Workplace accidents cost U.S. firms an estimated $62 billion every year for injuries alone. The true cost of workplace accidents may be significantly higher than this due to unreported incidents and indirect costs. It is far better to create a workplace where the risk of an accident is low than to try to bounce back from one, but if it does happen, how should you react?
Initial reaction and first steps
You have two initial responsibilities at the scene of an accident – help the injured person and make sure nobody else gets hurt. You need to make sure that someone appropriately trained takes control of the scene. What caused the accident and will it hurt anyone else? Move people away and get help. After you have done this your responsibility changes to preserving the scene and ascertaining exactly what happened. In the past businesses worried about accidents and would do all they could to make the issue go away. Whilst even the most reputable firm may find this option to be tempting with a minor incident it is a path you cannot walk down. Regardless of whether or not your employee is seeking legal advice, what may have been a minor incident today could be a fatality tomorrow. Always investigate fully and report the accident to the appropriate authorities.
Next steps after the incident
After the initial incident, you have two parallel paths to walk – your responsibility to the business and your responsibility to the employee. Some parts of this go hand in hand; your initial steps will be to investigate fully what happened and why it happened. If negligence is at fault it is going to change how you deal with your employee in the long term. Assuming that the incident was a complete accident you need to give your employee space but not lose touch. When they are ready you need to work with them to plan and execute a steady and gradual return to work program. It is vital that you handle this carefully and positively to make sure that it is a good experience for all. Your responsibility to the business at this time is your investigation. Could this happen again? What can stop this?
Longer term steps
Any mistake is an opportunity to learn and this includes workplace accidents. You have to treat any incident, no matter how serious, as a chance for your business to improve. New routines and procedures should be introduced positively and not grudgingly. It is important to expand your investigation into similar areas of the business to see if there is anything else needing tightening up. An accident at work has the potential to be incredibly disruptive to the morale of the workforce and the reputation of the company. It is your job to make sure that the very opposite is true. By handling the investigation publicly and making positive changes you will show everyone that you care, you are professional and that the accident is behind you. You will show you have learned and are ready for business again.
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