“Joe has fallen off a ladder and they took him by ambulance to Harrison. He is in critical condition, and they’re not sure he’s going to make it.” These are words that no employer wants to hear about an employee!
We think that we are doing everything we can to keep employees safe on the job, but accidents do happen. On average, 86 employees are killed on the job in Washington state each year.
Many small employers, particularly those who are in an office environment, think that safety is something that mainly applies to manufacturing and construction, or large companies. The truth is, safety laws apply to all employers, even if you only have one employee – and accidents happen even in offices.
Know the rules about safety.
The first step is to review the Labor & Industries Safety and Health Core Rules, which lists all of the guidelines pertaining to employers in Washington. You can find the list on the L&I website, or obtain a hard copy from your local L&I field office.
You need to have an Accident Prevention Plan.
All employers, no matter what size, are required to have an Accident Prevention Program document in place.
At a minimum, this plan should cover how your employees will receive a safety orientation for your workplace, and outline arrangements for your company’s safety committee or monthly safety meetings.
L&I has made it very easy to get an Accident Prevention Program going. Visit their website to learn more and see sample programs that fulfill their requirements, which can be modified to meet your company’s unique needs.
Remember that the program is only useful if you implement it! All companies are required to have a safety committee or to hold monthly safety meetings, depending on the company size. Visit L&I’s website to determine what best fits your company’s needs.
Protect yourself from fraudulent injury claims.
In talking with other small businesses, I know that fraud in the system is a major concern to employers.
Just a few signs of a potentially fraudulent injury claims can include:
- A lack of witnesses to an accident
- Conflicting stories
- Injuries that are incurred just prior to or immediately following disciplinary action
- An employee who moves out of state shortly after being injured, or who appears to have sustained the injury while off work
Unfair benefits fraud can include:
- Claiming dependents not in custody
- Misusing drugs
- Doctor shopping
- Participating in activities inconsistent with the injury
Disability fraud includes:
- Working while on time loss
- Receiving unemployment while on time loss
- Being paid under the table while on time loss
- Doing volunteer work while on time loss.
If you suspect that an injured worker is doing any of the above, contact L&I’s Fraud Division at (888) 811-5974 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take advantage of L&I’s free safety program review service.
Many small companies think that L&I is a department to avoid like the plague, but the truth is that they can help you. You can invite L&I to come into your business to review your safety program. There is no charge, and the benefit to you is that you get the services of a safety expert for free.
The guarantee from L&I is that you will not be fined for any conditions that need correcting. Your employees will benefit as you create a safer workplace, resulting in lowered premiums for your company.
Additional L&I resources:
Another service offered by L&I is the use of their video library at no charge. They have over 1000 videos available for rent on a wide variety of subjects, which employers may utilize for training of their staff.
If you have questions, suggestions, or need assistance from Labor & Industries, they have two Small Business Liaisons, Ron Langley and Aaron Hoffman. They can be reached at 800-987-0145 or by email at email@example.com. They can be a great asset when you have a question or a problem.
I know from my own contacts with local employers that working with the Department of Labor & Industries can be frustrating and difficult. However, as with most anything, a proactive and positive approach to safety and compliance takes some time upfront, but pays off greatly in the long run!