Across all occupations, workplace injuries and occupational illnesses are an unfortunate reality. Even with every precaution taken, an employee can still sustain an injury on the job, leaving them out of commission for weeks or months. As a business owner or employer, it’s your duty to your employees—and the law—to prevent these work-related injuries, report them, and ensure employees have proper workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Quick Facts on Workers’ Comp Injuries
According to the Employer-reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers recorded 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019.
Additional BLS data suggests that slips, trips, and falls, overexertion, contact with objects and equipment, transportation accidents, harmful substances and environments, and workplace violence are the most common contributors to workplace injuries.
These statistics illuminate the importance of accident preparation and preparedness. Should an injury occur at your business, you should immediately follow these steps:
- Ensure the Safety of the Injured Worker and Other Employees – When an accident happens, your first concern should be limiting the damage. Ensure the injured employee is out of further harm’s way, and clear the area so no other employee gets injured.
- Get the Injured Employee Medical Attention – Call 911 in an emergency or arrange for other appropriate transportation to a health facility if the injury is less severe.
- Keep the Accident Area Intact – Leaving the accident site untouched is essential for future investigations; it also prevents other accidents from happening in the same area.
- Collect Information – Try to document the scene with photos and talk to other workers who witnessed the accident. Doing so will facilitate the workers’ compensation claims process.
Aside from keeping everyone safe and securing the area, the employer’s primary role after an incident is facilitating the workers’ compensation claim and investigation process. You can click here to learn more about what to do after an injury at work occurs.
Workers’ Comp Insurance Laws, Claims, and Best Practices
Each state has its own laws regarding workers’ comp insurance. In every state except Texas, most businesses are legally obligated to provide workers’ comp coverage.
The employer plays a limited role in the workers’ comp insurance claims process. Aside from informing employees of their workers’ comp rights and benefits, employers provide the required paperwork for employees to file a claim.
With the documents in hand, the employee can then file the claim by submitting the paperwork to the workers’ comp insurer. If the insurance provider approves the claim, they will contact the employee with a compensation offer and all the payment details.
The insurer determines the payment amount, which may cover all costs of medical treatment and medication in addition to disability payments and a portion of lost wages. It offers a compensation package to the employee, who can accept, renegotiate, or refuse and appeal.
OSHA Reporting and Internal Recordkeeping
Besides the workers’ comp insurance claims, some workplace occurrences also require the employer to contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Most employers with more than 10 employees (some low-risk industries are exempt) have to report recordable injuries and illnesses, which include:
- Any work-related fatality
- Any injury that causes loss of consciousness, employee time off, restricted work, or a position transfer
- Any injury or illness that requires more medical attention than general first-aid
- If an employee is diagnosed with cancer or a chronic irreversible disease, if they fracture or crack teeth or bones, and if they puncture their eardrums
- Employers must follow additional reporting requirements for incidents involving needles or sharps injuries, medical removal, hearing loss, and tuberculosis.
Employers should also note that in the event of a fatality, they must report the death within eight hours. In the case of an amputation, eye loss, or hospitalization, they have 24 hours to report. OSHA has a 24-hour hotline (800-321-6742), but employers can also report these incidents online.
In addition to reporting injuries and illnesses to OSHA, employers have to maintain records onsite for at least five years and make copies available to current and former employees and their representatives. Also, between February and April of each year, employers must post a summary of the cases recorded in the previous year.
OSHA recently issued a Final Rule to improve the tracking of work-related injuries. This rule requires certain employers to electronically send their injury and illness data through a secure website, the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). For more detailed guidance on OSHA’s recordkeeping rule, check the agency’s website.
Importance of Keeping Your Records Up to Date
Having accurate data on work-related injuries and illnesses is essential to identify risks and maintain effective educational programs for workers concerning their health and safety. The information serves employers and regulatory agencies, which can use them in enforcement policies and programs that help protect workers.
Not to mention, keeping proper records and identifying risks helps employers make changes that keep their workers safe and bring down insurance costs.