No matter how many workplace safety precautions or measures are taken, accidents happen. Along with ensuring that all the proper policies, training, and signage is in place to help prevent workplace injuries, how you respond when one does occur will have a huge impact on both the business and injured employee.
Work injuries can be traumatic and costly. As one Philadelphia workers compensation lawyer states, “When an employee suffers an injury at work, the employer’s workers compensation coverage will pay… the injured employee.” That means that a business will have to pay the injured party for up to 500 weeks, which can be damaging to their bottom line.
To help your employee and mitigate damage to the business, it is important to follow correct procedures for workplace injuries and illnesses. Below are all the necessary steps an employer must take when an employee suffers an illness or injury from work.
Take Care of the Employee
The first and most important thing to do when an employee injures themselves at work is getting them proper treatment for their injury. Regardless of the severity of the accident, an employer’s response should always be the same and follow pre-set procedures that each staff member has previously been made aware of.
Immediately after an accident, the need for medical assistance should be evaluated. In the case of an emergency situation, call 911. If the accident is less severe, the employee should be taken directly to a medical facility for treatment. Employers may wish to access the medical provider determined by their worker’s compensation insurer, or choose a facility closer to the workplace and scene of the incident.
In some instances, workers compensation providers give access to 24/7 injured employee hotlines for policyholders. These are staffed by registered nurses who are specifically trained to give medical advice and guidance over the phone for work-related illnesses and injuries. In all cases, the important thing is to make sure the injured employee receives the necessary treatment for the injury as soon as possible.
Secure the Scene of the Accident
Once the injured employee has been adequately attended to, you’ll need to survey and secure the scene of the accident. This may mean cordoning off the area with barriers such as tape or safety cones to restrict unnecessary entry.
The reasons for doing so are two-fold. Firstly, it is important to ensure that no-one else will be injured. Secondly, employers need to ensure the area remains untouched for formal investigation by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration or local law enforcement. Any equipment or materials that were part of the accident should be secured and saved in case they are needed for the inquiry.
Check the Facts
Once the employee has been taken care of and the scene of the incident secured, it is important to collect the facts of the accident to complete relevant reports. Information collected should include the circumstances of the accident such as what happened, where, and why. Document the injuries sustained, the treatment given, and contact details for everyone involved or witness to the incident.
The investigation process should focus on identifying the cause of the accident rather than attributing blame.
Complete and Submit All Necessary Paperwork
While the details of the incident are fresh in your mind, you should complete an incident report. No matter how small a workplace injury is, all work-related injuries and illnesses must be recorded using the appropriate OSHA forms and kept for five years after they’ve occurred.
Along with incident reports, other paperwork such as claim forms will need to be completed to begin the process of claiming workers compensation for the staff member. Some workers compensation insurers provide guidance for employers regarding all the necessary paperwork that should be completed in the event of a workplace accident. It is worth your while to contact your insurer to enquire about such resources.
Implement a Return to Work Strategy
Even small injuries such as sprains can result in an employee needing to take time away from work. The longer the convalescence, the more difficult it can be to return to work. A robust return to work strategy should support an employee’s reentry to the workforce as soon as their condition allows. Doing so will benefit both them and the business.
In some instances after an employee has sustained a work-related injury or illness they will be unable to return to their previous role immediately. In extreme cases, they may never be able to return. In such instances, transitional or modified job roles can be incorporated in return to work plans. These options are designed to support employees who have been medically cleared to return to work but are unable to perform their previous duties.
Return to work plans which include transitional or modified job roles allow employers to retain the experience and expertise of the injured employee whilst also maintaining the employee’s association with the business.
Reinforce Your Safety Commitment
Workplace injuries can be confusing and upsetting for the injured party, employer, and remaining workforce. It is important that you establish your commitment to safety and policies to prevent workplace accidents or illnesses reinforced throughout the workplace.
Review the safety practices that were in place prior to the accident and make any necessary adjustments to prevent it from occurring again. Ensure that each staff member is aware of safety policies at work and how they are expected to respond to an incident. Review first-aid and other safety related training and guarantee that each staff member is up-to-date with training and policies.
By doing so, you will make sure that the incident doesn’t have a negative effect on the rest of your staff or the business’ bottom line. Most importantly, doing so will reduce the possibility of such an incident reoccurring.