Every seven seconds, an American worker is injured on the job. Those injuries lead to 103 million lost workdays and collectively cost businesses $170 billion in 2018 alone. Safety and prevention are essential, but regardless of what you do, worker injuries can and will happen. What happens immediately after a workplace injury is critical to the recovery of the worker and the costs to the employers. Delays in treatment can cause minor injuries to worsen, leading to chronic conditions or necessitating more complex treatments. Additionally, according to a study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), significant delays in reporting worker injuries can increase worker's compensation costs by as much as 51 per cent.
Here is what employers should do when an injury occurs in their workplace.
The Worker Comes First
Before anything else, see to your worker. Assess the nature of the injury and your worker’s condition. Ensure they are comfortable. If you have on-staff medical personnel or supervisors trained in first aid, have them attend to the worker.
It’s also a good idea to reassure the worker that they will be taken care of. The maintenance of honest, open communication and a caring workplace environment can go a long way in ensuring recovery and forestalling any potential issues that can result from employees that feel they cannot trust you or their supervisors.
Seek Medical Attention
If the injury is severe, call 911 immediately. If it requires medical attention but is not severe enough to warrant a call to 911, have a supervisor transport the injured worker to a nearby hospital or walk-in occupational clinic. Walk-in clinics often offer quicker response, but hospital emergency wards are always open and available. The amount of options may depend on the types of shifts your workers have — for example, those working an overnight shift may have limited options available to them immediately.
Even if the injury does not seem serious, it may be a good idea from a liability and recovery perspective to have the injured worker seen by medical personnel. Your insurance provider may offer a 24/7 nurse hotline for consultation on minor injuries. Keep in mind that some states also mandate specific doctors or clinics in the case of a worker’s compensation claim, so be aware of the rules in your state. These can usually be waived however, in the case of an emergency.
Ensure that supervisors inform medical staff that the injury occurred on the job, and if your workplace drug and alcohol policy dictates a post-incident drug test, inform the medical provider of this as well.
Secure the Scene and Investigate
Until the accident can be thoroughly investigated, ensure the scene remains undisturbed and that you preserve all evidence. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers investigate all accidents on the job as well as near misses to determine a cause and prevent future accidents. OSHA even offers an employer guide to investigating accidents.
Take written statements from supervisors and employee witnesses and photos if they can help illustrate the accident. Images can be especially useful if mechanical equipment is involved.
In some cases, local law enforcement or OSHA may be required to investigate the accident and injury further.
Gather Forms and Fill Out Reports
Provide your worker or the supervisor accompanying your worker with the appropriate forms. These can include the return to work forms that medical personnel can fill out establishing any restrictions on the employee’s return to the job.
Begin the interview process immediately after the worker is taken care of and gather all of the facts pertinent to the accident. Once reports are complete, share them with all relevant parties, including worker’s compensation and your insurer. You should file worker’s compensation reports within 24 hours, and it is a good idea to inform your insurer within this time frame as well.
All employers are required to fill out OSHA form 300 in the event of a workplace injury. In the event of an employee death or a work-related hospitalization, amputation or eye loss, the employer must notify OSHA within 24 hours. According to federal law, you have eight hours to report any fatalities.
Fill out these forms as accurately as possible. Inaccuracies or discrepancies can result in OSHA assessing fines or penalties against the employer.
Create a Back-to-Work Plan
If the worker’s injury is slight enough, ensure that a doctor signs off on their return to work and indicates any accommodations required. If they must remain off the job, encourage the employee to share a plan for returning with you. A doctor should assess this plan to return. The goal is to help the employee return as quickly and safely as possible so the plan should include a tentative timetable, accommodations and any other pertinent details. Consider a gradual return to work that involves a reduced schedule to ease the return to work, especially for employees who had a long recovery time.
Make Sure to Follow Up
Once your investigation is complete, make any changes to your operations that are necessary to avoid a repeat of the accident. Consider additional employee or supervisory training as well. Once your employee has returned to work, do a post-accident interview to identify hazards or errors in processes and to deconstruct anything the employee may have done to contribute to the accident. If disciplinary action is required, take action that aligns with your employee safety policies.