What is an accident at work?
An accident at work is a sudden incident resulting from an external cause and bringing about an injury or death, which occurred in connection with work:
- during or in connection with the performance by a worker of ordinary activities or orders of their superiors
- during or in connection with the performance by a worker of activities for the benefit of the employer, even without an order
- while a worker was at the disposal of the employer on the way between the employer’s seat and the place of fulfilling a duty resulting from an employment relationship.
An accident is treated like an accident at work, with respect to entitlement to benefits set out in the act, if it happened to a worker:
- during a business trip in circumstances other than those already mentioned, unless the accident was caused by the worker’s behaviour which was not connected with the performance of the assigned tasks
- during training in the field of general self-defence
- during performance of tasks assigned by trade union organisations operating in the company.
In order to correctly classify an incident, it is necessary to determine if all the features of an accident occurred: suddenness of the incident, an external cause, an injury or death of a worker, as well as connection of the incident with work.
A worker who suffered from an accident, if their health status permits, should immediately inform their superior of this fact.
The legal basis
Act of 26 June 1974 Labour Code (Journal of Laws of 2022, item 1510, as amended).
Act of 30 October 2002 on Social Insurance in Case of Occupational Accident or Disease (Journal of Laws of 2022, item 2189).
Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 1 July 2009 on Determining the Circumstances and Causes of Work Accidents (Journal of Laws of 2009, number 105, item 870).
When and how to report an accident?
When to report an accident to the State Labour Inspection?
An employer’s duty is to notify a District Labour Inspector competent due to the place of the incident of:
- a fatal accident at work
- a serious accident at work
- a collective accident at work
- any other accident which is connected with work and caused the above-mentioned effect (fatal, serious, collective), if it may be deemed an accident at work.
A fatal accident at work is one which causes death no later than within 6 months from the day of its occurrence.
A serious accident at work is one which causes serious bodily injuries, such as:
- loss of sight, hearing, speech, reproductive ability or other bodily damage,
- health impairment affecting the essential functions of the organism,
- a disorder which is incurable or creates the risk of death,
- a permanent mental disorder,
- permanent and complete or partial inability to work in the profession,
- permanent and serious disfigurement or deformation of the body.
A collective accident at work is one which occurred to at least two persons.
An accident should be notified to the SLI inspector without delay. For this purpose an employer submits a notification to the District Labour Inspector competent for the place of the incident.
How to notify the State Labour Inspection of an accident?
A notification of a fatal, serious or collective accident at work and of any other accident that had the above-mentioned effects and was related to work if it may be deemed a work-related accident, must be submitted by the employer without delay. The notification should comprise the following information:
- identification of the employer (employer’s name, name and surname, the position held, telephone number)
- the date and hour when the incident occurred
- the number of the injured persons
- data of the injured persons (name and surname of the victims, the basis of work performance, effects of the accident for the victims)
- the place of the accident
- information about the course of the accident.
The fastest way to notify the SLI of an accident is over the phone.
Below are telephone numbers of individual districts of the State Labour Inspection, at which accidents at work may be notified (the phone lines are operated in Polish only).
Notifications of accidents may also be made by email or by post sent to the address of the District Labour Inspectorate.
In addition to a labour inspector, the employer should also notify a prosecutor of an accident.
Failure to report an accident at work to a labour inspector or to a prosecutor is an offence on the part of the employer, punishable with a fine ranging from PLN 1000 to PLN 30 000.
An accident of a worker – what to do?
In the situation where an accident occurs, an employer is obliged:
- To ensure first aid to the victims and to undertake indispensable actions to eliminate or reduce the risk (for example, to cut off the machines’ power supply).
- To secure the place of the accident from access of unauthorised persons and to prevent the possibility of starting – without the need – the machines and other technical equipment whose operation was stopped in connection with the incident. Such safeguarding should eliminate the possibility to change the position of machines, equipment and other objects, which caused the accident, if on the basis of their location and condition it will be possible to recreate the circumstances and course of that accident and determine its causes.
- To conduct post-accident proceedings.
As part of the post-accident proceedings, the employer establishes a post-accident team, composed of an employee of the OSH service (the employer’s representative) and the social labour inspector (the workers’ representative). The team should determine the circumstances and causes of the accident at work. The team will examine the circumstances and causes of the accident, also by visual inspection of the place where it occurred, listening to explanations of the victim or witnesses, as well as asking a physician for an opinion. The costs related to determining the circumstances and causes of accidents at work are borne by the employer.
If the employer has no OSH service, a member of the team will be the employer or the employee to whom the employer has assigned the performance of OSH-related tasks, or an external expert. If there is no social labour inspection in the company, a member of the team will be the workers’ representative who has to hold a valid confirmation of having attended OSH training. If due to a small number of employees, the employer cannot establish a two-person team, the team will be composed of the employer and an external OSH expert.
The post-accident team should draw up a post-accident report no later than within 14 days from notification of the accident. The report should specify if the incident was by nature an accident at work, and if so, in what circumstances it occurred and what its causes were. The victim has the right to make objections and formulate comments on the contents of the report. Afterwards the report is approved of by the employer, who has 5 days for that from drawing up of the report.
The approved post-accident report is provided by the employer to:
- the victim
- the victim’s family (in case of a fatal accident)
- a labour inspector (in case of a fatal, serious or collective accident)
The victim who does not agree with the report contents may bring an action to court for correction of the post-accident report. In the framework of such proceedings, the parties: the victim and the employer, most frequently have a dispute about whether the specific incident may be deemed an accident at work.
An employer has the duty to keep a register of accidents at work. The report which determines the circumstances and causes of an accident at work, along with the remaining post-accident documents, has to be kept by the employer for 10 years.
An employer is obliged to conduct systematic analysis of accidents and to undertake preventive measures so as to avoid recurrence of such accidents.