June/July 2011

Eye on Business

What to do when a workplace injury occurs

By William Duvall

Worksite safety is a top concern for mining employers and workers alike. However, despite best efforts, unfortunately mining accidents do occur. In such circumstances, an employer should take a number of steps to deal with the consequences of any workplace injuries that have resulted from an accident. In anticipation of the possibility of an accident and injury, an employer should have protocols in place, and employees should be familiar with such protocols, so as to ensure that what needs to be done is done, quickly and efficiently.

1. Report the injury to the workers’ compensation board

If a worker is injured on the job, he/she should seek immediate medical attention, if required, and report the injury to the employer as soon as possible. Next, the worker should report the injury to the relevant workers’ compensation board by filling out its standardized worker’s incident/injury report form.

Once the employer becomes aware of the reported injury, the employer should fill out the workers’ compensation board’s standardized employer’s incident injury report form. Employers who fail to report may be subject to administrative penalties. In addition, depending on the scope of the actual accident, the employer may be required to report the accident to whatever additional insurance providers may be providing relevant coverage. For example, this may include reporting to the employer’s property, liability and/or automobile insurance provider(s).

2. Investigate the events relating to the injury

Often when there has been a workplace accident resulting in an injury, the workers’ compensation board requires the employer to fill out additional forms including, for example, first aid reports, incident investigation reports and accident/witness statements. Accordingly, employers should, as soon as reasonably possible, conduct an investigation into the circumstances leading up to the injury itself.

This employer investigation should include, if possible, interviewing the injured worker(s), interviewing witnesses to the accident, interviewing the employer’s first aid provider (if one was involved), and examining any physical evidence that may have played a role in the accident (for example, a vehicle or a piece of equipment). If possible, depending on the severity of the injury, all relevant physical evidence should remain in secured custody until all investigations are completed.

3. Perform a root cause analysis

Following a workplace accident, the employer should engage in a root cause analysis. The goal of such an analysis is to identify the root cause(s) of the problem that led to the accident/injury and to assist in designing effective corrective actions that will prevent or mitigate the possibility of it re-occurring.

The root cause analysis is often part of the employer’s investigation into the events relating to the worker’s injury. The analysis should be thorough, objective, provide conclusions and identify the root causes. There is usually more than one root cause behind workplace accidents and injuries; identifying all causal aspects is important in order for the employer, with worker cooperation, to rectify the problem going forward.

4. Revise work procedures and policy as required

Depending on the outcome of the employer’s own investigation and root cause analysis, as well as the workers’ compensation board’s own investigation, the employer may be required to create new policies and procedures or, alternatively, amend old policies and procedures. The goal of these changes should be to improve safety management protocols, which will, in turn, lead to fewer accidents and workplace hazards.

5. Continue to cooperate with the workers’ compensation board

As a result of the worker’s and employer’s reports of workplace injury, the workers’ compensation board will conduct its own review and determine whether or not the worker was injured while in the performance of her/his job. Depending on this determination, the worker’s claim may or may not be upheld. Additionally, the workers' compensation board may make various orders against the employer. At this time, both the worker and employer have various review and/or appeal rights they may choose to exercise, depending on the determination(s) made.

It is often the case that once a significant accident occurs at a worksite, workers’ compensation board officers will increase their workplace inspections. Such a response is entirely reasonable and employers should do their best to accommodate any such inspections.

William Duval
William Duvall is a lawyer in Vancouver’s Fasken Martineu’s office. He specializes in employment and labour matters, including workplace safety.

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