Try as you might, it is impossible to prevent all accidents in the workplace. Even if you work in an office, there will probably come a time when an employee injures him or herself in a random act of bad luck. When this inevitably happens, you need to make sure that your response to the accident complies with the law. Here is what you need to do after an accident:
1. Provide medical care to any injured employees. Make sure that you take the appropriate measures to care for the injured employee. Call the paramedics or apply first aid. A failure to do this could leave an employer open to a lawsuit or even penalties from OSHA.
2. Have employees involved in the accident submit to drug and/or alcohol testing (but be careful not to violate the law!). Section 11 of the Workers’ Compensation Act states that employees who refuse to participate in drug and/or alcohol testing after a workplace accident are presumed to have been intoxicated at the time of the accident, and that this intoxication caused the accident. However, new OSHA rules hold that the administration of drug and/or alcohol testing after an accident could be considered retaliation for the reporting of the accident and would not be permitted. Therefore, there must be a reasonable basis for the employer to conduct a drug and/or alcohol test of an employee after an accident.
3. Report the claim to your workers’ compensation carrier. Make sure to report any workplace accidents to your workers’ compensation insurance carrier so that you can trigger coverage and have the carrier conduct an investigation. Failure to report the accident may lead to a denial of coverage. Note that employees are required to report workplace accidents within 45 days of the accident occurring. Failure to do so could lead to their workers’ compensation claim being denied.
4. Obtain witness statements. Have everyone who was involved in the accident or witnessed it fill out an accident report, even if they are not an employee.
5. Preserve evidence of the accident. Make sure to preserve all of the evidence related to accident itself or any of the events that precipitated or succeeded it. This might include surveillance footage, employee records and punch cards, or vehicle tracking reports. Failure to preserve evidence could lead to a spoliation of evidence claim brought against the employer.
6. Document the accident. The Workers’ Compensation Act requires employees to keep a record of any accident in the workplace and to keep these records for either three years following the date of the accident or two years after the last compensation payment was made, whichever is longer. Employers should also complete Illinois Form 45 and submit it to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
7. Correct hazards. Conduct an audit to determine why the accident occurred and what could be done to prevent it from occurring again in the future. Then implement this plan and correct all of the hazards that led to the accident.
Employers need to know how to respond to an accident before it occurs. Therefore, it is a good idea to put accident response procedures in an employee handbook or other document that is circulated among employees, and then train employees about how to respond in the event of an emergency. Feel free to contact me for advice on doing this.