Like the need to buy extra light bulbs or touch up your hair color, your company’s accident protocol is likely something you don’t think about until you’re in the moment, and it’s too late.
Accidents happen, and it’s important for business owners to know how to address them appropriately when they occur.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 13 Americans are killed on the job every day, tens of thousands die every year from workplace-related disease, and nearly 4 million are seriously injured on the job.
As a lawyer who specializes in personal injury, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve encountered many cases involving accidents in the workplace. However, establishing a few workplace procedures can go a long way toward preventing accidents from happening in the first place.
Here are six steps to help you eliminate workplace hazards and handle accidents effectively when they do occur.
1. Understand the Basics.
Creating a safe workplace doesn’t happen by accident. To foster a culture of safety in your company, it’s important to understand what constitutes a “workplace accident” so you can start taking steps to prevent them from happening.
To qualify, an individual must be injured while:
- In the scope of employment.
- Performing a responsibility in line with his or her job performance.
- Performing work at the request of the employer.
These accidents could include injury at a construction work site, slipping and falling within the workplace, or getting in a car accident while driving to meet with clients.
2. Start Before Day One.
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By taking proactive measures, you can prevent a number of problems, and these precautionary steps should start well before the employee’s first day on the job.
For instance, employers should always perform background checks on potential employees, especially in industries such as the rental car business, where verifying a safe driving record is critical.
Once an employee is hired, provide him or her with guidelines and policies for safety requirements. This should be an integral part of each employee’s onboarding experience.
Build in processes that you check regularly to ensure employees are meeting safety guidelines, and keep up with technology to see how safety procedures can be improved.
3. Make a Plan for Handling Accidents.
When accidents do occur, it’s important to show sympathy for the employee and implement a program to prevent future accidents.
As you think of ways to improve your safety efforts, it’s tempting to focus on the most severe threats. However, you can often make the greatest impact by reducing small safety violations that contribute to the most frequent injuries.
4. Engage Employees in Safety Discussions.
While you’re focused on running your company on a macro scale, your employees are more familiar with the day-to-day processes, problems, and potential solutions. Constantly observe how employees perform their daily tasks, and encourage employees to bring safety deficiencies and ideas for improvement to their managers’ attention.
If possible, talk with individual employees to see if they have suggestions for making their work environment safer. They may have insights you haven’t considered.
5. Communicate Managers’ Responsibilities.
In addition to ensuring employees understand preventive processes for workplace safety, it’s equally important to communicate with management about the plan.
Managers should understand that it’s their responsibility to fill out an incident report with as much information as possible the minute an accident occurs. Information should include injury details and the medical treatment provided to the employee. The more information a manager can record, the easier it will be for the work compensation attorney and the defense attorney defending the claim.
6. Make Safety a Part of Your Culture.
Safety should be as integral to your company culture as your vision and values. A culture of safety starts the moment a new employee is onboarded, and leadership should reinforce it repeatedly.
Turner Construction, for example, holds an annual “safety stand-down” at every job site in the country. It suspends work, and staff gather to listen to best practices for staying safe on the job. Turner’s safety philosophy is based on its trademarked Building L.I.F.E. (living injury-free every day) principle. This approach aims to eliminate worksite accidents by pre-planning construction activities with safety engagement.
Don’t let workplace safety get bumped to the bottom of your to-do list. By keeping safety top of mind and ingraining it in your company culture, you can stay ahead of workplace hazards and avoid potential accidents.
Michael Acosta is a partner at Acosta & Williams LLC. As an attorney, he specializes in the areas of pharmaceutical litigation, personal injury, premises liability, auto and truck accidents, toxic torts, property and air contamination, and wrongful death.
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