Do you have a plan for an accident or injury that occurs in your workplace?
While the U.S. workplace has become a much safer place over the past century, accidents do happen. The latest data from the Department of Labor shows that nearly 3.1 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in the private sector in 2010. This is the equivalent of 3.5 cases per 100 workers. Even more disturbing, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 4,690 workers were killed on the job in 2010.
“Every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home. Every year in America, nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury from which some may never recover…”– Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Workers Memorial Day speech April 26, 2012.
The Case for a Safe Workplace
Thanks to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, all workers have a legal right to a safe workplace. As an employer, it is your responsibility to maintain a safe work environment in accordance with the requirements of this Act.
Aside from regulations, though, there’s a strong case for small business owners to invest in injury prevention. According to the OSHA, for each dollar invested in injury prevention, employers can expect a return of $4 to $6. An injury claim against a business can have devastating impact on a company’s bottom line – especially if the injury was due to poor or unsafe working conditions. In fact, OSHA states that companies that didn’t adequately manage workplace safety and health programs performed worse financially than those who did between 2004 and 2007.
The following workplace safety and health resources from OSHA will help you understand what the law requires (summarized here) and how you can comply.
- Find the Workplace Health and Safety Requirements that Apply to You – Follow this step-by-step guide to pinpoint which OSHA requirements apply to your workplace and how you can comply.
- Request an On-Site Consultation Service – Get free advice from trained state government staff at your workplace.
- State-Specific Requirements – Some states operate their own job safety and health programs. Check here to see which states have OSHA-approved plans and what standards they mandate.
- Training and Educational Programs – Take advantage of a wide selection of training courses and educational programs offered by OSHA for employers.
You can also refer to this Small Business Guide from OSHA, which explains more about specific benefits and programs the agency offers to help you develop a safe workplace.
OSHA is a valuable resource that shouldn’t be overlooked. In 2010, OSHA provided free assistance to over 30,000 small businesses covering 1.5 million workers by helping them create safe and healthy work environments.
What to Do if an Employee Is Injured on the Job
Here’s what you should do if an employee is injured at your business.
- Seek medical attention – Get the appropriate medical care.
- Write up an accident report – It’s important that you take care of this important step as soon as possible. Talk with employees who witnessed the injury and take photos of the accident scene. You’ll want this information for your own records, but also to help you comply with OSHA reporting and recordkeeping polices. OSHA has limited requirements for low-hazard industries and very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
- Provide workers’ compensation reports, if applicable – Workers’ compensation systems are managed differently by different states. For state-by-state details, see the Department of Labor’s Office of Worker Compensation Programs.
- Assess liability – Depending on the situation and the severity of injuries, you may need to offset medical expenses and provide short- or long-term disability leave for an injured employee. If an injury occurs as a result of an OSHA violation, you may be required to provide additional benefits and compensation. OSHA takes employer size and other factors into consideration when assessing violations and penalties. Contact an attorney if you’re concerned about liability.
- Free Workplace Safety Handbook for Small Businesses
- Ensuring a Healthy and Risk-Free Workplace
- 10 Steps to a Microbusiness Wellness Program
Written by: Caron Beesley