The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets safety standards employers are expected to follow and covers most private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states and other US jurisdictions.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for their staff members and ensuring that workplace conditions comply with currently applicable OSHA standards.
Although abiding by these standards is essential, not all accidents can be foreseen and prevented, so you should also have a plan in case an unfortunate event takes place at a workplace.
Knowing what steps to follow right after an injury happens will allow you to keep a cool head in a crisis and adequately address the issue.
While employees can claim compensation for their injuries or even apply for pre-settlement funding, there is a set of responsibilities you, as an employer, need to fulfill after an accident at work. Here is the plan of action you should follow:
Join Our Small Business Community
Get the latest news, resources and tips to help you and your small business succeed.
First and foremost, being adequately prepared for handling a possible accident is one of the first steps to protect your employees. Having an emergency response plan in place will allow you to promptly address the situation and, in some cases, even reduce the severity of an injury.
As such, you should do your best to minimize the risks but prepare for the worst nonetheless.
When developing a risk and response plan, make sure to follow these steps:
- Create different response plans for different types of accidents/injuries.
- Publish a pre-planned policy and train key staff members to put it to place in case of an accident at work.
- Regularly update emergency contacts on your employees’ files.
- Stock first-aid supplies and keep them easily accessible.
- Assign a safety supervisor to particularly hazardous jobs if applicable.
It is important not to neglect these steps, as such a response policy can help you handle workplace accidents in a professional and efficient manner without costing your business too much.
Immediately Address the Situation
It is crucial to address the accident without delay, right after it took place. Sometimes, minutes following an injury can make a great difference, and acting promptly can help minimize its severity or even allow you to avoid additional liability. Here are the steps you should take as soon as an accident takes place at work:
Get Employees to a Safe Place
If the area where an accident has happened is still dangerous, you need to move any injured employees to a safer place. You also need to ensure that other workers stay clear.
Evaluate the Current Situation
Now, you should assess the area one more time to understand what caused the accident and ensure that no one else gets hurt. Also, you need to check injured employees to determine the severity of an injury.
Assist Injured Workers
It might be enough to use a first aid kit to provide assistance in case of minor burns, scratches, and cuts. However, if you identify a major injury, you might need to stabilize the person affected and call for emergency medical services. Professional help can not only minimize the risk of worsening the injury but should also be always called when the accident requires assistance beyond a first aid kit.
Gather Information and Evidence
Now, while the accident is still fresh in your and other workers’ mind, it is crucial to gather and write down important information and details, collect witness testimony, and keep evidence of the accident. The latter may include damaged equipment, photos of the scene, and other items involved. This information should be documented in case an affected employee seeks medical treatment or files a compensation claim later on down the line.
Report the Injury
After you ensure that your staff is safe, you should provide the injured employee with information on their rights, compensation benefits, and their return to work, as well as report the injury to the company’s compensation insurance carrier as soon as possible.
Usually, you should provide the employee with a workers’ comp claim form to fill out and give back to you. The details they should be able to provide about the accident include:
- date and time of an accident,
- description of an injury,
- when the employer found out about the injury,
- when the employer-provided a claim form and paperwork to the affected employee.
As for the latter, it is a good practice to have workers’ comp insurance information included in your company’s new hire employment packet to ensure that your staff members know their rights and responsibilities in case of getting injured at the workplace.
Otherwise, failing to provide this information can lead to a lawsuit.
Next, your responsibility is to send the claim and all supporting paperwork to the insurer. Even if you don’t have all the information gathered yet, it would be better to provide an incomplete report and follow up with additional details later than delay the claims process.
Moreover, a claims adjuster might be able to help you fill in some gaps, so the earlier you reach out to them, the less likely you’ll miss an important step.
Approved or Denied Claim
After you file the claim, the insurance provider will evaluate it and approve or deny it. If the claim is approved, the insurer will inform you and contact your employee to provide further details regarding the benefits.
At this point, your employee might accept the insurance company’s payment offer that might cover their medical expenses and lost wages, as well as negotiate the settlement structure (whether it be a lump-sum payment or monthly payments).
On the other hand, if the claim gets denied, your employee has the right to request a reconsideration from the insurance carrier or file a formal appeal through the workers’ comp commission or board.
If an injured employee sues, it is crucial to maintain open communication and prioritize your responses when sharing accident-related information and documentation with claims adjusters and attorneys.
The longer litigation takes, the more expensive it becomes, so you should do what’s required from you to facilitate the process and avoid a drawn-out lawsuit. Usually, the employers’ liability insurance helps cover legal fees and other associated costs.
Reevaluate Workplace Safety and Training Needs
As mentioned above, not all accidents can be predicted. However, it’s not rare when an accident happens at the workplace due to inadequate risk assessment, undertrained staff members, or a lack of proper equipment.
Considering the fact that an accident has already taken place, now might be high time to conduct a safety audit and reassess workplace safety and training needs.
Furthermore, implementing new safety measures and policies will not only help reduce the possibility of an accident in the future but will also show your workers that you’re committed to staff safety and, therefore, will increase employee morale in the workplace.
As an employer, you are responsible for providing a safe working environment for your employees under the OSHA requirements. However, even when those are met, there is still a possibility of an unfortunate event at the workplace, so it is essential to go the extra mile and prepare for the unexpected.
Apart from developing an emergency response plan and having first-aid supplies stocked in place, you should also provide your workers with comp insurance information and ensure that they know their rights in case an injury occurs at work. As for your responsibilities right after the accident occurs, it is crucial to keep a cool head and be proactive, both in assisting the injured employee and filling out the paperwork.
Adequate preparation can help you avoid panic, minimize the severity of an injury, and protect yourself, as a business owner, from additional liability, so make sure not to neglect any of the steps mentioned in the article.