The health and safety of employees in the workplace is an essential consideration for all employers. Most employers must provide workers' compensation coverage for employees, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires covered employers to comply with a number of safe practices in the workplace.
Employers Council provides consulting and advice to members on workers' compensation – from what they need to know to stay compliant, to any number of issues that can arise, like establishing compliant policies, filing a workers' compensation claim, and how to handle a situation before a claim is resolved. Employers Council also provides the same consulting and advice around OSHA, helping employers understand compliance, and how to respond to OSHA in the event of a complaint or inspection.
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Laws Regarding Workers' Compensation
Workers' compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course and scope of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee's right to sue the employer in civil court. Each state has its own laws and programs regarding workers' compensation.
For federal workers, the Department of Labor's OWCP provides four major disability compensation programs for employees who are injured at work or acquire an occupational disease:
- Wage replacement benefits
- Medical treatment
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Other benefits
In general, an employee with a work-related injury or illness can access workers' compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault—the employee, the employer, or a third party.
Workers' compensation programs are subject to federal laws through the U.S. Department of Labor (Office of Workers' Compensation Programs) and to laws and regulations that vary by state. Compliance with federal and state laws requires
posters, policies, incident tracking and reporting procedures, recordkeeping, as well as training.
Employers Council attorneys can assist you with all of these things – including compliance through proactive policy setting and establishing a safe workplace.
How to Establish Workers' Compensation Policies
It's important to have a formal (written) declaration of an organization-wide safety policy signed by top management and communicated to all employees. This should include language around how the organization prioritizes safety and explain the fundamentals of the organization's approach to safety. This written declaration should also reflect the individual culture and philosophy of the organization and address the health risks in your respective industry or field. Designating someone internally to act as a “safety coordinator" or a team to act as a “safety committee" can help keep this document up-to-date and proactively address any safety concerns before they result in injuries or illness.
In addition to having a general safety policy, it's important to have policies and procedures in place when it comes to claims management. So that expenses are contained, employers must have written procedures on how a claim is handled from the moment of injury or illness through return to work, and, ultimately, to the final resolution of claims. These should cover:
- Employee claim reporting procedures (when, how, and to whom employees should report incidents or injuries)
- Employer claim reporting procedures to the workers' compensation insurer (when, how, and to whom employers should report claims)
- Accident investigation procedures (who should investigate accidents and how investigations should be conducted)
- Return-to-work procedures (steps the employer should take in returning injured employees to work).
Employers must coordinate with their workers' compensation insurers at least annually on issues such as loss-run review, outstanding reserves, and employee classification.
Employers Council's team of HR and risk management experts can help you establish and communicate compliant policies that balance your company culture with mitigating expenses around workers' compensation.
How to Reduce Workers' Compensation Expenses
As an employer, prevention is the best tool against incurring workers' compensation expenses. Here are some ways
to prevent workers' compensation from derailing your organization's budgeting efforts. Employers Council can help you establish a workplace that proactively plans for workers' compensation, from establishing workplace practices that can help prevent injuries to providing consulting and advice in the event a claim is filed, including everything from investigation and reporting to effective employee communication – all which can help you stay compliant and reduce your workers' compensation expenses.
What Happens When a Safety and Health Complaint Is Filed
Employees who file a safety and health complaint regarding violations of the law by their employer will lead to the claim being investigated by OSHA. OSHA citations may only be issued for violations that currently exist or existed in the past six months. The claim will typically result in a surprise investigation by OSHA in the case of serious offenses, or notice to an employer of an upcoming inspection in the case of less-serious violations.
Violations filed by employees are typically enforced by
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and can result in job reinstatement and payment of back wages.
Employers Council can help you in the event an OSHA complaint is filed – from how to prepare before a complaint for an inspection to how to mitigate the resulting penalties that can occur afterwards.
To access a team of employment law and HR experts for less than one month's salary of a single employee, become a member of Employers Council.
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