What Your Employees Need to Know About Workers’ Compensation

Haley Bass

You know your business. You follow the regulations, stay up-to-date on the latest industry news, and ensure that your employees are provided with a great working environment. If an accident happens and an employee gets hurt, you know what to do…but does the employee?

Workers’ compensation can be a touchy subject, especially when potential litigation is on the line. But closing the line of communication beyond the required “know your rights” poster can be harmful to the employer-employee relationship. If an employee gets injured on the job and they aren’t sure what to do, they might be more likely to turn to a lawyer instead of you.

Open the conversation about workers’ compensation before an injury occurs by educating your workforce on safety, workers’ compensation procedures, and how you’ll support them during the process.

Develop an Effective Safety Training Program

When educating employees about workers’ compensation, the first and most essential step is teaching them how to prevent work-related injuries. This can be done through regular, comprehensive safety training.

Safety training should start in the onboarding process with new employees, then continue as equipment and processes change. No matter how long an employee has been working in your company, or how senior their position is, safety training is never a waste of time. It can only benefit the workforce and maintain accountability.

An effective safety training should include:

  • Identifying site-specific hazards and how to handle them
  • Required personal protective equipment
  • Accident and emergency response
  • Demonstrations with equipment and machinery
  • How to handle chemicals and hazardous materials
  • Encouraging workers to identify and report hazards or unsafe practices to a supervisor
  • Informing workers of their OSHA rights

Rather than just handing employees a safety manual and hoping for the best, take some time to walk through important steps, provide demonstrations with equipment, machinery, and protective gear, and answer any questions. Then include an assessment, as formal or informal as you want, to ensure that workers can complete their jobs correctly and safely.

Procedure for a Work-Related Injury

No matter how well-trained your workforce is, accidents can still happen. Even though workplace injuries aren’t a pleasant topic for discussion, employees will feel more comfortable if they’re prepared when an accident occurs.

During safety training, employees should be educated on what steps to take if they get injured when working. Walk them through the process, provide material for them to keep (maybe a wallet-size card to keep on them while working), and have the steps posted in prominent sites at the workplace.

Here’s an example of a workers’ compensation procedure:

What do I do if I get hurt when working?

  1. Contact your supervisor as soon as you experience an accident or know about an injury
  2. Complete an employee claim form, available from your supervisor or safety/HR personnel
  3. Undergo a medical evaluation by a doctor
  4. Take an active role in your recovery and complete your treatment plan
  5. Follow the specific workers’ compensation steps as identified by your state’s workers’ compensation board

When you openly communicate about workers’ compensation, your employees know to follow these steps rather than file a lawsuit. Let employees know that you’re on their side and only desire to keep them safe.

What to Expect from the Employer During Workers’ Compensation

The role of an employer, manager, or supervisor in the workers’ compensation process shouldn’t end after paying the claim. When you’re involved in an injured employee’s return-to-work plan, it helps ease any fears or obstacles that might impede their recovery.

Let employees know not only what they need to do when they’re injured, but how you’ll be involved as well. Make sure your workforce understands that they won’t be alone in the workers’ compensation process, and that you’ll be actively helping with their case and treatment. Again, this open communication helps develop a trust between employee and employer rather than an us-vs-them mentality.

As the employer, you help coordinate the return-to-work plan with the payor, the physician, and the employee. You know your business, so you can share any helpful details about the employee’s role (and how it can be adapted), the work environment and expectations, and what support is available for employees returning to work. When the injured employee returns, you need to ensure that the agreed upon plan is followed through.

If your employees know what to expect from you in the workers’ compensation process, they know when to turn to you, and you know your responsibilities in the process.