Some jobs naturally involve more risk than others. Regardless, no matter whatever you do or wherever you work, you may not always be able to prevent an accident from happening. Before you know it, you may be a witness in an on-the-job injury. The National Safety Council does, in fact, report that a workplace accident occurs about every 7 seconds in the U.S.
Accident witnesses play a crucial role in the investigation stage of a workers’ compensation claim, as well as in the process of creating safe job sites. While your colleague could be trying to seek compensation for workplace injuries, your employer may be trying to intimidate you, in order to influence your witness statement. That’s why at Wyman & Hegwer, we advise you to seek representation before giving your oral or written statement regarding the accident.
Remember, what you do in the immediate aftermath of a workplace accident can have a tremendous impact on the health of your injured coworker and the safety of other workers in the area.
What Steps Should I Take Following the Accident?
No one wants to plan what to do when they witness an accident because they do not want anything to happen to begin with. However, looking the other way does not help. Here is what you can do in such a situation:
Help the Injured Coworker
The first and most important thing to do, after seeing an accident at your workplace, is to help the person get emergency medical treatment. If your injured colleague is still in an unsafe environment, transfer them to a safe spot. You can provide first aid, but you also need to notify emergency responders as soon as possible.
Remember, if there has been an accident, another in the same situation may occur, and the next time could cause you injury. Prioritize your own safety. Dealing with two injured employees is worse than having just one injured worker.
Stop Any Ongoing Danger
Depending on the type of accident, there could still be a present threat to the injured person, to you, to EMTs, or to your coworkers. Therefore, depending on the state of your personal safety and the industry, you may need to stop any potential hazards, like shutting down machinery.
Document the Accident Scene
Once a serious accident occurs, your employer is required to carry out a complete investigation. As a witness, you bear relevant information regarding the accident. It is advisable to write down and save your account of the accident, while it is still fresh in your mind. It is also important to not move anything at the scene of the accident or try to clean up the scene.
Notify Your Employer
Once you witness an injury at work in California, you should report it immediately. In some cases, the injury may not be severe, and the injured worker may report the accident by themselves.
However, if your coworker is not able to report it because they are receiving medical attention at the time, you may proceed and report it to your supervisor or employer. They will then notify the Health District office or Department of Occupational Safety, as required in Cal/OSHA Log 300.
Be Available to Provide Evidence When Requested
It is not often that a California workers’ compensation claim will end up in a trial. However, if it does, you may be required to give a witness account in court. In this case, their California workers’ compensation lawyer—or even your employer—may contact you to provide a statement.
Work on Your Recovery Phase
A workplace accident can have long-term effects on employees’ psychological well-being and productivity, especially if it was a fatal accident. A workplace fatality may result in feelings of guilt, anger, fears, blame, and uneasiness.
Since a colleague’s death can leave employees bereft, it is essential to consult your employer to see if there are any counseling services available.
Am I at Risk of Employer Retaliation If I Am a Witness to a Workplace Accident?
You may be operating out of fear that your employer may retaliate and cut your hours, fire, or demote you for revealing something to the investigators. However, note that it is within your rights to report what you know, even if your statement paints your employer in a bad light.
Consult with a San Rafael workers’ compensation attorney to find out your rights as a witness of a workplace accident. Many lives may depend on your statement.
What Are the Most Common Workplace Injuries?
Job accidents differ on the company and industry. The risks and types of workplace injuries may also depend on how you operate as employees. Common injuries include:
- Overexertion Injuries: these result from carrying, loading, lifting, pushing, and/or pulling
- Machine entanglement
- Vehicle accidents
- Slip, fall, trip injuries
- Repetitive motion injuries
There are other types of workplace injuries, but the above form a big part of those in a modern workplace. Recognizing them will help you maintain personal safety as you work.
Protect Your Rights and Prevent Future Accidents
Your next steps after witnessing a workplace accident will determine the recovery of the victim. Moreover, they will determine the safety of your workplace and how risks and accidents will be handled in the future.
As you seek treatment for your own emotional injuries sustained during the traumatic event, you also need legal advice on how to protect your rights as a witness.
Suppose you have your own workers’ compensation claim, or you are pursuing it on behalf of a loved one. Consider talking to a Marin County workers’ compensation lawyer after receiving adequate medical attention. Your workers’ comp attorney will help you discover your legal options, protect your rights, and help the injured person move forward following the accident.