How to Handle Employee Injuries at Work
When it comes to workplace safety, OSHA standards aren't the only things you should know. You should also know what to do when safety measures fail and employees are injured at work. The more prepared your business is, the less a work injury will end up costing you. Here are four steps that can help you plan ahead.
1. Be Prepared
To protect your employees, it's crucial that you're prepared for a possible injury. Responding quickly can reduce the severity of an injury and cost your business less in the long run. So start planning ahead by developing risk and response plans well in advance of an employee's first day at work. Be sure to...
- Mitigate safety risks in the workplace.
- Create response plans for various accident types.
- Train employees and supervisors on safety and emergency response plans.
- Keep first-aid supplies stocked and easily accessible.
- Have emergency contacts on file for all employees.
- Assign a safety officer for particularly dangerous jobs.
Do your best to minimize risk, but be prepared for the worst. Take a look at Nonprofit Risk Management Center's article on workplace injuries for more information.
2. Respond Immediately after Injury
This is when your employees will follow through with their training and when you'll need to keep a cool head to protect your business from additional liability. As soon as an accident or injury happens, you or your supervising staff should follow these steps:
- Get workers to a safe place. Don't risk additional injuries, and move any injured worker away from a dangerous area.
- Assess the situation. Are there injuries? How severe? What caused the accident? Evaluate carefully to ensure no one else gets hurt.
- Call 911 and assist the injured. For minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, first aid might be all that's required. But don't assume someone is fine just because they say so. For major injuries, stabilize the injured. Professional help will minimize risk of further injury, and EMS should always be called if something extends beyond basic first aid.
- Gather information and keep evidence. While the incident is still fresh in your mind, write down the relevant details and gather witness testimony. Get contact information from anybody involved that's not your employee. Keep evidence of the accident, such as equipment, pictures of the scene, etc. Injuries should be documented even if employees say they are fine, as they may later decide to go to the emergency room or require additional treatment.
In the minutes following an injury, the difference between preparedness and panic is huge. But after the employee has been treated, don't forget to document and keep the relevant information. This will be important in the coming days or weeks when the Workers' Compensation Insurance claim is processed.
3. Follow Through with Paperwork and Communication
After an injury, you'll need to file a Workers' Comp claim with your insurance provider so that a medical assessment can be made. Inform your agent to keep them in the loop.
It's in your best interest to foster communication between your injured employee, the doctor, the claims adjustor, and your insurance agent. This facilitates a speedy claim, which allows the employee to receive the funds they need for treatment and get them back to work sooner. An injured employee wants to know their options and may consider litigation if you keep them in the dark.
A good way to keep your employee informed is through an injury packet. This is a pre-made packet outlining the Workers' Comp process, your expectations, and the return-to-work policies for your business. It's a good way to build trust and lower claims costs.
4. Know What to Do When an Injury Becomes a Lawsuit
If the injured employee sues, you still want to focus on communication. According to a report by Property Casualty 360, the longer a litigated claim lasts, the more expensive it becomes. Your attorney should work closely with the claims examiner to resolve the claim and minimize a settlement as expeditiously as possible.
Share information with attorneys and claims adjusters and have your documentation ready. Settling a claim early can prevent a much costlier, drawn-out lawsuit.
Hopefully it never comes to litigation, but you never know. Just be sure to take these precautions to heart to keep your business and your employees safe from accidents.