Private employers in the U.S. reported 2.1 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2020. That’s a staggering 22% decrease from the previous year’s count of 2.7 million. However, it’s still 2.1 million too many, as most job-related incidents are preventable.
That doesn’t mean you can avoid all injury events at work. The good news is that there are specific steps you can take to reduce their odds of happening. Moreover, a plan that immediately addresses injuries can mitigate their potentially catastrophic impact.
To that end, we created this guide on workplace injury prevention and response. Read on to discover how to keep such incidents at bay and what to do if they occur.
Perform Regular Risk Assessments
To prevent having an employee injured at work, identify what could harm them in the workplace. This process, known as risk assessment, is a thorough examination of injury hazards.
For starters, factor in your workers’ tasks, the equipment they use, and where they work. Then, give them proper and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
PPE is necessary for workers who may come into contact with specific dangers. These include chemical, electrical, physical, and radiological hazards, to name a few. PPE includes gloves, earplugs, muffs, respirators, hard hats, and safety glasses.
It’s also vital to note that jobs like machine operation require worker certification. For instance, only certified operators can legally operate construction cranes and derricks. That’s a federal regulation, so if you have a job for a crane operator, hire only certified personnel.
Conduct Regular Safety and Wellness Training
Once you’ve pinpointed the hazards in your workplace, educate your people about them. Tell them how they can avoid injury-causing, even deadly incidents. If they know more about the dangers, they’re more likely to abide by safety policies.
It’s also vital to ask your employees for help in determining and tracking hazards. So, request them to report anything that they feel can put them and their colleagues in danger. It’s also an excellent idea to ask for their suggestions on wellness programs.
Remember: Prioritizing health, safety, and wellness reassures workers they’re in good hands. That can make them more inclined to be alert, productive, and responsive. Ultimately, that can lead to a safer work environment and a more efficient workforce.
Purchase and Maintain Workers’ Compensation Insurance
All states, except Lone Star State, require worker’s compensation insurance. However, despite not mandating it, Texas still recommends employers purchase it. After all, this type of insurance helps safeguard both employers and employees.
For starters, worker’s comp protects employers from lawsuits workers may file against them. Moreover, it reduces liabilities, such as covering injured workers’ medical costs.
Worker’s comp also benefits employees by providing them coverage for job injuries. For example, it covers their medical fees and hospitalization if they get injured at work. In addition, injured employees receive disability, lost wage replacement, and death benefits.
Enforce a Workplace Accident Response Plan
A workplace accident response plan is a set of directives on the steps to take if work incidents occur. It involves delegating a safety officer, preferably one trained in providing first aid. The officer must also take command in handling the safety of injured employees.
In addition, make sure everyone in the workplace knows the following steps to take in case of an incident.
Report Incidents to the Safety Officer
Whenever a workplace accident occurs, the safety officer must be one of the first people to know. Therefore, ensure everyone has the officer’s contact information. Likewise, inform all employees to report such events to the officer as soon as possible.
Assist the Injured Workers
According to the Red Cross, first aid saves 90% of lives in emergencies. After all, it can help stabilize an injured person’s condition. Moreover, administering correct first aid can prevent injuries from worsening.
Thus, the more people in your workplace who know first aid, the better, as they can help injured workers. At the very least, ensure all employees know where to find first aid kits. Then, educate them on how to use the supplies to treat minor burns, cuts, or scrapes.
Have your employees call emergency services if they think the injury is severe. An example is if an injured worker has fainted and isn’t responding. Another is if there’s heavy bleeding, a suspected broken bone, or head trauma.
Close off the Incident Site
After moving the injured employees to a safer place, set up barriers to close off the incident site. This step is especially crucial if the area is at risk of causing more injuries. Scaffolding, floors, or ceilings that may collapse are some examples.
Notify OSHA About a Workplace Incident
All employers within OSHA’s jurisdiction must notify the agency about a work-related hospitalization. Likewise, they must file a report if a worker loses an eye or has to undergo amputation due to a work incident. OSHA must receive information about such cases within 24 hours of them occurring.
All OSHA-covered employers must also report work-related fatalities. They must do so within eight hours from the time of the incident.
Failure to report job incidents within the required time can result in hefty fines. So you know, OSHA raised its penalty maximum to $14,502 per violation this 2022.
That’s enough reason to ensure that you, as the employer, are always on top of any job injury. So, have your safety officer keep you in the loop of all incidents that take place at the workplace. You can also use an injury management system to stay updated on such events at work.
Investigate the Incident
Even if you don’t need to inform OSHA about a work incident, investigate it at the very least. You can discover flaws in your safety protocols by getting to the bottom of what happened. From there, you can take steps and countermeasures to prevent future accidents.
Besides, you’d need to provide an incident report to your worker’s comp carrier if you’ll file a claim. Thus, it’s vital to investigate what happened, especially the cause, as soon as possible.
Inform Your Worker’s Comp Insurance Carrier
Workers can only receive worker’s comp benefits if they file a report before the deadline.
Deadlines for reporting workplace incidents to employers depend on the state. For instance, Florida employees should notify their employers no later than 30 days. Failure to do so can lead to their claim getting denied.
Employers then have the duty to let their worker’s comp provider know about a work incident. You have a separate deadline for this, which, once again, depends on your state. To give you an idea, though, the statute of limitations ranges from one to three years or even longer in some cases.
However, it’s always better to notify your worker’s comp provider as soon as possible. The sooner you do, the less time it usually takes to complete the claims process.
When you notify your insurance provider, be sure you have the following details ready:
- When the incident took place
- Where the incident happened
- What the injury is
- When you became aware of the incident
- When you provided your worker with the claim form
- When the employee completed and submitted the claim form
Your insurance carrier may require additional information or paperwork. For instance, they may ask for the injured worker’s personnel file or to speak with their manager. In any case, please cooperate with your provider and their claims adjuster.
Keep in Touch With Injured Employees
You, the employer, or a manager should stay in touch with the injured worker as they recover. It’s especially vital to let the employee know that you’ve already started their claim. Tell them when they can expect your worker’s comp provider to provide their benefits.
In addition, ensure that you remain updated on the injured worker’s recovery progress. Doing so enables you to determine when the employee can return to work. You can then create a timeline for their return to work process.
Welcome Returning Employees Back
Once injured employees have recovered, welcome them back. At the same time, keep in mind their physical condition, especially health restrictions. For instance, they may still be unable to perform hard labor, so you might have to assign them to a desk job.
You may also need extra accommodations for an injured worker returning to work. For example, you may have to provide them with a more ergonomic workspace or an additional break.
Please note it’s illegal to penalize an employee just because they filed a worker’s comp claim. Likewise, it’s against the law to fire them for the same reason. Employers found guilty of doing such can face severe criminal or civil charges.
Handle Workplace Injuries With These Tips
And there you have it, your guide on avoiding and dealing with workplace injuries. You learned that it’s always best to prevent such incidents, which are avoidable in most cases. However, because they can still happen, it’s wise to put in place a response plan.
So, why not incorporate our tips into your safety and incident response plan? They can help keep your place of business and, most importantly, your people safe and sound.
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