Accidents at Work in Spain

Accidents at work are a sad fact of life. In 2016, Spain had 476,032 workplace accidents: 3,543 serious and 476 fatal.

This guide is only about accidents that happen in the workplace in Spain.

This guide describes, in particular, how to deal with an accident in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol.  Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónoma)  to another. See a map here.  We have – or soon will have – specific guides covering some of the individual areas of Spain.  See the side bar for what is available.

Introduction

All accidents are bad. Accidents at work are usually surrounded by lots of regulatory and reporting requirements. Spain is no exception. Failure to comply with the rules – or to take action swiftly – can have serious consequences.

Video guide to workplace accidents in Spain

You can get a quick overview of accidents in the workplace in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Antonio Manzanares. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the guide he has written with us.

What must you do if you have an accident at work in Spain?

See our general guide to Dealing with an Accident in Spain for general information about the things you should do when you suffer any accident.

However, because work-related accidents are a special category with special requirements we have produced this separate guide to deal with them.

If you are an employee suffering an accident at work, there are three main things for you to bear in mind:

  1. Your legal requirements
  2. The requirements of your employer
  3. Looking after your own interests

If you are an employer whose employee suffers an accident at work on the Costa del Sol, you only need to worry about the first and third of these categories.

Your legal requirements in Spain

Bear in mind that all aspects of health and safety are pursued with great vigour in Spain, and there are very strict legal requirements as to what you must do following an accident at work.

An accident at work is any accident in which you suffer any injury, however small. If you stab yourself with a paperclip and a drop of blood oozes from your fingertip that is, legally speaking, an accident at work; and you must follow all of the rules by reporting it etc.

In practise, for that sort of trivial injury, most people will – very sensibly – take no action.

However, you don’t need to go much further up the severity scale before you really ought to report an accident – and there are many who would argue that every accident, however small, ought to be reported. What happens if your paperclip has been contaminated and you are taken seriously ill later on? So apply common sense but err on the side of caution. It is in both the employer’s and the employee’s best interests to do so.

Reporting the accident

The process of reporting an accident at work in Spain is as follows:

  1. If the accident is not serious enough to require the employee to take time off work:
    • The employee reports the accident to their employer, who provides an accident report form. The employee also goes to the mutual insurance company. This is the insurance company that provides cover for people suffering injury at work. Each company has one appointed when hiring employees – where a doctor will examine the employee.
    • If the injury is not serious, the employee will go back to work either the same day or the next day, depending on the doctor’s opinion.
    • The insurance company will provide the employee with documentation, which the employee should then deliver to their employer.
  2. If the accident is serious enough to prevent the employee from working for a while:
    • Again, the employee reports the accident to their employer, who provides an accident report form. The employee also goes to the mutual insurance company – each company has one appointed when hiring employees – where a doctor will examine the employee.
    • The employee will receive a medical leave form (parte de baja) from the mutual insurance company and deliver it to their employer.
    • The employee must renew the parte de baja when the previous one expires. The time period for which the parte de baja is valid will depend on the injury and the insurance company.

If you are out of work for a long period of time, the mutual insurance company will contact you for an occasional inspection visit, in order to ensure that you are genuinely ill and unable to work.

Other action required by law

If you receive medical treatment at a hospital – and the hospital considers the treatment was as a result of an accident at work – then they will send you a letter requesting the details of your employer and mutual insurance company.

If you fail to do so, they will charge you for the costs of the treatment received.

The employer’s requirements in Spain

An employer must have a contract in place with a qualified mutual insurance company. When you hire employees, social security will oblige you to choose from one of the insurance companies available. Payment to this insurance company is included in the social security that an employer pays on behalf of their employees.

The mutual insurance company will take care of the employee’s medical needs in case of an accident at work.

For the first 20 days of an employee’s absence due to an accident at work, the employer will pay the full salary of the employee. After day 21, the mutual insurance company will cover 75% of the salary, with the employer only paying 25%.

The employer has the obligation of ensuring that the work premises are safe, and the employees work in an environment that complies with all health and safety regulations in force. The employer must also arrange for the employees to be duly trained on how to prevent accidents at work.

The employer must arrange for the employees to pass an annual medical test. This is normally done by specialised companies that the employer hires.

Looking after your own interests

Employees

Whenever you have the feeling that your rights are not been respected or you think you are entitled to compensation from your employer, you should seek legal advice.

Some trade unions provide free initial advice to their members, so if you belong to one of them, you can ask them for advice. If you are not a member of any trade union, you should seek the advice of a lawyer who specialises in labour cases.

Membership of a trade union is easy to obtain. Just approach the union of your choice and apply for membership, which you will maintain with a monthly fee. You can read a great overview of trade unions in Spain, as well as a list of the major unions, here.

Taking time off work

If you suffer an accident at work you may need to take time off.

Your employer cannot fire you if you take time off work as a result of an accident at work.

Normally, your doctor will tell how long you should stay off work – and the doctor’s opinion will usually be respected.

If you take time off as a result of an accident at work, the mutual insurance company reimburses your employer for your salary during the period of your absence. This is why they will check on you from time-to-time: to make sure that you are ill enough to be off work.

The amount of time you have to take off work will also be a factor in the amount of any compensation you receive for the accident, if you decide to make a claim.

Employers

You are required to comply with the reporting rules and to deal promptly with any issues arising out of accidents at work. It is, in any case, in your interest to do so.

It is recommended practise that in the case of any accident you should carry out a review of what caused the accident and record your conclusion. When we say that you should carry out a review, this does not suggest a process taking weeks or months. Often the review can be concluded in five or ten minutes. “Mr X slipped on oil on the workshop floor. Our procedures require the floor to be cleaned hourly. It had been cleaned ten minutes before the accident occurred. It is unclear where the oil came from but most likely to be spillage by Mr X. Memo sent to all employees highlighting the danger of spilling oil and the need to clean it up immediately if they do so.”

Conclusion

Fortunately, accidents at work are relatively rare. Unfortunately, in the worst cases, they can have life-changing consequences.

The rate of serious accidents at work has fallen a great deal in Spain over the last ten years and there is no doubt that the strict reporting requirements have contributed to this.

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