Worker's Compensation Basics
Incidents happen, injuries happen, property damage happens. Why? We are all human and prone to making mistakes. Whether it is a mistake within a management system approach, training, or an employee shortcut – it happened. Are all incidents preventable? Well…that is definitely another article topic which everyone has their own opinion on.
All I know is now an incident happened, what is the plan needed for this situation? Generally, incident management can be made a lot easier by taking a systematic approach to what is required. By breaking up the process into steps, it always makes it a lot easier for me to follow worker’s compensation and/or incident investigation to work smoothly through the incident.
As far as state and insurance carrier specifics, each state may have various differences within employer-required coverage, posting, reporting, what constitutes a claim and payout of injuries, consulting with my insurance company has been helpful.
There is a ton of coverage in this post and I will be using it as an introductory post to topics I am looking forward to writing about. I will update this article to refer to future postings such as: incident investigation techniques, return to work program implementation and filling out required OSHA documentation.
Post Workplace Incident Process
- Supervisor and management training
- Post incident injury procedure
- Incident investigation techniques
- Submitting incident investigations
- Have a Return to Work Program
- Know and understand what is recordable
- Know and understand how to properly fill out OSHA documentation
Post incident if an injury does not result
- First aid qualifications
- Document the case and conduct an incident investigation
Post incident if an injury did occur
- Post injury procedure
- Incident investigation
- Submit incident investigation information in the form your insurance carrier looks for
- If there is an amputation, hospitalization, loss of an eye or death, file a report to OSHA
- Work with the employee and the licensed health care provider i.e. work restrictions, days away from work
- Have a Return to Work plan for the employee
- Keep proper OSHA documentation on 300, 300a, and 301 logs
An Injury Occurred
It didn’t take long for me to learn that without formal documented procedures and standard training, individuals are likely to not know how to respond as expected. When I began my new position heading corporate safety for a company, some of the many undertakings I have started off with is updating and training for the Emergency Action Plan, Bloodborne Pathogen, post injury procedure and manager incident investigation.
Control the Scene
Post injury procedure is extremely important as someone is injured beyond first aid. Typically, facilities have either first responders onsite, which are individuals trained in first aid and CPR; they may even have an onsite nurse. After first responders are notified to come to the site, someone within the area will need to call 911.
As pre-planned and part of the Emergency Action Plan, employees need to be trained on knowing location of doors to explain where the EMTs need to get to. The facility will also need to create signage on doors and have an employee(s) waiting outside for the ambulance.
After the employee is taken care of and rushed to a hospital, usually a safety representative goes with the employee.
If the employee is able to walk with the injury, the safety representative may be the designated driver to take an employee to the hospital.
After the post injury procedure is followed, it is extremely important to have the incident investigation as soon as possible. I find it easier to remember events which led up to the incident the entire situation, right away.
Collect photos, see if there was any video footage caught on security camera(s) (if applicable), interview employees who have seen the incident and interview the injured employee as soon as contact can be made with them. Most of the workforce’s I have been at have a union which has been very helpful. On top of having union representation during an investigation, it has also been what has worked best to encourage active involvement of employees. Even involving the safety committee in incident investigations is an extremely positive approach to foster employee engagement and involvement.
I have seen many versions in conducting incident investigations. As these methods are used, they become natural questions which come through my head when interviewing employees. The method I prefer to determine root cause is the fishbone diagram which lists categories such as machine, method, material, human error and measurement/medium, then lists their sub causes. Determining all of the root causes is crucial in order for the incident to be prevented in the future. To find a more in depth incident investigation process, refer here.
Keep Your Insurance and Regulatory Bodies Posted
File a claim with the worker’s compensation carrier. I use a straight forward online form and fill it in with information I wrote during the incident investigation.
An additional report would then need to be filed to OSHA either electronically, in person or via phone (phone number based on region). OSHA only needs to be notified if there is an amputation, hospitalization, loss of an eye, or death. Deaths need to be notified within 8 hours while the others need to be notified within 24 hours.
What Can Make or Break Your Company Pocketbook
Two things, licensed health care provider and return to work.
It is vital to find a licensed health care provider who understands OSHA terminology! Am I able to double underline that? VITAL. Based on what they prescribe, what they state the injury as, how long they are away from work and if they are restricted all play major roles in having an employee return to their normal job functions as soon as possible!
The longer an employee is away from work, the more likely they are not to return, ultimately increasing worker’s compensation expenditures. Other costs may include:
- Production losses
- Wages of work not performed
- Damage to property/machinery
- Hiring and/or Training new employees
- Decline in product quality and worker morale
- High turnover and lost work time
If an employee can return to work and be transferred to another job or placed on restrictions that is highly preferable.
Having a Return to Work program which emphasizes various jobs which an employee is able to do with their injury is highly important to keep them coming back to work. Communication with management on following the restrictions is very important as to not further aggravate the injury.
Employees want to feel welcome back to work and that management cares about their safety. If employees are treated as an issue or their restrictions are not respected, the company will end up paying more for the injury through the above stated list. It has been seen employees may try to increase as much time as possible on job transfer or restricted work for the ‘easy job’.
I always document the doctors appointments on my calendar so I can follow up with the employee as soon as possible and have them update me on their working conditions. Through being treated humanely, people will want to go back to their normal job position.
The point being, maintain communication with the licensed health care provider, employee and management to have the employee move back into their position as soon as they are fully healed.
To Be Proactive or Not to Be
Worker’s Compensation Modification rate increases based on the number of claims over a period of 3 full years, ending one year before the current policy expires.
While a high mod rate of claims increases cost, a high Days Away Restricted Time (DART rate) puts a company in the light of not caring about safety of their workers. A high DART Rate could also trigger a comprehensive OSHA inspection of safety programs, record keeping, training programs and more.
One Last Point
Keep the records up to date. I like to have a matrix of injuries, first aid cases, near misses, property damage, etc in order to trend information, show metrics, present to employees and management, and most importantly to keep the OSHA logs updated. OSHA forms 300, 300a, and 301 logs need to be filled out each year by February 1st. Make the process easier by gathering the information at once during the incident investigation, recording to the insurance carrier and keeping documentation onsite of all injuries which are to be recorded on the fiscal year’s record keeping forms (along with the previous 5 years of injuries for record keeping purposes).
Conduct incident investigations which are as thorough as possible in order to prevent the injury and/or situation from happening again in the future. Always look at each situation as a probability; just because it may have not resulted in an injury or the injury may have not been ‘that bad’ doesn’t mean that in the future anyone will be ‘injury prone’.
Use injuries, near misses and property damage as experience situations to learn from. When resources are available for the safety program, it is the next focus to proactively identify all the hazards within the facility and mitigate risk before an injury results.
Thanks for reading and always feel free to reach out!