- Created on Sunday, 03 November 2002 01:08
- Written by Jeffery J. Joaquim
A good loss control program focuses on hazards your employees encounter every workday, their effects, and ways to control them. I know that some of you will tell me that you have done a good job at controlling recognized hazards, and you probably have. However, there are dangerous situations in your facility that will not rear their ugly heads until something else forces the conditions to surface.
Potential hazards have a tendency to appear during accidents. If you consider accidents just the cost of doing business, you are sorely mistaken. If you do not investigate accidents, you are missing opportunities to discover the causes of the accidents, find potential hazards that are now visible, and affect controls that will put them in check, effectively minimizing repeat accidents. Your bottom line is directly affected by how you handle accidents. To this end, the balance of this article will deal with what to do in the event of an accident.
Accidents must be reported to the supervisor immediately so that the accident investigation process begins in a timely manner. (Note: medical attention to the injured employee is the 1st priority, the investigation is 2nd.) Time is a critical factor contributing to the cost of accidents. An unmanaged accident will cost you a great deal more then a managed one. Not reporting an accident immediately can result in a dangerous situation receding back to potential, unseen hazard. In essence, it can lead you to a re-occurrence of the incident.
Should the supervisor use the new OSHA Form 301 for the initial investigation? No! It only has part of the information needed to properly investigate an accident. It would be more appropriate to generate your own Supervisors Accident and Incident Investigation Report form. In addition to the OSHA 301 form information, you need a checklist of possible "Employee Causes/Unsafe Acts" and one for Physical Causes/Unsafe Conditions. The former list should include, at a minimum, the following: dangerous practices; inability; incomplete knowledge (i.e. improper training;) disobeyed rules/procedures; not otherwise classified. The latter list should include the following: poor housekeeping; lack of proper guards; improper personal protective equipment (PPE); defective equipment; defective walking surfaces; poor working conditions; not otherwise classified. This should be followed by a large section titled "Reasons for the above causes / conditions." In turn, this should be followed by an even larger section titled "Measures I have taken to prevent a similar accident in this or any similar situation."
It is very important to remember not to prejudge or blame the victim (employee) when investigating an accident. Immediate supervisors should be made responsible for conducting the investigations. They need to be able to pull themselves away from the task at hand to perform the investigation. "I will get to it in an hour" is not acceptable. The supervisor should have an accident investigation kit that includes the Supervisor's Accident/Incident Investigation Report; a clip board, paper and pencil to draw pictures; a video or still camera; measuring tape, etc. The supervisor must visit the accident scene. Have the injured person, if possible, or witnesses, describe what led up to the incident. Take photographs, videos, draw pictures, interview witnesses privately, etc. If necessary, reconstruct the accident if it can be done safely (being careful not to recreate the injury.)
Once the Supervisor's Accident/Incident Investigation Report is completed, it should be hand carried to the HR person who will, if the accident was OSHA Recordable, fill in the appropriate information on the OSHA form 300 and complete the OSHA form 301, using the Supervisor's Accident/Incident Investigation Report information. If it was not a recordable accident, record the information on your accident log as a non-recordable accident. The accident/incident then must be reported to your Workers Compensation insurance carrier or broker, generally, via telephone or fax. If it is by fax, you will have to complete your state's First Report of Injury form. If reported by telephone, the insurance company will fill out the state's form.
OSHA forms 300 and 301 are available at www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Additional.html. Once there, scroll down to the second paragraph titled OSHA Forms.
The insurance company has up to 14-days to accept or deny a claim. By law, an employer must report all w/c claims reported to them. Most insurance companies will submit your state's First Report of Injury to the Worker's Compensation board for you. Check with your insurance company to verify that they are. If they are not, you will have to file yourself.
It is very important to communicate with an injured employee within the first 24-48 hours after the accident, and weekly thereafter. The absence of communications during this time could lead the employee to conclude that they have been forgotten, or the company does not care about their well being. Show genuine concern. Do not harasses them. It is less likely that an employee of a caring company will feel the need to seek out the services of an attorney.
Managed medical care will speed up the return of an employee. Generally, this is best left to your insurance company or a third-party W/C claims management firm. However, get up dates from these providers on a weekly basis. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Your workers compensation program would be incomplete if you do not have a Return-to-Work, with or without restrictions, program in place.
Have a safe month.
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