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Workplace Injury Guide for Small Business
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
Depending on your industry, you and your employees can accidentally hurt yourselves at your business locations. Injuries can be as minor as wrist strain from excessive typing or as debilitating as a fall from the top of a construction site. Observing some guidelines can avoid accidents, prevent injuries from getting worse and minimize company liability.
You are required to comply with all federal, state and local laws about workplace safety. This includes obtaining workman’s compensation insurance, if your state has it, posting laws relating to it, supplying its forms and providing medical treatment up to its mandated cost limits. You must eliminate or control all hazards. For example, ensure adequate lighting at desks, provide protective equipment if needed and store poisonous materials in clearly marked containers. Consider conducting a job hazard analysis, as described by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This activity enables you to identify potential causes of injury, and then eliminate or reduce them.
Part of job hazard analysis is identifying ergonomic risks by examining the physical activities that your workers must perform. Ask questions about why they do the activity, how they do it and how repetitive it is. For example, if you own a grocery store, one common activity is restocking shelves. Are boxes of goods brought to the shelves on a dolly or by lifting? If boxes are lifted, does the employee bend over, reach above shoulder height or twist? Does she scan stocked items using the same wrist movement for several minutes? After you answer the questions, you can develop guidelines to prevent and treat injuries. For example, you can caution employees to lift boxes using the knees rather than the back. You can also have on hand ice packs and cold compresses to deal with back strain.
Injury Prevention Programs
Many states and industries have developed injury prevention programs with mandates from OSHA. Successful programs are led by management, identify and control hazards, educate all workers, and undergo constant evaluation and improvement. Contact your state OSHA to determine what programs apply to your business and location. Compliance typically requires formal training at an approved facility, which then awards a certificate of completion that must be renewed periodically. Examples of formal programs include electrical safety awareness, fire prevention and extinguisher use, back injury prevention, power/hand tool safety and construction industry programs that cover several topics in a week of training.
Anyone who is hurt at your workplace must report his injuries immediately to his supervisor or yourself. The injury requires written documentation that includes the name of the employee and supervisor, business contact information, date and time of the injury, description of the cause and the action taken. This reporting allows immediate medical attention, prevents delays in receiving benefits from state and federal sources, and can minimize your business liability because it proves you acted in a prompt and responsible manner. You must then provide emergency treatment for the victim, first at your business and then at a medical facility. These responses must also be documented in the report.
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