Small businesses face a unique set of challenges when it comes to workplace injury, and this often results in unnecessary stress for the employer and potentially a longer recovery process for the worker.
So what is the best way to deal with a workplace injury?
First things first
If a worker is injured in your workplace, there are some things you, the employer, must do. These include:
- provide first aid and make sure your worker gets the care they need
- contact your insurer within 48 hours of the incident, notifying them of the injury
- record the incident in your register of injuries
- help your worker recover at work.
The first three steps can be completed in quick succession, but the fourth step is more involved. Don’t worry; these tips will help guide you through the workers compensation return to/recover at work process.
Know your role
The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) oversees the NSW workers compensation system. It’s their job to make sure the system is fair, transparent and effective for the people it supports – that is, workers and employers like you.
SIRA has published a number of easy-to-understand guides to help employers and workers navigate the workers compensation process. The Workers compensation guide for employers is free and available on the SafeWork NSW website. When you know your employer rights and responsibilities you are better equipped to manage a workplace injury and the process will go smoothly. Of course, you can always contact SIRA and/or your insurer with any questions you may have.
Apply for assistance
You pay insurance premiums for a reason. Talk with your insurer and see if you can apply for assistance. Your insurer may offer special assistance to eligible small employers.
Assistance programs like this are good for everyone, helping you and your worker get back to business as usual.
Engage with your worker’s support team
Talk with your worker’s return to work support team. The insurer, nominated treating doctor and health professionals have experience and expertise you can use.
Find out which tasks your worker can perform, which ones they should avoid, whether workplace modifications might help, as well as any practical steps you can take to make their return to work easier and successful. Remember, these people are here to help you and your worker, so make the most of it.
Maintain a dialogue with your worker
Be sure to check in with your worker. Whether they are off work for a period of time or working modified duties, good communication ensures a healthy relationship and improved return to work outcomes. A weekly conversation means any concerns that arise can be identified and dealt with straight away so they don’t turn into problems.
Prevention is better than a cure
As an employer, you are responsible for the health and safety of your workers. By law you must:
- talk to your workers to identify any potential hazards
- put systems in place for the safe use and maintenance of equipment, plant and machinery
- provide suitable information, instruction and supervision, especially to new workers
- ensure there are adequate workplace facilities including toilets, drinking water, washing and eating facilities as well as first aid
- record any workplace incidents in a register of injuries and respond to hazards quickly
- prepare emergency plans
- manage the risks of any remote and isolated work
- have a return to work program to help injured workers with their recovery and return to work.
By meeting these requirements, you minimise the risk of workplace injury and are prepared should an incident occur.
Incentives for good workplace health and safety practices
Many insurers provide premium-based incentives to improve workplace health and safety, and return to work outcomes. Speak to your insurer to find out if and how you can take advantage of these incentives.
Contact your insurer for specific information about your policy, and the programs and incentives available to you. You can learn more about NSW workers compensation and workplace health and safety at safework.nsw.gov.au or by calling 13 10 50.