Workplace Injury Reporting: A Communication Checklist

Workplace injuries happen every single year and cost various injuries hundreds of millions of dollars, or more. What’s more surprising than the number of claims, however, is the number of injuries that go unreported by employees. A recent study, indicating that as much as 27 percent of injured workers never brought their injuries to their manager’s attention, helps to offer some insight into why this is.

For starters, most workers are worried about the possible negative repercussions of reporting an injury. Chief among these concerns are that the employee doesn’t want to lose work, either from being let go or from being taken off of the workforce temporarily due to their injury. No one wants to be labeled a “complainer,” and most workers naturally avoid any possible source of contention with management. Some participants in the study just stated that they didn’t want the hassle. They cited too much paperwork when filing a worker’s compensation claim and/or losing work time as reasoning. Lastly, some workers just decided that their injuries were too small or insignificant to bring to the attention of their higher ups or even their coworkers.

Let’s look at how we can correct each of these scenarios.

Fear of Negative Response / Consequences

Fear of losing employment or work as a consequence of reporting a work-related injury usually stems from not knowing what expectations are in place. If an employee isn’t sure what will happen when they report an injury or file a claim, they are probably going to assume the worst. The best thing you can do in this situation is lay out clear guidelines for your workforce; let them know that all injuries should be reported, and that an on-the-job injury is not an immediate reason for them to be let go or suspended.

Fear of Being Labeled a Complainer or “Problem”

This issue is similar to the first one, but usually has less to do with tangible or immediate consequences and more to do with how management’s opinion of an employee may shape his or her prospects in the company. It is important to adopt an open communication policy among your management staff (or you, if you work on-site) in order to develop a rapport with workers. These fears usually only stem from an unfriendly relationship, or one that is not well-established, so do your best to communicate clearly that reporting an injury won’t hinder their future in your company. On the contrary, the notion should be promoted that honesty and adherence to company policy is a good thing.

“It’s just a scratch!”

When it comes to injuries, many are not reported because they are perceived as small or unimportant, you should still strive for as high of a reporting rate as possible, even for tiny cuts and bruises. This is because these minor injuries could indicate a large problem, such as a machine that isn’t working correctly or a method of manual labor, lifting, etc. that is putting employees at risk. If these problems are addressed, you can avoid much larger, more costly injuries down the road.

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