When it comes to assessing risk for small businesses, workers’ compensation is a big one. Many employers are afraid of workplace injuries and have a tendency to ignore the issue because it’s something they don’t want to deal with.
But it’s only an issue if you don’t have a proper system in place.
Every employer should have an effective injury reporting system in place, regardless of size. Nobody wants injuries to happen, but ignoring the possibility doesn’t help prevent them. Here are five critical steps to creating a system.
Have policies and procedures in place
Your workers’ compensation policies and procedures should be in place from the moment you hire your first employee, and every employee should be aware of them. If an employee gets injured, they need to know where to go for medical attention. If they can’t remember where to go, the policies should be in an easily accessible location for the employee to reference.
It’s also important to outline what the employee can expect in terms of the process, such as documentation required before or after medical treatment, how the injury could impact their daily job duties, etc.
Document every incident
When an injury does occur, be sure to document all of the details once you’ve ensured the immediate safety of all employees. That may include a statement from the employee about how the injury happened, statements from any witnesses, whether safety procedures were being followed at the time of injury, details of the medical treatment the employee received, and anything else that’s relevant.
The documentation is important for your workers’ compensation insurance reporting, and it also helps protect you as the employer from any potential scams related to workers’ compensation. Your insurance agent should provide you with the necessary forms to document any incidents. If they don’t, ask them about the forms or reach out to your HR consultant who should be able to provide them as well.
Adjust the employee’s duties if needed
Some workplace injuries are minor and the employee may be able to resume their normal work activities after being evaluated by a medical professional. However, some injuries may prevent the employee from completing their regular tasks for a designated period of time.
Remember that good employees are assets and lost productivity will affect your bottom line, so if an employee is injured on the job, keep in mind that they still need to work. Keep them busy doing something around the office within the medical restrictions, and encourage them to complete any treatments/therapy so that they can get back to work at full capacity as soon as possible. If the employee stays home due to the injury, you might not get them back at all.
Any time someone is not physically at work due to a workers’ compensation claim, the employer must report that as “loss time” on their end of year OSHA and workers’ comp reports. This information is then reported to their insurance provider and could result in increased premiums. Overall, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the employee engaged in some form of work while they recover from their injury.
Create the right culture around safety
If an employer refuses to acknowledge the potential for workplace injuries and fails to provide proper procedures to prevent workplace injury or deal with it when and if it occurs, the employer is then fostering an unhealthy working environment.
If an employee gets injured and doesn’t report it out of fear of retaliation, their injury may get worse as they continue to work. In that case, the problem will cost the company much more in the long run, both financially and in worker productivity. In some cases, workers’ compensation injuries that go unreported or aren’t handled correctly can shut down a small business.
Another issue sometimes occurs when businesses are perhaps too safety minded. For example, if your business has a centrally displayed board proclaiming “391 days without an injury,” employees may be hesitant to be the one that breaks that streak by reporting an injury. Promoting safety is great, of course, but ultimately employees need to know that if they are injured, there’s a process in place and the company will take care of them.
Employees need to know that any type of injury should be reported, whether it’s a hurt back, twisted ankle, or small cut on the hand. Not every injury is going to be an issue, but proper procedures need to be followed regardless to get them back to work as soon as possible.
Know the laws of your state
In the state of Oklahoma, if you have any employees, you’re legally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. It’s not a requirement in all states, so if your business expands, be sure to research the laws for each particular state.
Need help developing your workers’ compensation policies and procedures? Why HR can help reduce your risk and ensure compliance through proper policy. Call us today.