Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” When dealing with safety in the workplace and preventing work-related injuries, employers should head this sage advice on preparedness, and insurers should encourage it.

Employers can be prepared for the prevention of or for the response to a work-injury by establishing safety protocols, training procedures, reporting requirements, and a standard operating procedure for the handling of a reported injury. Such preparation lays a solid foundation when it comes time for the insurer to adjust the claim and the attorney to defend the claim. We recommend at the very least that every employer remember to:

  • Establish and publish safety and reporting guidelines, preferably by way of an employee handbook which includes the employee’s signed acknowledgement of receipt and review of the handbook.
  • Enlist the services of an occupational or ergonomics professional to periodically evaluate job tasks.
  • Conduct routine “safety sweeps” to spot potential accidents.
  • Promote safety with awards for behavior that is proactive in the prevention of injuries or for groups or teams who remain injury free for a particular period of time.
  • Re-educate employees on safety guidelines monthly, quarterly or at least yearly, especially when it involves use of equipment safety features. Repetitious use of a dangerous piece of equipment can breed confidence, which can breed carelessness.
  • Educate employees on the proper reporting requirements following an accident. Do not rely solely on a passage in the employee handbook.
  • Immediately document reports of injury.
  • Immediately investigate the area involved in the accident, the equipment involved in the accident, or any other environmental element contributing to the incident.
  • Interview any witnesses involved.
  • If suspicious, immediately obtain statements (preferably notarized) from every individual with knowledge of the event.
  • Retain all doctor’s excuses, records, and return to work releases.
  • Document return to work status and nature of duties performed after return.
  • In the event of litigation certain documents will be needed: Be sure you have ready access to all of the documents referenced above as well as attendance records, disciplinary records, and wage records for the 52 weeks preceding the incident.

Naturally, the above list is not exhaustive. It is intended only as a basic guideline. Employers are encouraged to tailor other injury prevention, reporting and response protocols to their specific industry or policies.

Contact Roland Niemi Law Group for a free evaluation of your company’s injury prevention, reporting and response protocols.