The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently clarified rules on reporting injuries under 29 CFR Part 1904. The relevant rule requires that an employer provide a report to OSHA when a workplace injury results in the loss of consciousness of a worker. In one particular incident, an employee sustained a minor scratch on his finger. After a co-worker provided a Band-Aid to the injured worker, the employee was putting on the Band-Aid when he fainted upon seeing his own blood. Although no further treatment was required and the initial scratch was a very minor injury, OSHA indicated the incident still counted as a loss-of-consciousness incident which had to be reported.
In this case, it may not have been possible for any post-injury treatment to have prevented the worker from fainting. In other situations, however, the response after an injury can make a substantial impact in how seriously a worker is hurt. Minimizing the extent of damage caused by a workplace accident can not only help employers avoid a serious injuries that must be reported to OSHA but can also mean an employee does not need as much treatment or as much time off work. Since workers' compensation benefits cover medical expenditures, wage loss, and disability, it is in an employer's best interests to make sure employees receive post-injury treatment so they can limit losses.
Employers Need an Effective Protocol for Responding to Workplace Injuries
Employers must ensure they plan ahead in case an injury happens and employees must respond to the emergency situation. Having an effective safety plan in place could limit the damage caused by a workplace accident, so the losses sustained by an employee (and covered by workers' comp) are not as severe. Some of the different steps an employer should take include:
- Identifying all necessary safety equipment and having a first aid kit and other equipment available in a convenient location.
- Appointing a safety officer who is in charge of maintaining emergency supplies and who is fully trained on the appropriate and effective use of emergency equipment.
- Providing training to all employees company-wide on the post injury protocols they should follow if they get hurt or if a co-worker gets hurt and needs help.
- Providing wireless communication devices to all employees working in remote areas or working alone, and making sure employees know how to use this equipment to call for help.
- Developing an emergency contacts list so employees know who to reach out to for information in the event an emergency happens.
After an injury, employees should get to a safe space away from the danger. Professional medical help should be obtained right away, especially in life-threatening situations. Employers should be notified as soon as it is practical to do so, even when injuries initially appear minor, because symptoms could become more serious over time and the report of the injury must be made in a timely manner to preserve eligibility for workers' compensation benefits.