A work injury is not uncommon in any business, with the United States seeing a whopping 4.7 million workers injured every year. And it doesn't matter what industry your business operates in. Whether it’s an office-based desk job or a manufacturing job with many hazards, the risk of an accident or injury is always present.
An injury is considered work-related if it occurs in the work environment (the workplace and any other location where employees are working for the organization). Some common causes of work injuries include:
- Slips and falls (causing anything from minor bruising to broken bones or even death)
- Overexertion (repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, improper lifting of heavy objects, etc.)
- Motor accidents when employees are driving for work-related purposes
- Machine entanglement (if a worker is trapped in or behind a heavy machine)
When any such work-related injury or illness occurs, it is your responsibility as an employer to take care of the person by seeking medical care on their behalf. You must also investigate the incident and take action to prevent similar injuries from occurring again.
This article will outline the steps you should take as an employer to deal with a work injury once it occurs.
Step 1: Have a Plan in Place for Incidents
Some of the most important steps you can take related to a work injury must happen long before any such injury takes place. While it's not possible to prevent all incidents, you should still take all the precautions you can to mitigate the risks and prevent workplace injuries as much as possible. Of course, since accidents can still happen, you must also have a plan in place to respond to such injuries once they occur and get workers' compensation coverage as this is required by law in most states.
It would also be good to create a response plan to handle injuries or illnesses and train your employees to follow it. Make sure the plan complies with the regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and includes delegation of responsibilities related to immediate medical care for the injured employee, notifying relevant authorities, etc. Along with the plan, keeping the necessary forms (e.g. medical treatment consent forms, incident report forms, and return-to-work release forms) ready would also help since job-related injuries come with a set of legal and insurance-related responsibilities.
Step 2: Respond Immediately With Emergency Action
This is the first step to take, immediately after an employee reports or experiences a work injury. If you have an incident response plan in place, follow it. The following tips may help:
- Try to gauge what caused the incident to ensure that no one else is in immediate danger. If the area is still dangerous, make sure everyone except trained personnel equipped with safety gear stays clear.
- Try to give the injured worker some space by moving them to a quiet place if it's safe for them to move or clearing the area if moving is not safe.
- Take the help of an employee with first aid training to assess the level of medical care required.
- If it's a minor injury, ask the employee if they wish for an ambulance and offer onsite care as an alternative. If the work injury is severe, call 911 immediately to take them to the nearest health care facility.
- If medical care is required, give the injured employee any forms that they would need, including insurance-related forms and return-to-work release forms that the doctor would need to authorize before the employee can get back to work.
Step 3: Report the Work Injury to Relevant Authorities
Once the required medical attention is given and the immediate needs of the injured employee are taken care of, a detailed incident report must be prepared. This should include a description of the incident, all the involved parties, any pictures (if required), and other relevant information. This must then be communicated immediately to all the appropriate parties.
For instance, you are required by law to report any serious injuries to the nearest OSHA district office immediately (within 8 hours for deaths and 24 hours for hospitalizations, amputations, or eye loss). Even minor occupational injuries must be documented as soon as possible in the OSHA log 300. Other relevant authorities include the supervisor in charge of the injured worker, their management coordinator, and importantly, the insurance carrier (who can reject claims if proper reporting is not done).
Step 4: Investigate the Incident
Once an incident occurs, conducting an incident investigation is vital if you need to file a workers' compensation insurance claim or if the employee decides to take legal action for their injury. It is also your duty as an employer to find out why the incident occurred (even if there is no serious injury requiring workers' comp) and use the knowledge to fill in gaps in your safety policies, protecting your employees from similar injuries in the future.
Record relevant details related to the incident when it is still fresh in everyone's mind by interviewing the injured employee (if possible) and other witnesses. Take pictures of the scene if relevant, collect physical evidence, and review any video surveillance if available. Analyze the information collected to find the root cause of the incident and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.
Use a digital incident management solution such as Pulpstream to make investigating the incident and preventing further work injuries smooth and frictionless.
Step 5: File a Workers' Comp Claim if Required
If the work injury is serious enough for hospitalization and incurs medical expenses, it is the employee’s legal right to claim workers' compensation benefits. Work with the injured employee to file a workers' compensation claim with the insurance carrier, and provide them with any incident-related documents they require. They will then evaluate the claim to determine if it is compensable under your state's workers' compensation laws.
During this process, it is a good idea to facilitate open communication between the injured worker, their physician, the claims adjuster, and the insurance provider. This can help speed up the process and ensure that your employee gets the benefits they are entitled to in a timely manner.
If the claim is compensable, the insurance program typically covers relevant medical expenses, reimbursement for missed work, and, if the mandated leave exceeds seven days, temporary disability benefits until the employee can return after the required vocational rehabilitation.
Step 6: Help the Employee Return to Work
Finally, show your employee that you care by checking in with them and working together to formulate a personalized return to work plan for them. Keeping their current abilities in mind (and with the necessary release forms from their doctor), work on a plan to ease them back into the job. For instance, offer them lighter or modified duties while they are recovering, and plan to increase the duties as they get better, in consultation with their physician. To make this process easier, you can use an automated return to work solution that will help you tailor a program to the employee's specific needs.
Use a Digital Platform to Ease the Way After a Work Injury
Work injuries and the incidents that cause them are stressful, not only for the injured employees but also for the employers. You must deal with several matters at once during this time, including taking care of your employee, reporting the incident in compliance with regulations, getting to the bottom of the incident, taking steps to prevent such injuries from occurring again, and filing a workers' compensation claim with your insurance company.
Using a digital platform such as Pulpstream's Claims Management platform to manage your entire claims lifecycle would ease your burden. The solution provides a way to document injuries and create reports relevant to the insurance claim, including the claims documents themselves as well as relevant OSHA reports. It also allows you to report, manage, and track all your claims through a single, intuitive platform, with features including digital review processes, correspondence management, expense tracking, and custom claims analytics.
Want to know how you can make your claims process simple and smooth with Pulpstream? Contact us for a free demo today.