Friday, January 6, 2017

What Every Employer Should Know About Workplace Accidents

Your employee has just told you that she has just had an accident while working.

What do you do-tell her to rub some dirt on it and get back to work?


How you respond and how thoroughly and consistently you document and report every incident will go a long way toward making sure your employees are safe and improving your chances that only compensable claims are being paid.

Here is a primer for what an employer should do as soon as an accident is reported by an employee.

STEP 1: First, and of most immediate concern, is to make sure the employee gets prompt and appropriate medical attention.  The purpose for this is not just because you are a good boss and a kind and caring employer, but also to get an immediate assessment of just how injured the employee may be.  Some employers have occupational health facilities which they use to treat injured employees following industrial incidents (and also to perform annual physical and initial examinations and drug testing).

STEP 2: Second (actually as simultaneous with the first as is possible) DOCUMENT WHAT HAPPENED!  Section 6(b) of the Illinois Workers Compensation Act requires every employer or insurers acting on their behalf, to maintain records of work-related deaths, injuries and illness other than minor injuries requiring only first aid treatment.   The employer or its carrier is also required to file reports with the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission concerning such accidents which arise out of and in the course of employment if the accident results in the loss of more than 3 scheduled days of work (called a Form 45).  Those reports must be made no later than 2 days following an accidental death and in all other cases, shall be made between the 15th and 25th of each month. (820 ILCS 305/6(b))
That’s the rule on reporting.  But, it is not your job to decide whether the incident is compensable or not; whether it will require an employee to be off work for three or more days or anything other than to preserve the information and evidence for the use by the people you are paying to figure that stuff out.  Document Everything! Right Away!!!
Implement a process that is consistent and uncomplicated for every single incident.  From a paper cut to a broken leg; a fall in the parking lot to a fall off the roof; document them the same way.  Do the same thing each time and because disputed claims can go on for years and years, make sure that everything is preserved and can be reproduced years down the road.

STEP 3: Third (and again as simultaneously with one and two as possible) is to report the incident to your Workers Compensation Insurance/Coverage Provider.  They will assist in managing the claim and communicating with the employee, the Commission and any attorney who may get involved in the claim.  They are the ones who decide whether or not the claim is compensable.
Prompt appropriate medical treatment, thorough and well preserved documentation and ongoing communication and responsiveness throughout a claim between employer and carrier are what make small claims stay small, keep big claims under control and make non-compensable claims go away as quickly as possible.

Here is a “glossary“ of some of the information that can and should be gathered and preserved at the time of an incident where an employee claims to have been injured.
  • Form 45 – The Commission provides what is known as the “Illinois Form 45: Employer’s First Report of Injury” for purposes of reporting such injuries. This is a form that is to be completed and filed with the State of Illinois.  Whenever possible, the Commission requests that these reports be sent electronically.
  • Employee Statement – This is the most obvious but the one that is left out more often than not.  Get the injured employee to write down as thoroughly as possible what happened and where they are hurt as soon after the incident as reasonably possible.
  • Supervisor Statement – This is often the least thorough report.  It is an opportunity for the responsible supervisor to provide a summary of what the employee was supposed to be doing, what the employee was doing and all information about the time, date and circumstances of the incident as close in time and fresh as possible
  • Witness Statements – the more the merrier!!  Include names addresses and contact information.
  • Video – If you have cameras, make sure they are working!!  Keep the video in a readable format and get it to your carrier ASAP (but keep a copy just in case.)
  • Post Occurrence Photographs – Everyone has a camera on their phone.  Use it and print the pictures as well as saving the digital data for reprinting later when the original prints are lost or destroyed.  Also document the time date and location depicted in each photo as well as the name and contact information of the person that took them.
  • Wage Statement – A spreadsheet of the wages for the year immediately preceding the accident will be used to determine benefit rate.  Your carrier’s adjuster will assist with any more specific information depending upon the job of the injured employee.
  • Job Description – Pretty self explanatory, but make sure that they are updated and consistent with the actual job.
  • Medical Providers – Include EMS and any information about where the employee goes after the incident for medical care
  • Initial and/or Annual Physical – If they exist keep them in a place where they are available for duplication upon proper request and authorization.