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    HomeLegal AdviceWorkplace Injuries 101 And How HR Can Handle On-the-Job Accidents

    Workplace Injuries 101 And How HR Can Handle On-the-Job Accidents

    Workplace injuries are an unfortunate reality for many employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2021. As an HR professional, it’s important to have policies and procedures in place to properly handle work-related injuries when they occur.

    Properly handling injured workers can improve recovery, facilitate a timely return to work, reduce legal claims, and maintain positive morale. We’ll cover some of the key steps like reporting procedures, medical care, workers’ comp, accommodations, communication, and prevention. Following proper injury management protocols creates a culture of care that improves trust and loyalty between employees and employers.

    Recognizing a Work-Related Injury

    Employers should be on the lookout for any health issues that may be caused or exacerbated by an employee’s work. Some types of work injuries to watch for include:

    – Musculoskeletal disorders – These include injuries to muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. Examples are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, muscle strains and low back pain. They can be caused by repetitive motions, forceful exertions, prolonged awkward postures and vibration.

    – Traumatic injuries – These are wounds or damage to the body resulting from a work-related event or exposure. Examples are fractures, cuts, amputations, burns and head injuries. They can be caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, being struck by an object, or exposure to chemicals.

    – Illnesses – These include both acute and chronic illnesses caused by exposures at work. Examples are skin diseases, respiratory illnesses like occupational asthma, cancers such as mesothelioma, and illnesses from infectious agents.

    By staying alert to injury trends and watching for signs in employees, HR and managers can address issues early before they worsen. Employees also need to feel comfortable reporting any health concerns without fear of retaliation.

    Reporting Policies

    It is vital that employees properly report any work-related injuries, no matter how minor they may seem. Many companies have specific procedures and timeframes for reporting injuries that employees must follow.

    Employees should notify their supervisor as soon as possible after sustaining an injury at work. Most companies require the injury to be reported within 24 hours. The employee should provide details about how, when, and where the injury occurred.

    It is in the employee’s best interest to properly document a work-related injury from the start, and consulting a personal injury lawyer can provide valuable guidance in this process. Otherwise, they may risk not being eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Reporting promptly also allows the company to address any potential safety issues.

    Following company policies for reporting work injuries is crucial for both the employee and the employer. Clear communication ensures everyone is aware of the situation and can take appropriate action when injuries unfortunately occur on the job.

    Seeking Medical Care

    It is critical that injured employees receive prompt medical attention after a workplace injury occurs. Delaying treatment can cause injuries to worsen and healing time to increase.

    As an HR professional, refer injured employees to seek care from occupational health clinics or doctors that your company has existing relationships with. These medical professionals will have experience treating work-related injuries and be familiar with your company’s operations.

    Direct employees to designated company doctors that you have vetted, instead of letting them choose their own physician. This allows you to ensure they will receive proper diagnosis and treatment for the specific injury. It also helps facilitate communication between the treating physician and your company to coordinate return-to-work timelines.

    Instruct supervisors to send injured workers for medical evaluation, even for injuries that may seem minor initially. Some serious medical issues like concussions may not have visible symptoms. Getting prompt medical attention can identify any serious problems and prevent future complications.

    Emphasize to employees that they are required to follow company guidelines for reporting injuries and seeking treatment from approved occupational medicine clinics. Make sure they understand it is not acceptable to independently go to their own doctor or hospital without following proper reporting procedures.

    Requiring prompt medical treatment from designated doctors enables you to better manage workers compensation claims and improve return-to-work outcomes. Ensuring injured employees get appropriate medical care quickly is an essential responsibility of HR and benefits administration.

    Accommodating Injured Employees

    When an employee sustains a work-related injury, HR and management should collaborate to accommodate the employee’s needs and facilitate their recovery. This may involve providing light duty assignments or reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Light duty assignments allow injured employees to work with restrictions and modifications that enable them to be productive while recovering. For example, an employee with an arm injury may be given a typing intensive task rather than a manual job. Light duty often involves reduced hours or responsibilities. HR should work with the employee’s doctor to understand their restrictions and capabilities. If possible, temporary light duty work that meets the doctor’s requirements should be offered.

    Facilitating Return to Work

    Getting injured employees back to work safely and quickly should be a top priority. Prolonged time away from work can negatively impact an employee’s recovery, increase costs, and harm productivity. HR professionals play a vital role in facilitating return to work through:

    Preventing Future Injuries

    The best way for companies to deal with workplace injuries is to prevent them from happening in the first place. HR can help prevent future injuries by taking a proactive approach to safety.

    By taking proactive steps to improve safety policies and training, companies can help prevent costly and disruptive workplace injuries. A focus on prevention creates a safer, healthier environment for all employees.

    Conclusion

    When an employee sustains a work-related injury, it’s important for employers to respond promptly and effectively. By following proper procedures for reporting, seeking medical care, filing worker’s compensation claims, accommodating injured employees, maintaining communication, and facilitating return to work, employers can support employee recovery while also protecting the interests of the company.

    Effective injury management minimizes financial and productivity losses from injuries, while strengthening employer-employee relations. For more resources on managing work-related injuries, consult relevant governmental agencies, trade associations, insurance providers, and HR/risk management professional networks. With the right policies and collaborative approach, businesses can support injured team members while upholding their legal and ethical duties as employers.

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