Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Do you know what to do when an employee suffers a severe accident at work?

It was like nothing we've ever seen in a televised sporting event … and hope we never see again. 

During last night's Monday Night Football game, 24-year-old Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest while making a hard but routine tackle. He received CPR on the field for 10 minutes in front of his teammates and a full stadium of fans before being transported by ambulance to a local hospital. Those 10 minutes almost certainly saved his life. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition. We all continue to pray for his health and recovery.

Do you know what to do if one of your employees suffers a severe accident on the job?

Here are 10 steps to consider:
  1. Call 911, ASAP. There is never a reason to wait, especially when every lost minute could be the difference between the employee surviving or not.

  2. Immediately thereafter notify the employee's emergency contact person and arrange for a company representative to meet the family at the hospital.

  3. If the incident is work-related, contact your nearest OSHA Area Office, or OSHA's national 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA. All in-patient hospitalizations must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours (and fatalities within eight).

  4. Close your facility, at least for the remainder of that work day, and send your employees home with pay. It took the NFL 90 minutes to make the decision to suspend last night's game; in my opinion that's 90 minutes too long. No one should be required to work after witnessing what those employees witnessed last night. 

  5. Notify executives, HR, and other employees with a need to know what happened.

  6. Notify your remaining employees of the fact of the accident, and let them know that details will follow.

  7. Follow your internal procedures for contact with the media, which may be necessary depending on the nature of the incident. If you do not have any such internal procedures, or if you are not comfortable with anyone in your organization facing the media, engage a public relations firm as soon as possible. You will need someone to say something. "No comment" is not a good statement under these circumstances; it will look like you're hiding something.

  8. Show extreme sensitivity to the family of the employee. Who do they want to be their contact person? Who will disseminate information and how? What are the family's wishes regarding visitors and other contact? How and when does the family want to handle necessary employment issues (medical benefits, workers' comp, etc.)?

  9. Designate one internal contact person to disseminate information to employees, and for employees to ask any questions. Unless the family directs otherwise, instruct employees not to contact the family.

  10. Arrange for counseling or other mental-health services for those employees who witnessed the accident or are otherwise impacted. Their impact may not be readily apparent, but it's real and shouldn't be ignored.