When one of your employees is injured in the course of their work, you may feel overwhelmed by the breadth of workplace laws you need to comply with. These include occupational safety and health standards, workers’ compensation statutes, Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
There’s no question that you’ll have plenty of issues on your plate. Is workers’ compensation applicable? What happens if the employee cannot work for days, weeks or months? What form of leave is relevant? Does the injury necessitate a review of the broader workplace safety mechanisms?
No two workplace injury incidents are the same. Nevertheless, you can increase your odds of safeguarding both your employee’s and your business’ interests if you take the following steps.
Plan for and Facilitate Immediate Medical Care
The business must have a well-articulated procedure for initiating medical care when a workplace injury or illness occurs. Complying with the various laws is critical, but safeguarding human life must always take first priority. Your medical care protocol should include various response components, including who in the organization’s hierarchy should be notified first and how the worker will be transported to a healthcare facility.
If possible, and especially if you are working in a large, complex facility, invite local first responders such as the fire department so they can familiarize themselves with the building. Overall, the medical care procedures must comply with relevant Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
Investigate the Injury Incident
Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. However, their core premise is the same – employees who are injured or fall ill in the context of their work are entitled to certain benefits. Ultimately, it’s the business’ insurer that will decide whether a workplace injury or illness incident qualifies for compensation.
Nevertheless, it’s in the business’s best interest to conduct a comprehensive internal investigation. This would be a dependable record of the event, a trigger for any changes in work procedures required to bolster safety and could come in handy in future litigation and OSHA inquiries. The investigation should include photos of the scene, witness and expert interviews and industrial equipment audit logs.
Whenever a serious injury occurs in the workplace, the business must notify OSHA. If a fatality is involved, you must inform OSHA in no more than 8 hours. For inpatient hospitalization or an amputation, you have to do so within 24 hours. A failure to notify ISGA could attract citations of $750 or more.
Even when an injury is relatively minor, an employee could opt to file a complaint with OSHA. Either way, brace for the possibility of an OSHA inspection and if found in breach, fines.
Evaluate Leave Options
The injured employee may qualify for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as well as workers’ compensation leave. Both leaves can run concurrently, and as an employer, you can take advantage of that to limit the time the injured worker can legally be absent from work.
To make sure you cover your bases, closely scrutinize the medical certifications issued by the health care providers involved and confirm that whatever time the employee is off work is consistent with the information in the certification documents. In case the FMLA doesn’t apply to the incident, you could invoke other forms of leave, such as personal time or sick leave.
Pay Attention to the ADAAA
Employers should require that employees execute their job functions but within reasonable accommodation. When an injured employee’s condition reaches a point in their recovery where it cannot get better (referred to as maximum medical improvement), some employers make the erroneous assumption that their obligations to the employee have ended. Yet, that is one of the fastest ways to get the employee’s workers’ compensation lawyers in Atlanta on your neck.
The health care provider involved may require certain restrictions on the tasks an injured employee can be assigned. If the impairment limits major activity, the employee may be classified by ADAAA as disabled. In this case, you must create a reasonable environment for the employee to continue working including a stool, ergonomic workstation, extra intra-day breaks, transfer to a different department or location, or, in some jurisdictions, additional leave.
Failure to do so could leave the business exposed to a wide range of charges and lawsuits including equal employment opportunity, alleged retaliation lawsuits, and ADAAA lawsuits.
It’s impossible to predict when and where workplace injuries and illnesses will happen. However, such incidents can be much better managed if you understand beforehand what steps you should take as an employer.