Q & A: When an injury occurs
Q. “ We suspect that some employees delay reporting injuries to avoid a drug test. If an employee does not report an injury right away, without good cause, can we make it grounds for termination?”
A. This is an employment-related issue that warrants a legal opinion. Termination tied to late reporting could be determined to be retaliation. While termination may not be an option, employers can do several things to encourage prompt reporting of injuries. Benchmarks should be established for foreman or supervisors in prompt reporting of injuries and the results should be part of their annual review process. Clearly stating the company’s objectives in employee manuals, safety meetings and posting posters throughout the company’s premises encouraging the early reporting of injuries conveys the importance to employees.
Q. “We are a small company and do not have medical personnel on staff. Are we required to give first aid at the time of an injury?”
A. OSHA standards require that an employer must ensure prompt first aid treatment for injured employees, either by providing for the availability of a trained first aid provider at the worksite, or by ensuring that emergency treatment services are within reasonable proximity of the worksite. The basic purpose of these standards is to assure that adequate first aid is available in the critical minutes between the occurrence of an injury and the availability of physician or hospital care for the injured employee. For a detailed interpretation of this requirement, click here.
Q “We had an employee who was taken to the hospital, but insisted we do not notify his family. What are we obligated to do?”
A. You may want to begin with a review of your emergency contact form. Does it clearly indicate who should be contacted and does it give the option of “do not contact anyone?” Given the focus on privacy concerns today, it is best to review the situation with your legal counsel.
Q. “We have employees working off site who communicate with their supervisors electronically, including public text messaging (SMS) and instant messaging (IM). Is this an acceptable way to communicate injuries?”
A. Public IM (free downloads) and SMS communications typically aren’t archived, even as call records. With all accidents, it’s critical to have an audit trail, both for internal reasons and for future retrieval in the event of a lawsuit. It’s also not secure and exposes the company to legal actions. Some companies are replacing public IM with enterprise class IM systems that feature archiving capabilities and can restrict communications to appropriate personnel.