How is a home office accident qualified?
Performing remote work (the so-called home office) is often associated with work from home, and therefore without the risk of any accidents at work. Many employees and employers (entrepreneurs) have never used the opportunity to provide work by an employee outside the employer’s seat or branch, thus they often emphasize that remote work is not the same as that performed, for example, in an office. However, also in the case of a “home office”, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with safe and hygienic working conditions, and therefore – in the event of an accident at work, apply appropriate procedures.
According to Art. 3 clause 1 of the Act on social insurance against accidents at work and occupational diseases – hereinafter referred to as the Accident Act – an accident at work is a sudden event caused by an external cause causing injury or death, which occurred in connection with work:
- during or in connection with the performance of ordinary activities or orders of superiors by the employee;
- during or in connection with the performance by the employee of activities for the employer, even without instructions;
- while the employee is at the disposal of the employer on the way between the employer’s seat and the place of performance of the obligation resulting from the employment relationship.
None of the above circumstances makes the occurrence of an accident conditional on the necessity of its occurrence at the employer’s seat. The provision is limited to “performing work” or “being at the employer’s disposal”. In the light of Art. 3 clause 1 of the Accident Act, for assigning the event the characteristics of an accident at work, it is important that there is an objective causal link between the type of work performed and the conditions under which it is performed, and the sudden deterioration of the health condition of the injured party. For the legal qualification of the incident, it is irrelevant whether the external cause mentioned in the above-mentioned provision is a consequence of non-compliance with health and safety rules by either party to the employment relationship.
The above position was confirmed by the Supreme Court in the judgment, I UK 28/06, where it was indicated that “the provision of Art. 3 clause 1 point 2 of the Act of 30 October 2002 on social insurance against accidents at work and occupational diseases (Journal of Laws No. 199, item 1673, as amended), it is possible to recognize the relationship with work not only of an accident that occurred during the performance of the employee’s activities for the employer, even without a command, but also those that took place in connection with the performance of this type of activity. The functional relationship with work exists regardless of the time and place where the accident occurred. “However, as indicated by the Court of Appeal in Wrocław in its judgment, III AUa 1792/17: “An injury to an employee’s health caused by an independent factor may constitute an accident at work, if it was caused by excessive effort or stress in the circumstances of a given accident. Only in the event of an exceptionally large accumulation of unfavorable circumstances for the injured person, exceeding the average norms of human mental sensitivity and causing strong, negative emotions, can these phenomena be the external cause of the event. Therefore, a sudden deterioration of health as a result of nervousness caused by the employee’s transfer to another job that does not meet his expectations or other inherently stressful events, such as dismissal from the position without giving a reason or handing a letter about termination of the contract, is not considered an accident at work. work “.
In the event of any event which resulted in a violation of the employee’s efficiency, the obligation of the employer hiring employees is each time, regardless of the scale of the event, to appoint an accident team to determine the causes and circumstances of the event, as well as to assess whether the event can be considered as accident at work. The circumstances and causes of the accident are determined by the post-accident team appointed by the employer, which includes an employee of the health and safety service and a social labor inspector. Immediately after receiving information about the accident, the post-accident team is obliged to start determining the circumstances and causes of the accident, in particular:
- perform an inspection of the accident site, the technical condition of machines and other technical devices, the condition of protective devices and examine the conditions of work and other circumstances that may have contributed to the accident;
- if necessary, sketch or take a photograph of the accident scene;
- listen to the explanations of the injured person, if their health condition allows it;
- collect accident information from bystanders;
- consult a physician and, if necessary, other specialists, to the extent necessary to assess the type and consequences of the accident;
- collect other evidence about the accident;
- make a legal classification of the accident in accordance with Art. 3 clause 1 and 2 of the Act on social insurance against accidents at work and occupational diseases, hereinafter referred to as “the Act”;
- define preventive measures and conclusions, in particular resulting from the occupational risk assessment at the workplace where the accident occurred.
An accident at work will not be considered, for example, a fall from the stairs when an employee goes to the store during working hours to buy groceries, but an electric shock suffered by an employee while plugging a laptop used for remote work to an electrical outlet – is.
The key thing is whether the person at the time of the accident was performing their official duties (resulting from the employment relationship) at the request of the employer or in his interest. Thus, an employee while performing remote work may also suffer an accident, which will be classified as an accident at work.