It’s an unfortunate truth that accidents do happen. Especially if you are in a higher risk industry, the likelihood that one of your employees will sustain an injury while working is almost guaranteed. As a business owner, you need to know what to do when that happens.
As an employer, you have to be ready to take action should an accident occur. You’ll also want to have a plan in place for how you’ll support your employee through the recovery and return-to-work process.
If you are present when the incident occurs, you must act quickly. If necessary, call 911 or delegate that job to another person present. (If the injury is not critical enough to warrant emergency personnel, you should still make sure your employee seeks proper medical treatment as soon as possible.)
Next, you should ensure that the area in which the injury occurred is secure and safe. Start by instructing all other employees to clear the area. Then, try to identify the cause of the injury and stabilize it if it’s safe to do so. For example, if machinery contributed to the injury, pull the power to the machine. Or, if debris caused the injury, make sure you remove it immediately.
Facilitate the Workers’ Compensation Process
After an employee has received proper medical attention, they should file a claim with your workers compensation insurance provider. The employee who experienced the injury must file this claim themselves; as an employer, all you need to do is provide them the right forms and contact information for the insurance company. The insurer will then calculate the costs and offer the employee an appropriate compensation package.
Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the injury, you may have to file a report with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After an accident, be sure to review OSHA’s reporting guidelines and comply with their requirements.
While your employee is in recovery, it’s essential to keep an open line of communication. If they need time off work, many people worry about their employment status, especially if it takes them a long time to recover. To put them at ease, make it abundantly clear to the employee that they will still have a job once they recover.
You should also make sure that the injured employee, and all other employees, know what steps you are taking to make sure no one else is injured. Some of those measures may include adding safety barriers or offer additional training for employees. Doing so will help your injured employee and other employees feel safer at work in the future.
Some businesses create official return to work (RTW) plans to ease the injured employee’s transition back to work. RTW plans include accommodations for the employee based on the progress of their recovery and physical capabilities. For example, an employee may return to work and fill a less physically-demanding role for a few months before returning to their previous position.
When employees can return to work sooner, even just part-time, they tend to feel better about themselves and their employer—and it often helps out the injured employee financially. RTW policies also help the injured employee maintain their skillset as well as their social connections with co-workers.
How can you create an RTW plan for your employee? As previously mentioned, it’s crucial to stay in contact with your worker throughout their recovery and monitor their progress.
Before bringing them back in, review their position and determine the essential functions of that job—if they can’t perform these tasks, you may have to assign them a different role temporarily. Work closely with the employee, figure out their limitations, and brainstorm some accommodations to help them complete their work.
Once the employee is back at work, continue to monitor their progress and make sure they’re comfortable. They may have additional limitations that are not immediately evident that you may need to account for later.
Keep a Level Head
In the event of an employee injury, you need to maintain control of the situation. Your employees will look to you for leadership and guidance during this difficult time. Ensure you have the information and tools you need to maintain that leadership, and most importantly, show compassion and understanding.