What to do when your employee is injured at work
When one of your employees is injured, it’s imperative to act fast both in terms of medical response and filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Follow OSHA’s recommendations for workplace safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, sets the standards that employers are expected to follow to ensure workplace safety. However, employers should also know what to do when safety measures fail and an employee is injured at work.
The more prepared a business is, the less likely it is that a work injury will prove costly. There are four main steps that can help business owners plan ahead.
1. Be prepared
The first step in protecting employees is being prepared for a possible workplace accident. A quick response can not only reduce the severity of a workplace injury, but also how much the injury ends up costing the business.
Business owners should plan ahead by developing risk and response plans to minimize hazards and prevent work injuries. This includes:
- Creating response plans for various accident types
- Training employees and supervisors on safety and emergency response plans
- Keeping first-aid supplies stocked and easily accessible
- Maintaining emergency contacts on file for all employees
- Assigning a safety officer for particularly dangerous jobs
The best way for employers to handle a potential injury at work is to minimize risk, but be prepared for the worst.
2. Respond immediately after injury
As soon as an accident or injury happens, business owners should follow these steps:
- Get workers to a safe place. Move any injured workers away from an area if it is dangerous and make sure other employees stay clear.
- Assess the situation. How severe is the injury? What caused the accident? Evaluate carefully to ensure no one else gets hurt.
- Assist the injured. For minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, first aid might be all that's required, but for major injuries be sure to stabilize the injured. The employee might not be aware of the severity of an injury. Professional help will minimize risk of further injury, and emergency medical services should always be called if a workplace injury requires treatment 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. 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 seek medical treatment at a later time. It will also be important if a workers' compensation insurance claim is filed.
In the minutes following an injury, the difference between preparedness and panic is huge. Keeping a cool head after a worker is injured on the job can help minimize the severity of injury for the employee and protect the business owner from additional liability.
3. Follow through with paperwork and communication
If an employee is injured at work, the employer should work with the employee to file a workers' comp claim with the company’s insurance provider.
It's in a business owner’s best interest to maintain open communication between the injured employee, the doctor, the claims adjustor, and the insurance agent. This can help speed up the claims process, which allows the employee to receive the funds needed to pay for treatment.
Employers should consider creating written documents in advance that outline the workers' comp process and return-to-work policies for the business. Providing these immediately to new employees is a good way to build trust and lower claims costs.
4. Know what to do when an injury becomes a lawsuit
If an injured employee sues, the employer should still try to keep the lines of communication open. The longer a litigated claim lasts, the more expensive it tends to become. Employers should share all relevant information with attorneys and claims adjusters, including any documentation. Settling a claim early can prevent a much costlier, drawn-out lawsuit.
Ideally, a workers’ comp claim can be settled without litigation, but it is always possible it could go to court. However, by following some basic safety precautions, business owners should be able to avoid the need to file a workers’ comp claim in the first place.