Nobody expects a workplace accident to happen when they clock in for the day, but that’s the funny thing about accidents: they can happen anytime.
Sure, you can’t see the future, but you can be prepared and minimize the severity of an accident when it happens. That’s what Tom Reddon (@TomReddon) suggests. Reddon is a forklift specialist, workplace safety enthusiast, and blog manager for National Forklift Exchange. He also sits on the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association's executive dialogue team.
Below, he offers the five best safety practices for your business in case of a workplace accident.
1. Stay Calm
“Chaos is an attribute of any accident,” says Reddon. “Depending on the event, the level of panic can vary from case to case. However, chaos is exactly the ingredient that escalates a situation from bad to worse.”
When accidents happen, it's important to remain calm and regain control of the situation, he says. “While that responsibility is on the shoulder of every worker, the burden falls heaviest on those in the managerial and leadership positions.”
Be prepared: Leaders should be trained to handle accidents with calmness and clarity. Reddon also believes leaders should collaborate with each other to better prepare for an accident.
2. Communicate Quickly and Clearly
As soon as an accident happens, call the appropriate emergency services right away. Reddon notes, “Besides the well-known 911 call, the company should have a list of emergency numbers available around the workplace.” He points to the Nonprofit Risk Management Center's Workplace Safety Toolkit, which advises that you tell employees and any other on-site personnel who to contact in case of an accident.
Be prepared: Consider extending your emergency communication plans to “teaching employees to use wireless communication devices (like walkie-talkies) and other emergency communication equipment,” says Reddon.
3. Follow the Evacuation Plan
“When serious accidents or emergencies take place, it is natural for people to want to leave the scene and get to safety," Reddon says. "Exits should be clearly marked, while the workers should be trained to know all their exit options.”
Be prepared: Reddon suggests posting evacuation plans in noticeable spots. Conduct regular evacuation drills so your workers can practice quickly evacuating the premises and escorting their colleagues to safety.
4. Put that First-Aid Training to Use
“You can never predict the nature of the accident, but you can be certain that most accidents come with injuries,” Reddon reminds us. If someone is seriously hurt and you're waiting for help to arrive, they might require some first-aid care in the interim.
Make sure all workers have access to the first aid equipment so they can immediately give and receive medical help. You might also consider having at least one “safety officer” who regularly checks and maintains the company’s first aid kits and other emergency supplies.
Be prepared: “A workplace can further equip their employees’ accident responsiveness by offering them first aid and CPR training,” says Reddon.
5. Train Everyone to Be a Safety Expert
“OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs seek to create safer workplaces and healthier workers,” says Reddon. “According to OSHA, companies that benefit the most from these programs have not only developed a plan for preventing and controlling hazards, but also have established an effective training system for workers and management leadership.”
Effectively handling an accident requires the cooperation of all personnel, says Reddon, and it can impact everyone regardless of position.
Be prepared: “Train your workers to respond to accidents with practice scenarios and drills," Reddon suggests. "Doing so will enable them to remain calm in accidents, follow instructions, evacuate to safety, and help fellow workers who require additional assistance.”
Bonus Tip: Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ Compensation Insurance won’t minimize the chance of a workplace accident, but it’s important for the aftermath. An injured worker can rack up serious expenses – from emergency room visits and overnight hospital stays to treatment, rehab, and medication. (Learn more in "Your Workers' Comp Risk May Be Higher Than You Think.")
Employers are responsible for covering those medical costs and the work-injured employee's lost wages. That's where Workers’ Compensation Insurance comes in. It helps pay for those expenses so they don't come out of your pocket. Plus, its benefits can help your employee get the care they need to recover.
There’s another consideration, too: nearly every states requires employers to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance once they have employees. Check out your state's regulations in our guide "Workers' Compensation Laws by State."
Keep in mind that Workers’ Comp isn't a substitute for workplace safety practices. Use the best practices above to minimize the impact of a workplace accident and to put workplace safety at the forefront of your business.