Compared to a lot of work sites, your standard office environment probably doesn’t seem too dangerous. And that’s true up to a point — an office tends to present fewer hazards than places like factories or construction sites.
Still, it’s entirely possible for someone to fall victim to a workplace injury in an office. Slips and falls are the most common cause of nonfatal emergency room visits, according to the National Safety Council; they accounted for over 8 million preventable injuries in 2017. Your employees could get badly hurt falling down the stairs, slipping on a wet floor or stumbling over a loose cord. It’s also common for office workers to strain their back, neck and shoulders as they incorrectly lift something heavy. And objects in the workplace can be a risk, too. Even when everything looks safe at first glance, sometimes employees put themselves in danger by taking a shortcut under an unstable shelf or letting their hair or clothing get a little too close to the paper shredder.
None of this is to say that you should be afraid to set foot in your office. But it does make clear how crucial it is to have a plan in place when addressing on-site accidents. Here’s a look at the steps to take before, during and after an employee gets injured.
Preparing for Injuries
The best way to manage employee injuries is to prevent them whenever possible. Do a scan of your workplace, including equipment, to identify any potential risk spots. Get your employees’ thoughts, too. Do they have any safety concerns?
Once you’re aware of what the risks are, regularly train employees to avoid them. A lot of this will probably sound fairly simple — they should always hold the handrail when walking down stairs, for example, and they should limit how much weight they carry by themselves — but it will reinforce the safety tips they’re most likely to overlook. Make this training part of employee onboarding.
Finish your preparations with a clear plan for what will happen in the event that an employee is injured. Who can help with first aid? Who will call the hospital? You should have the emergency contacts of each employee on hand just in case. Run drills of different employee injury scenarios to help you and your employees remain calm during an accident.
Dealing With a Workplace Injury
Even if you’re sure of the precautions you’ve taken, someone might still get hurt at the office. If they do, your first move should be to take care of the hurt employee. Identify whether the injury is serious enough for a 911 call or whether another employee can drive them to the emergency room or doctor’s office. Then, secure the area to make sure no one else gets hurt from the same hazard.
Your next job is to prepare for the insurance work. Save any of the equipment or items involved in the accident, since you might need them in the case of an insurance investigation. Also collect statements from anyone who saw the incident — not only does this help you understand what happened so you can prevent future accidents, but you may also need this documentation for your insurance company.
When an employee gets hurt at work, they’re typically eligible for workers’ compensation insurance. File the claim paperwork with your workers’ comp insurance provider within 24 hours of the incident to give your employee the best shot at receiving their benefits quickly.
If the injury was serious enough that the employee had to go to the hospital, you will also need to report the incident to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Even if you don’t need to send a report to OSHA, it’s important to keep a record of the accident in case the organization inspects your business later.
Managing Your Organization After an Employee Injury
Once the injured employee has undergone medical treatment, contact them about returning to work. Expect that they’ll need time off to recover — and stay open to the possibility that they might not return at all. See what you can do to make their transition back to work easier, whether they want to explore reduced hours, remote work options or temporarily different responsibilities. In case they require a long or permanent absence, your organization needs a plan to keep operating without them. Can their duties be split up between your existing staff? Should you hire a temp worker? Is the injury serious enough that you may need to hire a replacement employee?
While you should stay in touch with the injured employee, don’t forget about the rest of your workforce. Keep them updated on the status of their injured co-worker and explain what you’ve done to make the office safer. This is also a good time to review both your office safety procedures and your emergency accident protocol.
You want to promise protection at your business, but accidents happen. Taking the time to plan what will happen when they do will give you and your employees a fair alternative — peace of mind.
Want to learn more about preparing for the unexpected at your workplace? Check out this infographic on medical emergencies: