Incident Response: What Needs to Happen After a Workplace Accident
Workplace accidents are an unfortunate reality of doing business. In 2021, private employers reported a staggering 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses to the Bureau of Labor Statistics at an incidence rate of 2.7 cases per 100 full-time workers.
The good news is that businesses can take proactive measures to minimize the rate at which workplace accidents occur and reduce their impact. One way to achieve this is by implementing an Incident Response Plan (IRP), an essential facet of any organization's safety management system.
An IRP is a comprehensive framework that dictates the necessary action to respond to a workplace incident or a near miss. By creating, implementing, and managing an IRP, your organization can protect its workers by identifying and eliminating potential hazards, fostering a culture of safety, and reducing downtime and expenses associated with on-the-job injuries.
What exactly should a workplace accident-focused IRP include? Let's take a closer look at how you can optimize your company's action plan with the help of a comprehensive IRP.
Listen to the BBSI Entrepre(doers) Podcast
Joe Guerra, a risk consultant at our Long Beach branch, joins the show to discuss incident response, what needs to happen after a workplace incident and emphasizes the importance of having an incident response plan in place. You'll learn about how to mitigate injuries and other types of issues that can go on at your company.
Why Should Companies Have an Incident Response Plan?
In an episode of Entrepre(doers), BBSI's podcast, we interviewed BBSI Risk Consultant Joe Guerra. He suggests looking at your administration and engineering controls to understand if there's a need for better processes, tools, or training to prevent injuries on the job site. An IRP ensures employee safety and preparedness, especially in an unforeseen incident or emergency, like a natural disaster. Instead of wasting time, organizations can and should act fast.
IRPs provide a structured and proactive approach to incident management that:
- Covers containment, assessment, and mitigation of incidents in detail
- Outlines key stakeholders' roles and responsibilities
- Lists how management will communicate with stakeholders to keep them informed
- Details the proper documentation and reporting protocols
Workplace injuries can cause an array of negative consequences for both employees and employers. All it takes is a single slip and fall to expose a business to long-term ramifications.
- Long-term problems for employees: Employees must deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological harm associated with the accident and recovery. Time off from work spent recovering will often result in lost wages, financial burdens, and reduced work capacity.
- Long-term problems for businesses: Workplace accidents reduce productivity and tend to disrupt daily operations. Businesses also face serious consequences with each accident, such as legal liability, increased insurance premiums, reputational damage, and decreased employee morale.
The potential consequences of a workplace accident — particularly a preventable one — are simply too grave to ignore. Failing to have an IRP in place could further exacerbate the situation, as businesses will likely face more severe consequences in the event of an accident.
What Should An Incident Response Plan Include?
An incident response plan seeks to accomplish two immediate tasks:
- Minimize the total damage caused by an accident
- Return operations to normal as quickly as possible
But the plan will largely depend on the organization, its risk profile, and the types of risk it's prepared for.
Some of the critical elements an IRP should include are:
- Roles and responsibilities: Clearly define the individuals or teams responsible for different aspects of the response effort. The IRP should mention who would be responsible for attending to the injured worker, who would call 911 if necessary, who would document the incident, etc.
- Communication plan: Establish a communication plan that outlines who gets notified in the event of an incident and how to contact them. For instance, employers must immediately notify OSHA of severe work-related injuries, illnesses, or deaths.
- Incident classification and severity levels: Develop a system for categorizing and prioritizing incidents based on severity and impact to allocate proper resources to the response. The six categories of incidents, from least to most significant:
- Positive observations
- Unsafe acts
- Near misses
- Minor injuries
- Lost time injuries
- Incident analysis and investigation: Establish procedures for reviewing incidents to determine the cause, extent, and impact.
- Containment and eradication: Develop procedures for containing the incident and preventing further damage. For instance, if there was airborne contamination, that might involve switching off the HVAC system.
- Post-incident review and analysis: Perform a post-incident review to identify takeaways and areas for improvement. Then, make appropriate changes to the IRP.
