than immediately (e.g. when the consequences of the accident are revealed). So it can be concluded that in some cases the accident investigation will be refused.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of November 6, 1998 (file reference number II UKN 290/98, OSNP 1999/24/793):

"Failure to immediately report the accident to the employer by the injured employee does not justify the refusal to recognize the event as an accident at work (...)".

The judgment of the Supreme Court of September 14, 2000 (file reference number II UKN 702/99, OSNP 2002/6/143):

"Failure to inform the supervisor about the accident immediately after the incident does not deprive the employee of the right to demand a finding that it was an accident at work within the meaning of Article 6 (1) of the Act of 12 June 1975 on benefits for accidents at work and occupational diseases ( ..) ".

Both of these judgments were issued prior to the entry into force of the current regulation on the determination of the circumstances and causes of accidents, but are considered up-to-date. After notification of the occurrence of an accident at work, it is therefore necessary to appoint an accident team to carry out an accident investigation.

Summary - statute of limitations for reporting an accident at work

Pursuant to the regulations, an accident at work must be reported immediately, but there is no precise date in which this should be done in Polish regulations. Thus, the statute of limitations for reporting an accident at work does not exist, and the employer should appoint a post-accident team, even if the employee notifies about the accident several years after the event.