Five Essential Components of an Accident Response Plan
By Trey Fry, Construction Executive
According to a November 2017 release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private employers in 2016. With the construction industry facing a skilled labor shortage, new and inexperienced workers are entering the field. These new members may be more vulnerable to injury, making it hugely important for general contractors to create a culture of safety for their employees, subcontractors and tradesmen.
While no level of preparedness can fully eliminate workplace accidents, employers can greatly reduce the risk by creating a thorough accident response plan, supplemented with frequent employee safety trainings to ensure everyone is prepared to act when an incident occurs.
No two companies’ plans will be exactly alike, but there are five essential components every organization should consider:
1. CARING FOR THE INJURED PERSON
First things first: it’s crucial to get the injured worker to safety as quickly as possible. The accident response plan should include steps for workers to follow when a fellow worker is injured, like when to contact 911, what questions to ask the injured person, who to contact on the jobsite for help, etc. It’s important that all employees are trained to properly deal with emergency situations if and when they arise.
2. REPORTING AND INVESTIGATING THE INJURY
Once the injured person has been assessed and is safe, it’s important for any witnesses to write down the details of the incident while they are still fresh in their minds. Employers can then use this information to launch an extensive investigation.
Organizations should appoint an accident investigation team to look into all details of the accident and speak to all witnesses to make sure the company has the most accurate information on what happened. The team should compile its findings in an official report, which may be requested by an attorney if a lawsuit regarding the incident is filed.
Submitting the necessary paperwork in a timely manner will also help the investigation go smoothly. Companies need to report the incident to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier as soon as possible. OSHA also requires that companies fill out OSHA 300 forms to report all work-related illnesses and injuries.
3. HANDLING THE MEDIA
Depending on the gravity of the situation, a company official may have to speak to the news about the incident. Appoint a spokesperson to handle the responsibility of dealing with all media communications. This person should understand the importance of providing only the facts to keep speculation at bay. Adding speculation can only help to spread rumors that can harm the company.
Additionally, it’s important to avoid saying “no comment” and instead share exactly how the company is dealing with the incident and how it plans to avoid this kind of injury in the future. The key is to be open about it, so it is clear that it takes the situation seriously.
4. PLANNING FOR RECOVERY AND RETURN
Nearly 900,000 occupational injuries and illnesses resulted in days away from work in 2016. And with these absences come the indirect costs of employee replacement and training. To keep these costs low and productivity high, organizations should establish a return-to-work (RTW) program as part of their accident preparedness plan.
According to the Job Accommodation Network, an injured worker is less likely to return to work the longer he or she is on leave, so it’s important to encourage employees to get well and return to work as soon as they can. Let them know the resources and options available to them – like the ability to temporarily move to part-time or light-duty work if it allows them to return early.
5. TAKING PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
Companies should review their accident response plan after every workplace injury or illness to check for necessary updates. During this review process, they can evaluate the cause of previous accidents, and establish corrective measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again. They should then share the updates with all employees and hold trainings with them to ensure they understand any changes.
Additionally, supervisors should encourage employees to submit ideas for safety improvements. Companies may consider implementing a behavior-based safety program that rewards those who practice company policy. According to the American Psychological Association, the recorded workplace injury rate decreases by almost 30 percent just one year after implementing a behavior-based safety program – and 72 percent after five years.
Establishing an accident response plan can help companies save lives on the job. Plus, the less risky a business looks to insurance carriers, the fewer workers’ compensation claims it’s likely to have. Typically, the safer a company looks in carriers’ eyes, the lower insurance premium they are likely to receive.