- Training and awareness: Provide adequate training and resources to employees on safety standards and best practices to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses.
According to BBSI Risk Consultant Joe Guerra, you should review your administration and engineering controls to determine whether better processes, tools, or training methodologies may be available to further prevent onsite injuries.
5 Steps Businesses Should Take After an Accident Occurs
If a job site accident were to occur, what happens next? Ideally, your IRP will serve as your trusted emergency guidebook, providing clear steps to ensure a rapid, professional response.
Step 1: Prioritize the Safety of Employees and Customers
The utmost priority in the immediate aftermath of an incident is to ensure the safety of everyone present and address any pressing dangers. This may involve calling emergency services or BBSI's nurse triage line to assess injuries, determine whether self-treatment is sufficient, or if the injuries require further professional care.
Step 2: Document the Accident
You should document the incident and the coordinated response immediately while the details remain fresh. To do so, it's crucial to have a management team trained to complete and submit accident investigation forms. Proper documentation will include the date, time, location, a description of the events during the incident, and the actions the relevant employees took. Supporting evidence, such as photographs, should also be included in the report, especially to prepare for insurance claims and legal proceedings.
Step 3: Conduct an Internal Investigation
The business must determine the cause of the accident and identify any potential safety hazards or process improvements that could prevent similar incidents. Performing an internal investigation helps highlight underlying issues and encourages workers to take a proactive approach to job site safety.
Step 4: Implement Necessary Repairs or Changes
After identifying the contributing factors to the incident, the organization should promptly address any required repairs or changes to address gaps. Once that's completed, the IRP gets updated to include changes. If done correctly, this could help prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
Step 5: Promote Training and Awareness
Following an injury, meeting with employees to review any new rules, processes, tools, or activities implemented to prevent similar accidents is essential. This step reinforces the organization's commitment to safety and helps employees understand their role in maintaining a safe work environment.
How Can Companies Work to Prevent Injuries?
Preventing workplace injuries is an operational imperative for companies of all shapes, sizes, and sectors. A single injury can devastate a business, especially a small one.
The best way to minimize the various costs associated with workplace accidents is by implementing impactful measures that seek to prevent them from happening entirely. Ways you can do this include:
- Implementing a safety program
- Regularly engaging management and employees
- Conducting scheduled trainings and safety meetings
- Analyzing workplace hazards and operations
- Providing proper safety equipment, such as PPE
- Enlisting a risk management specialist
- Mitigating potential hazards
- Promoting safe workplace practices
- Reviewing and responding to any previous incidents
Don't want to start from scratch? Download the free safety meeting outline templates.
How Can BBSI Help Companies Improve Incident Response?
A well-structured incident response plan serves as an essential resource that employers can leverage to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents, lessen their severity, and maintain operational continuity with minimal disruption in the event of an incident.
BBSI’s Risk Consultants can provide safety training and risk consulting services your business can use to identify and address potential safety hazards in the workplace. Our safety consultants are up-to-date with all OSHA regulations and can help keep your company be compliant with several different services, including:
- Risk management: BBSI provides consulting services that can help businesses identify and mitigate potential risks related to their operations. By proactively identifying and addressing risks, companies can reduce the likelihood of incidents occurring.
- Incident response planning: BBSI can help businesses develop incident response plans that outline the steps they should take in the event of an incident. By having a plan in place ahead of time, businesses can be better prepared to respond to an incident and minimize the potential impact.
- Workers' compensation support: BBSI can help manage workers' compensation claims and other legal or regulatory requirements if an incident occurs. By helping businesses navigate these processes, BBSI can reduce administrative burdens and allow companies to focus on responding to the incident and returning to normal operations.
- Build your modified duty program: A modified duty program can help your business stay on track when employees are injured while also providing them the support and stability they need during difficult times. Creating and implementing a plan that works for everyone will determine the program's success.
BBSI is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all employees. To learn more about how you can protect your team, contact your local branch to learn what BBSI can do for your business.
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