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Issue of minor accidents
Article 62, paragraph 1 of the Law on occupational accidents stipulates that the employer (or his representative) must declare to their occupational accident insurer any accident that may give rise to the application of the Law on occupational accidents. However, practice shows that employers do not always declare minor accidents that do not involve any costs, whereas strictly speaking, these accidents also meet the criteria for being considered occupational accidents (Article 7 of the Law on occupational accidents). This absence of declaration may be damaging for the victim in the event of a subsequent worsening of the consequences of the minor accident, given that it is much more difficult or even impossible to prove the existence of the accident. The modification of Article 62 is therefore intended to describe what a minor accident is, and to set down the conditions under which such minor accidents can be exempt from the obligation to make a declaration, particularly if the minor accident was recorded in the intervention register when first-aid was given. This modification is an administrative simplification for the employer, but at the same time, the rights of the victims are still guaranteed as the record can be used as evidence if the minor accident becomes worse.
When is it considered a "minor accident"?
A "minor accident" should be considered as an accident that did not result in a loss of salary or (temporary or permanent) unfitness for work for the victim, and which only required treatment that was given immediately after the accident in the place of the performance of the employment contract (Article 1, 4° of the Royal Decree of 12 March 2003). This treatment does not have to be given by a doctor (although this is of course always possible); in most cases the treatment is given by the company first aider. As is customary when applying the Law on occupational accidents, the place of the performance of the employment contract is not limited to the company; it may be a worksite, a car park or even a public road (e.g. for a lorry driver). Accidents on the way to work, for which the victim received treatment in the place of the performance of the employment contract, can also be considered minor accidents. These may include a graze that is disinfected and potentially bandaged without other medical treatment being necessary and without a resulting in an unfitness for work.
Recording of minor accidents
The exemption from the reporting obligation only applies if the minor accident was recorded in the interventions register in the context of the first aid stated in Article I.5-6, §3 of the Code on Well-being at Work. This record must allow the victim to prove that the accident actually happened in the event of a subsequent worsening (for example, a small injury that becomes ulcerated and then requires treatment by a doctor). In this event, the accident still has to be declared as an occupational accident to the occupational accident insurer, so that the resulting fees can be reimbursed.
The employee who provides first aid (usually the first aider) must include several elements in the register (Article I.5-6):
- the victim's name,
- the name of the person who provided the first aid,
- the location, date and time of the accident, as well as a description and the circumstances of the accident, in order to dispense with the declaration of such accidents to the occupational accidents insurer and keep it as evidence in the event of worsening,
- the date and time of the intervention,
- the nature of the intervention (nature of the injury, type of treatment and resources provided, follow-up given after first aid, etc.),
- the identity of any witnesses.
The accident must of course be recorded as soon as possible after the intervention, so that the recorded information is correct. The declaration exemption does not apply if the accident is not recorded; when a minor accident occurs, but is not recorded in the register, in principle it must be declared to the occupational accident insurer. Some trace of the minor accident must also be available, either through the record or through the declaration.
Adaptation of the annual report of the internal service
To avoid minor accidents disappearing completely from the statistics as they are no longer declared to the occupational accident insurer, the number of minor accidents (which are only recorded in the first aid register and not declared to the occupational accident insurer) must now be included in the annual report of the internal service for prevention and protection at work (see Appendix II.1-3 of the Code).
This annual report already provided that the number of accidents must be reported, subdivided according to severity (death, permanent disability, temporary disability). However, in order to obtain a global picture of the number of accidents in the company, starting from the 2015 annual report, the number of accidents that involved medical or other costs will also have to be reported (but not death, nor any disability - these will be reported to the insurer), and the number of minor accidents (not declared but registered in the register of first aid interventions). These adjustments to the annual report do not change the frequency rate of occupational accidents within the company, but do add value in the context of the system of prevention of occupational accidents: after all, they guarantee that the employer and employees, as well as their consultation bodies (the committee for prevention and protection at work, or in the absence thereof, the trade union delegation) to maintain an overview of the total number of accidents in the company, with a view to monitoring the work accident figures, and possibly also as input for adjustments to the prevention policy of the company.
- Firstly, with the prevention advisor of the internal and/or external service for prevention and protection at work.
- Secondly, with the competent regional directorate for Supervision of Well-being at Work.
- Questions on the interpretation of the legislation: in writing to the Directorate-General for Humanisation of Labour.