We all do our best to keep our employees, our customers, and ourselves safe. But you can’t always predict what will happen — all you can do is prepare for the worst.
In 2017, there were approximately 208 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private employers in the United States. That translates to 208 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to OSHA, 5,147 workers were killed on the job in 2017. That translates to 3.5 per 100,000 FTE workers.
Although reported cases of workplace injuries have been declining for over a decade, they are still a relatively common occurrence. If you own a business, you can be put in a very difficult position if an employee or customer becomes injured at your workplace.
What Are the Employer’s Responsibilities?
Naturally, the needs of the injured party come first. You need to ensure they are safe, that they get the care they need, and that their lives aren’t threatened. Furthermore, you need to ensure the cause of their injury doesn’t lead to more injuries.
But as an employer and a business owner, you must consider your own liability when someone suffers an injury in the workplace. A lawsuit could seriously threaten your business, whether it’s from a customer or from an employee.
For this reason, it isn’t just a good idea to obtain business liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. In California, it’s the law.
If someone becomes injured in your workplace, whether they are an employee or customer, you can be held responsible for medical bills, recovery of lost wages, and even rehabilitation and death benefits. If you are covered by insurance, you don’t have to pay the entirety of these costs on your own.
Common Injuries in US Workplaces
There are multiple ways an individual can become injured or ill in the workplace. In some cases, you may not be liable.
For example, if one of your employees contracts a cold, there’s no reasonable way for them to claim this as a workplace injury.
However, there are some workplace injuries that you must cover which you may not be aware of. Certain mental health issues and other non-specific injuries that are brought on specifically by work may fall under the purview of your workers’ comp insurance.
For example, according to the Insurance Journal, “overexertion” was the leading cause of workplace injury in 2018. In a study of workplace safety, it was revealed that overexertion led to 23.4% of workplace injuries and cost $13.7 billion.
Other leading causes of workplace injuries include:
- Falls (on the same level)
- Falls (to a lower level)
- Being struck by objects or equipment
- Physical exertions or bodily reactions
- Roadway incidents
- Slipping or tripping without a fall
- Getting caught or compressed in equipment or objects
- Being struck against objects or equipment
- Injuries from repetitive motions and tasks
These causes can lead to all types of injuries, from broken bones to bleeding and even death.
According to the National Safety Council, the industries with the highest rates of preventable fatal work injuries are:
- Transportation and Warehousing
- Wholesale Trade
- Professional and Business Services
- Other Services
- Leisure and Hospitality
- Retail Trade
- Educational and Health Services
This information is based on data from 2016 to 2017. While Agriculture had the highest rate of injuries at 22.6 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2017, Construction had the highest number of injuries at 924 deaths in 2017.
Regardless of your industry, you are required by California law to obtain workers’ compensation insurance and business liability insurance if you have employees and operate in California.
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What Should You Do if an Employee is Injured at Work?
Before taking on employees, you should have a plan in place for if there is an accident or an emergency. Aside from obtaining California workers’ compensation insurance and business liability insurance, you should also:
- Draft a response plan for emergencies and post them where employees can see
- Train employees and supervisors in safety and emergency response
- Keep first-aid supplies on-premises
- Obtain emergency contact information for all your employees
- Post all relevant and necessary safety information at your business
You may also consider enrolling your employees or supervisors in CPR or first aid classes.
If an injury does occur at your workplace, take the following steps:
- Get employees to a safe place
- Evaluate the situation
- Help the injured
- Gather information and evidence
The priority is always the safety of your employees. If there is a dangerous situation at your workplace, move your employees to a safe location before assessing the situation.
Next, help the injured in any way you can. They may simply need first aid, but if they have suffered a serious injury, you may need to call emergency services or secure the individual a ride to the emergency room.
Once the injured party’s needs are taken care of, you should gather information and evidence. Write down any relevant details, gather witness testimonies, take pictures of the scene, and secure any equipment that was involved in the incident.
Even if your employee says they are fine, they may seek medical help later and file a worker’s compensation claim. You’ll need this evidence for that process.
What Injuries are Covered by Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
Virtually any injury is covered by workman’s comp insurance if it occurred while the employee was doing something on behalf of an employer or acting in the course of their employment.
For example, let’s say you operate a warehouse and a fleet of trucks as part of your business. An employee who becomes injured in one of your trucks is just as covered as an employee who is injured in your warehouse, as long as they were in the course of employment when the injury occurred.
The same could be true for a company holiday party, a team-building retreat, or even an employee lunch break (if the injury occurs on company grounds). Mental injuries, such as anxiety and depression, may also be covered if the employee can prove they were sustained during or are the result of their work.
However, if you and your employee go out for drinks after work, this would not be considered “work-related,” so it wouldn’t be covered.
What is the Process for a Workers’ Comp Claim?
The process of a workers’ comp claim in California is relatively straightforward:
- The employee will notify you of their injury or condition
- You must provide the employee with the right paperwork and guidance, including a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC 1)
- The employee will file the claim form with you, their employer
- You must file the claim with your insurance company
- The insurance company will either approve or deny the claim
- The employee recovers and returns to work
Your employee must provide you and your insurance company with written notice of when they have recovered and are ready to return to work.
If you have other questions about injuries in the workplace or workers’ compensation insurance in California, contact Strong Tie Insurance today.