Rethinking industrial accident reporting – supervisors are out

We flipped the classroom, we re-wrote the rules for annual training (see our Rapid InService Courses) and we even told you to stop doing accident investigations (see screw the accident investigation) in the traditional manner.  Why you ask?  Because none of the so-called tried-and-true methods seem to be producing the results that we so desperately need.  The industry continues to manage work comp claims but managing claims is an after-the-fact (the only way possible) reactive response to the problem.  What we need is to look deeply at our processes and figure out how to prevent incidents in the first place.  And while I admit that rethinking how we report accidents won’t prevent them, it certainly will stop a lot of the unnecessary bleeding that goes on in various departments within your agency.

Just like the accident investigation, almost every accident reporting policy I review requires the injured employee to report their incident to their supervisor.  This is not a bad policy – in theory.  Supervisors are supposed to have contact with their employees on a regular basis, should notice that one of their staff members have been injured and should typically be available to their staff.  There’s a lot of “should” in that statement.  Heck, I can honestly say that my boss/supervisor and I would go an entire month without seeing each other. So, when it works, it works great.  But when it doesn’t, well that’s where the problems start.

The bigger issue

In the State of California, like all states, there are time limits to reporting industrial accidents.  There are time requirements to provide the injured employee the forms, limits on the time to report to OSHA and to the State and the list goes on.  When a supervisor is out-of-the-loop (vacation, meetings, etc.) those time limits get missed.  And when time limits get missed, you guessed it, fines and citations are issued.  But that is the least of your worries.

Employees also don’t receive the medical treatment that they need which translates to anger, increased lengths in healing, bigger medical bills and much more.  In worst case scenarios, it can cause mind numbing issues with FMLA, ADA and the like.

Not to mention, missed accident investigations, opportunities to review processes, provide training and generally get  to the bottom of root cause.

How good can a supervisor be

What’s the difference between 20 and 200?  Between 1 and 10?  It’s called deep practice.  When a supervisor handles one claim/accident a year, it is unlikely that they will know what to do or how to do it.  It just isn’t something they concern themselves with.  And why should they.  Handing off accident reporting to a single person gives them experience to handle all the tough issues.

A central number

There is a solution and it is not in the hands of the supervisors.  A centralized phone number (include email too) is the solution.  Put one or two people in charge of the reporting process and make all employees report to that main number.  This does several things.

  1. One person gets deep practice on managing claims
  2. Employees know exactly what to do
  3. Employees get the best care
  4. Employees get the benefits they are due
  5. Citations and fines basically disappear



This theory is great when it works which is about 80% of the time.


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