Someone got hurt on the job...now what? The policies and procedures for workplace injuries vary slightly across Canada, with each province having their own separate Worker's Compensation Board (WCB) or similar organization. In this post, we will be taking a closer look at what Albertan employers need to do when injury occurs in their workplace.
Well, first things first, as soon as you see or hear that a worker has been injured, assess the injury and provide any first aid necessary, including a call to 9-1-1 if appropriate. Please note that if it is necessary to transport the injured worker to a hospital or other emergency facility, all costs associated with transportation (taxi fare or ambulance fees) will be covered by the employer. Once the worker is in good care, you can begin the next step.
Do I need to report this incident or injury?
Luckily for Albertans, the criteria for reportable incidents and injuries is pretty straightforward. According to the Workers' Compensation Board of Alberta (WCB), an employer must report an injury in the workplace if it results in the following:
- Lost time or the need to temporarily or permanently modify work beyond the date of accident
- Death or permanent disability (amputation, hearing loss, etc.)
- A disabling or potentially disabling condition caused by occupational exposure or activity (poisoning, infection, respiratory disease, dermatitis, etc.)
- The need for medical treatment beyond first aid (assessment by physician, physiotherapy, chiropractic, etc.)
- Incurring medical aid expenses (dental treatment, eyeglass repair or replacement, prescription medications, etc.)
All injuries must be reported within 72 hours of occurrence, but fatalities are required to be reported immediately.
The employer is also responsible for making sure the employee receives the appropriate forms and information they need to file their claim with the WCB.
On top of reporting to the WCB, you may also need to report the incident to the Government of Alberta, Labour. Their criteria is as follows:
- Result in a death
- Cause a worker to be admitted to hospital for more than two days
- Involve an unplanned or uncontrolled explosion, fire or flood that causes or has the potential to cause a serious injury
- Involve the collapse or upset of a crane, derrick or hoist
- Involve the collapse or failure of any component of a building or structure necessary for its structural integrity.
If a worker's hospital stay will exceed two days, it needs to be reported to the Government of Alberta, Labour as soon as possible after the injury occurs.
Workers have the right to report their injury and it is against the law for an employer to ask them otherwise. If for any reason a worker feels they are being pressured by their employer not to report their injury, they should contact the WCB and explain their situation. Help will be made available to them.
Create a modified work plan (if necessary)
The worker has the right to return to a suitable job either during, or after they have recovered from an injury, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that plans to accommodate the worker have been made.
When creating a return to work plan for an injured worker, you must ensure that the new work meets the following goals:
- Achievable: given your worker's injury, is he/she able to do the job physically?
- Safe: your modified work plan should not endanger your worker's recovery or safety, or the safety of others.
- Constructive: your modified work plan should contribute to your worker's skill development and return to full duties and not cause difficulty or additional expense to your employee (e.g., a shift change that requires additional child care costs).
- Productive: your worker's duties should be meaningful to your organization.
The employee's successful return to work depends on your ability and willingness to help them be successful. Keep in mind that not only does it benefit your worker, it also benefits the company. Modified work plans help you retain experienced workers (and avoid training and hiring costs), as well as help with worker relations and morale, as workers will see that an injury does not threaten their job security.
However, it is important that discussions regarding what kind of work they are able to perform take place prior to their return, so that everyone has a clear understanding of what their modified work plan looks like before they arrive back at work. So, what kind of modifications does the WCB suggest?
- Changes in job tasks or functions (e.g., less lifting or bending)
- Changes in workload (e.g., hours worked per day or the work schedule)
- Alterations to the work area and environment (e.g., work in the office, shop or front counter) or the equipment used
- Work normally performed by others (e.g., administrative work)
- Cross training or job shadowing
- Work that needs to be done but you currently do not have an employee assigned to complete the work.
It's important that you maintain regular contact with your worker, their doctor, and the WCB at every step of the process. This will ensure both a smooth transition for the worker, and accurate claim management from the WCB.
Once a worker can perform the essential duties of their pre-injury position, it is the employer's duty to either re-instate them to that position, or offer them a comparative job that has equal pay and benefits to the job they performed before the injury occurred.
Once the worker has returned to work, you should contact your WCB case manager within 24 hours to let them know.
In the unfortunate event that a worker is unable to return to their job, the WCB offers many services that can help an injured worker find a suitable position elsewhere in the workforce:
- Return-to-work skills profile
- Resumé development/review
- Job planning
- Training-on-the-Job (TOJ) program
- Academic assessment
- Job coaching
- Supported job search
Getting an injured worker back to work is a team effort, and as long as everyone works together, we will be able to build a safe, healthy and strong Alberta.