All about workplace accidents

In the workplace, remote work &
on the way

Table of contents

What is a workplace accident?

The definition of a workplace accident is set in the April 10, 1971 Workplace Accident Act.

Article 7 of this law states the following:

For the purposes of this law, an accident at work is any accident that happens to an employee during and through the fact of the performance of the labor contract and that causes an injury. The accident occurring during the performance of the contract shall, subject to proof to the contrary, be deemed to have occurred due to the fact of the performance of that contract. Also considered an accident at work is the accident that happened to an employee outside the performance of his contract but was caused by a third party due to the performance of the contract.

And Article 9 states:

If, in addition to the existence of the injury, the affected person or his/her beneficiaries point to a sudden event, the injury shall, subject to proof to the contrary, be presumed to have been caused by an accident.

Core requirements of a workplace accident

According to Article 8, § 1, an accident occurring on the way to and from work is also considered a workplace accident.

Burden of proof

The victim of a workplace accident must prove only three things to constitute a workplace accident:

Once the victim has proven this, one legally starts from certain presumptions:

The suddenness of the event is crucial because it distinguishes a workplace accident from an occupational disease.

Thanks to legal presumptions, the burden of proof on the victim or next of kin is eased to some extent.

Remote workplace accidents

A modification to Article 7 is provided for remote workplace accidents.
The accident that befalls a person working remotely is deemed, subject to proof to the contrary, to have occurred during the performance of the employment contract:

1: When the accident occurs at the place or places specified in writing as the place to perform his work, in a remote working agreement or any other document authorising working remotely.

(If the place(s) are not specified, the presumption applies to the residence or place(s) where the remote work is customarily performed.)

2: When the accident occurs during the period of the day specified in a document referred to in paragraph 1 as the period during which work can be performed. In the absence of such a statement in the written agreement, the presumption applies during the working hours that the person working remotely would be required to perform if he were employed at the employer’s location.

In essence, a remote workplace accident is considered an accident at work (WA), subject to a few conditions:

The importance of a written remote
working agreement

It is essential to make clear agreements between employer and employee regarding the exact place and time period in which remote work may occur. If not, the law assumes presumptions for place and period.
Be thorough and make clear arrangements to avoid discussions in the event of an accident while working remotely.

Need help with the declaration of workplace accidents?

Workplace accidents on the way to work

Article 8 § 1 of the Workplace Accident Law is clear: an accident on the way to work is also considered an accident at work. However, there are some conditions and exceptions, such as following a “normal route”.

Definition of the route

Getting to and from work means the normal route the employee must take to get from his place of residence to where he works, and vice versa. The route to or from the residence begins as soon as the worker leaves the sill of his main or secondary residence and ends as soon as it is crossed again.
Deviations are allowed by law for various reasons:

There are other exceptions that also count as a commute, such as getting a sandwich, cashing wages/salary, returning tools to a previous employer and a move to vocational training.
As many as 12 exceptions are provided in the law.

When are you at work according to the law?

One is not only “at work” if one is effectively working at the location described in the employment contract.
According to the workplace accident law, you are also “at work” if you:

    • a spontaneous consultation in application of the legislation on health surveillance of workers.
    • A pre-employment visit as part of employee health surveillance (visit may occur before actual work resumption during the period of disability).

You don’t necessarily have to be at work during the accident for it to be considered a workplace accident.
However, note the exceptions.

Employer obligations

The employer must take the necessary measures to manage, investigate and prevent workplace accidents.
In the event of an accident that causes at least 4 days of incapacity for work, a workplace accident record card must be created and maintained for 10 years. This card may be substituted for the workplace accident report form, provided that the necessary information for the card is entered on it.
According to Article II.1-6, §1, 2°, c of the Codex, the completion of this card is one of the duties of the prevention advisor.

Learning from accidents

In the case of a workplace accident, the saying “learning by doing” does not apply. Still, it is possible to learn lessons from accidents, whether they occurred in your own workplace or elsewhere.
BeSWIC, the Belgian knowledge center on well-being at work provides sheetswith information on true accidents so that others can learn from them.
Prevom can provide support by, for example, organising toolbox meetings to make employees aware of the daily risks they face.

Looking for clarity?

How do I prevent a workplace accident? What is an workplace accident chart? Who should fill out this card? What are the consequences of a workplace accident? How do I make my employees aware of hazards?

Prevom has customised solutions:
We will be happy to inform you about the possibilities!