Your employees often face a variety of hazards in the workplace. Unfortunately, at some point they may experience a laceration, sprain, or strain, exposure to hazardous chemicals, or another type of injury. And even though you’ve taken steps to prevent accidents on the job, they can still happen. So, what do you do when misfortune strikes?
When accidents happen, time is of the essence
The first 24 hours after an injury are the most critical. To respond effectively, you need to act fast. In fact, a study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. (NCCI) found that delaying injury reporting by two weeks or more can increase workers’ compensation claim costs by up to 51 percent. Yikes.
Early reporting allows employers to better investigate the incident, collect evidence, and interview witnesses while their memories are still fresh. It also allows employers to help an injured worker get a jump on understanding the claims process—including how they will receive medical care and wage replacement payments—and it helps alleviate any fears that could lead an injured worker to hire an unnecessary attorney.
While your employee may want to wait to report a seemingly minor injury, encouraging all employees to report any on-the-job injury as soon as possible can prevent a minor mishap from becoming a high-cost claim.
8 steps to take after a workplace accident occurs
So, as a manager, how can you ensure a timely and efficient accident reporting process? We’re glad you asked.
Assess the injury – This is the most important step to take when an accident happens at work. A quick and efficient medical response can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. If your company has a safety site supervisor or medical response team, alert them as soon as possible, and you should always call 911 for a life-threatening emergency. For less severe injuries, you can consult the healthcare provider assigned to you by your workers’ compensation carrier or a provider at a nearby walk-in clinic. Consider proactively developing a relationship with a nearby clinic to ensure employees receive prompt attention should they need it.
Secure the scene – The site of any serious accident should be secured as quickly as possible. Limit access to the scene of the incident to preserve evidence and avoid secondary accidents, and be sure to secure and save any equipment or materials involved in the incident.
Report the accident – Speak with witnesses to get their account of the accident, take photos where it took place, and comply with all OSHA reporting and recordkeeping regulations. Employers are required to prepare and maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses using the OSHA form 300. All employers are required to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. A fatality must be reported within 8 hours of the accident, while a hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours. Take care to be accurate and truthful in the report; if OSHA believes that the initial accident report has any holes or inaccuracies, it may impose fines or penalties. Additionally, a workplace accident report form should be filed with your workers’ compensation insurance carrier within 24 hours of the accident. Some insurance carriers offer guidance through this process. Contact your carrier or insurance agent for more information. File workers’ compensation reports, if required in your state.
Communicate your concern – Talk with the injured employee and convey your concern as soon as possible. Let them know that your priority is their health and well-being.
Distribute the workplace incident report form – Give the employee the appropriate forms to take to the doctor. These forms will enable the doctor to authorize a return to work and note any temporary restrictions the employee may have.
Ensure medical attention – Confirm that the employee has gotten medical treatment, particularly if he or she suffered a sprain, strain, or neck or and back injury. These injuries typically result in the most lost time and highest claim costs. Follow up with your employee to see how he or she is feeling. Ask if the doctor indicated when he or she may return to work.
Establish a return-to-work program – The longer that an employee is away from the job due to an injury, the more difficult it can be for them to return. To help injured employees return as quickly and safely as possible, managers should implement a return-to-work or transitional modified job program. These programs can help keep workers off long-term disability and can potentially lower employers’ workers’ comp costs.
Prevent future incidents – Take steps to prevent an accident from happening again by reviewing the root cause of the original incident. For example, if your company’s forklift accident occurred because of a blind spot in the warehouse, install mirrors and warning signs to alert future forklift drivers.
Stay alert and plan ahead for workplace accidents
Every workplace should have a plan for handling injuries, and all workers should be trained on its details and procedures. The plan should spell out how workers should report injuries, and how to get help promptly. It should designate which staff members are trained to provide first aid, and explain how to contact medical personnel if needed. It’s also important to:
Make sure only designated, trained staff provide first aid and ensure everyone knows who those employees are.
Have first aid kits, gloves, and other protective equipment available for the staff who are designated to provide first aid. Lacerations and puncture wounds should be immediately treated and disinfected to prevent infection.
Educate workers on how to report an incident specifically when there is exposure to blood.
By making safety a priority, establishing a relationship with a medical provider, and planning for transitional modified jobs, you’ll position your company to be able to efficiently handle work-related injuries when they occur.
For additional information about what to do if an accident occurs in the workplace, visit OSHA’s website or call the OSHA office nearest you.
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