Worker’s compensation cases and lawsuits collectively cost employers hundreds of millions of dollars every year. This can be so simple as paying a claim for a doctor’s visit for a sprained ankle obtained while at work or as complicated as litigating an employee’s lifelong medical bills if they broke their back while on the job and are unable to work again. There are many ways that employers and employees alike can take steps to protect themselves, their health, and their financial security from injury or illness obtained on the job.
What employees can do:
- First and foremost, be careful. Keep an eye out for yourself and do not assume that every hazard will be marked or every danger protected against. Follow safety guidelines that do exist, such as wearing hard hats at all times in construction zones or only using stairs in the event of an emergency instead of an elevator. If you are not following proper protocol, your employer cannot protect you.
- Understand your rights and protections. Know that you have a level of personal responsibility and your employer has a level of responsibility to maintain safe working conditions for his or her employees. It is likely your fault if you miss a step because you were not paying attention to where you were going, but if you were paying attention and something was not properly labeled, it might fall to your employer to take care of it.
What employers can do:
- Be aware of your surroundings and the environment in which your employees are working. If it is a construction site, make sure you are following proper protocols and so are your employees. If it is an office building, make sure regular maintenance is kept up with, such as radon testing and electrical inspections. Radon remediation is much more affordable than fighting a long, drawn out battle with a former employee over alleged cancer caused by spending twenty years working in a building with radon exposure. There are many of these instances, but this is one of the most obvious – get the radon mitigation done regularly if it is found to be present at all.
- Purchase enough and proper insurance coverage to help with accidents that happen on the job. And accidents do happen, so everyone acknowledging that up front can help. Insurance is there for mistakes made by the employee or oversights by the employer, and can help cover the injured person’s needs while also protecting the employer against financial ruin.
- Be over eager, rather than less, and make sure you are covering all of your bases. Do not overestimate how important safety guidelines, proper lighting, and exit procedures are to any building’s security. Having employees attend regular trainings and inservice sessions about the building and its various exit options in case there is an emergency can help everyone be better prepared in the event that the unexpected happens. Preparing people to walk calmly down the stairs can help prevent a large number of injuries during an emergency.