Handling a Workplace Accident
Workplace accidents will affect your employees and your business, whether through lost time, payments for medical care, or the simple human stress reaction that affects everyone—management as well as labor—involved with an accident. Moreover, there are a number of statutory and contractual requirements arising out of workplace accidents with which businesses must immediately comply.
In short, handling a workplace accident means both protecting your employees and protecting your business. Thus, it pays to be prepared to swiftly handle such accidents by taking immediate action to make sure both your employees and your business fully recover.
First Steps: protecting your employees
As soon as you learn of an accident, your first actions must be to take care of your injured employee. Evaluate the scene, provide initial comfort and assistance (training yourself and your employees on CPR is recommended for situations like this), and call 911 if necessary. Something that businesses often forget after the initial rush of assisting injured employees is making sure other employees are safe and provided for. If they were witnesses to the accident, depending on its severity, they may need comfort and counseling of their own.
Even if 911 is not necessary, the injured employee may still require medical attention quickly. Your workers’ compensation insurance carrier should have already provided you with a list of three or more physicians to offer injured employees. (This satisfies the employer’s initial duty under Virginia Code § 65.2-603(A)(1) to provide the employee with a “panel” of physicians.) The employee should pick one of the physicians offered.
If your carrier has not provided you with such a list, contact your carrier and obtain one. If, under your workers’ compensation insurance policy, you are responsible for procuring your own panel of physicians—possibly due to a large self-insured retention or a high deductible—the workers’ compensation professionals at Gentry Locke can assist you with compiling the best physician panel for your business. Keep in mind that it is often advisable to provide initial transportation to the panel doctor chosen by the injured employee.
Second steps: legal and insurance requirements (protecting your business)
After the initial rush of responding to an accident and protecting employees, businesses must still contend with an avalanche of legal requirements. Some of these requirements come from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, while others are likely contained in your business’s workers’ compensation insurance policy.
As for the Act’s requirements for employers, it is likely that under your policy, your insurance carrier will comply with the Act on your behalf. Some requirements imposed by the Act include payment for medical treatment for the injured employee, filing a “First Report of Injury” with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, providing vocational rehabilitation services to the employee, and even making periodic workers’ compensation payments in lieu of salary. (Please keep in mind that this is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the Act’s requirements for employers.)
However, every insurance policy is different, and yours should be read and analyzed to understand what duties you have with regard to your insurance provider. Gentry Locke’s workers’ compensation lawyers can also assist you with this question. Regardless, it is almost certain that your business must: 1) report the accident to your carrier at your earliest possible opportunity; 2) cooperate with your carrier’s investigation of the accident; and 3) work with the defense attorneys hired by your carrier, if some aspect of the compensability of the accident is disputed.
Finally, an aspect of workplace accidents too often overlooked by business owners is the potential for OSHA investigations and fines. As far as government regulators are concerned, workplace accidents and OSHA investigations go together like peanut butter and jelly. Fortunately, Gentry Locke’s OSHA & Workplace Safety team stands ready to assist your business with the thorny issues of handling OSHA investigations and helping to prevent or lower fines.