What Happens After a Work-related Fatality | No employer wants to think about the possibility of a work-related employee fatality — but these tragedies occur more often than you may think.
Even if your business complies with all employee safety laws, accidents can still occur and lead to a fatality. So understanding what steps to take after such accidents is an important employer responsibility.
Your human resources team needs to be at the forefront of such an emotional situation. They need to inform all concerned parties, provide staff support, handle legal matters, and lead the healing process. Still, business owners or managers also have to get involved.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Also known as workman’s comp, workers’ compensation insurance is one of the key considerations when starting a business. It helps cover the cost of work-related injuries and illnesses. It also provides disability benefits to injured employees.
In cases of work-related death, the policy typically pays for the funeral and burial expenses. Additionally, it provides financial support to the affected family.
Funeral costs can add up fast, so business owners should prepare with a comprehensive workers’ compensation insurance policy. Even if the deceased doesn’t have dependents, you’ll need to remit the benefits to their estate.
An employee fatality can also result in a lawsuit if the family believes their loved one died due to another person’s misconduct or negligence. His or her family members can legally file a wrongful death claim against the company. In this case, the cost of fighting the lawsuit can be quite high.
After contacting the appropriate emergency services and authorities, you need to notify the deceased emergency contact or next of kin. You’ll need an empathetic person to relay such information. For most people, their first reaction could be to blame the company.
It’s vital to note that there is no good way to give bad news. Just be sure you inform the family as soon as possible. The best approach is to plan the necessary steps your business needs to take in such incidents. Be sure to have a designated person to speak with the family going forward.
You’ll want to work with the family as closely as possible and provide any information they may want. Also, let them know how the company will assist with the expenses.
After notifying the deceased’s loved ones, you also need to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to OSHA, employers must report any cases of work-related death or injuries within eight hours.
You can call OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 to report the case, or you can visit the nearest OSHA office. The HR team must provide a detailed report of the incident. This includes the time of the incident, company name, a description of the incident, and contact information.
In some cases, OSHA might need to investigate the case. This is important to prevent future incidents and ensure compliance with OSHA’s safety guidelines.
Provide Emotional Support
The incident is likely to affect your staff, and their morale may dip. It’s vital for the HR team to lead the healing process. Be sure to involve the deceased’s close friends in the memorial service. Of course, the family should lead the process.
The company should have a designated representative to arrange donations, send sympathy cards, and represent the company at the funeral. They should also ensure all belongings are handed over to the family.
You’ll need to ensure your employees have support through the experience. Offer individual meetings with affected staff—for example, those who witnessed the incident and their close friends. You should also bring in counselors to keep your employees motivated and focused.
Finally, the HR department should investigate how the death occurred. Employees need confidence that such a case will not occur again. So, it’s vital to restore confidence in your company’s operations, processes, and safety measures.
Manage Workplace Accidents
Any workplace fatality is a tragedy, and unfortunately, the related expenses can make the situation that much worse for the family and the employer. It’s vital to have a workers’ compensation policy to minimize the costs after such an incident. Business owners should shop around for coverage and take the time to compare different plans before picking one that offers the most value.