Best Practices For Dealing With Workplace Injuries It’s a normal day of work, until all of a sudden, one of your employees gets injured on the job. What do you do first? What’s the best way to handle the situation? Workplace accidents are terrible, but they do happen, and they can happen in your organization when you least expect it. According to OSHA, 4,500 workers lose their lives in workplace accidents every year. OSHA also reports that U.S. employers pay an estimated $1 billion per week in direct worker’s compensation costs. Direct costs can include both medical expenses (including rehabilitation) and lost-time wages. There are also indirect costs, because your business goes on, regardless if the injured worker is there or not, your customers are still expecting the same experience or output. Indirect costs include replacing the employee, lost opportunity, lost productivity, and even an impact on culture and morale, because your employees who witnessed the accident can have trouble focusing or even returning to work. If an accident ever takes place in your organization, utilize the best practices below to handle the situation professionally and effectively. 1. Timely and Detailed Reporting When a workplace accident happens, timely reporting is critical. This should happen within 24 hours of the injury, to best assist the injured worker and ensure accuracy. If possible, talk to the injured employee about what happened, and write down what they say. The more details that you report at the time of the injury, the better. These details should be strictly factual, without bias or opinion. If you’re detailed, it will help expedite the claims process. 2. Thoroughly Investigate the Incident After you report the incident, complete an accident investigation as soon as possible. This investigation should involve the injured worker’s supervisor from the start, and any other employees who witnessed the incident. By involving the supervisor, you can ensure they are engaged in the process and learn how to do things differently and fix the issue that caused the incident. When you conduct the investigation right away, the accident is still fresh in the employees’ minds. It’s also important to complete as much of the investigation at the site of the injury (if possible) to help trigger their memories. As you interview the witnesses, make them feel comfortable. Don’t make it seem like an accusation. Ask questions that are solely focused on the facts and events that took place, without any implication of who’s to blame. 3. Accommodate the Injured Worker With all of the reporting and investigation going on, it can be easy to forget about the injured worker, especially if they can’t return to work quickly. If forgotten, the injured worker is at risk of becoming disengaged and can show signs of depression. Since work is where most employees get their social interaction, it makes sense that being away from work for an extended period of time can lead to disengagement, which makes it more difficult to come back to work. That’s why it’s important to accommodate for the injured employee and attempt to keep them on-site. Bring them into the office (if possible) and keep them engaged in your workplace environment. Is there clerical work they could do until they heal? If you aren’t able to accommodate the documented restrictions or the employee isn’t able to work, then have regular, friendly check-ins with them via call, email, or text. Make sure they’re going okay and make them feel valued. A simple “we miss you” goes a long way. Don’t ask them when they’re coming back; just be caring and friendly. 4. Prevent it From Happening Again All of the best practices above should lead to and result in actions to prevent this from happening in the future. Ask yourself: How do we make this less likely to happen again? Does the process need to change? What can we do to stop it? Use the investigation process to review any procedures in place that may have had an impact on the initial accident and get to the root cause, so you can mitigate for future risk. You should also implement a standard annual or semi-annual review of all your processes and procedures to identify any trends or near misses. Usually, we don’t think that near misses are important, but they can help you identify problems and help prevent a future incident. Also, be on the lookout for redundant and excessive tasks that could potentially be replaced by process improvement. Be especially mindful of over use of bending and reaching motions, as these can result in injury related to muscle fatigue. If your organization experiences a workplace incident, it’s best to be proactive, thorough, and caring. No employee wants to get hurt, and no organization wants to deal with the complexities of documenting or handling an incident and resolving the claim. Take a look at your current processes and see if anything needs to change to help prevent an accident. How have you dealt with workplace incidents in the past? Tracy Gonzalez Tracy Gonzalez has over 14 years of experience in personal and commercial insurance, and is currently the Manager of Risk Services at Aureon HR. In her role, Tracy is responsible for a large deductible workers' compensation plan, and manages a team of claim specialists that provide workers' compensation claims administration services for over 250 clients in 35 states. Tracy and her team also provide safety resources and loss control consulting services to Aureon HR clients.