As an employer, you would like to believe that the people who work for your company are all in the best of health, physically, mentally and emotionally. But emergencies can happen to anyone, even those who are otherwise healthy. Being prepared for a health emergency at your workplace can help you protect your team and your company in general.
Depending on the size of your business, emergency procedures in the workplace need to either be written out or explained to employees orally. Smaller companies, with fewer than 10 employees, can have an oral emergency plan while those with more than 10 employees need to write out a plan. Your team should know who to call and what to do if one or more of their colleagues are suddenly in distress.
Examples of a Workplace Health Emergency
A health or medical emergency in the workplace can take many forms. Knowing how to recognize the signs of a healthcare crisis and how to respond will help you protect your team. Some potential workplace health emergencies include:
- An employee is having a heart attack or stroke: Your team should know how to recognize the signs that someone is having a heart attack or stroke. The American Heart Association has created the acronym FAST to help people detect the signs of stroke and get the treatment needed: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call for help. In the case of a heart attack, common signs include a complaint of chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and lightheadedness.
- An employee is having a seizure: A seizure isn’t always a medical emergency but might be one if it lasts for more than five minutes, if a person has never had one before or if a person experiences multiple seizures in a row. There are different types of seizures and the symptoms of each can vary from muscle spasms and shaking to a loss of consciousness or seeming to stare off into space.
- An employee is injured: Injuries on the job can take many forms, some of which might be emergencies. For example, a paper cut isn’t usually an emergency, but a cut from a paper cutter that is deep and has lots of blood might be. A trip and fall incident at the workplace can also be a health emergency if an employee breaks a bone or sprains a joint and needs immediate attention from a medical professional.
- An employee is badly burned: A burn can occur in some workplaces as a result of an employee performing their usual duties, such as mixing chemicals or baking bread. In some cases, a burn can occur because an employee wasn’t paying attention and puts their hand on a hot plate or burner in the lounge area. Knowing how to assess the degree of the burn will help you determine if it’s a genuine emergency or something that can be addressed with simple first aid.
- An employee is having difficulty breathing: If an employee suddenly starts wheezing or having difficulty taking in a breath, it could be an emergency situation, especially if an employee isn’t able to resolve it with a rescue inhaler or other methods. In some cases, breathing difficulties could occur as a result of something in the workplace, such as a gas leak or spill.
Prevent Legal and Liability Issues During Emergencies
When an employee is having a medical emergency at work, it’s important that their employer understands what to do and what potential liability concerns might be. Generally speaking, the response to a health or medical emergency should be as follows:
- Call 911
- Have employees trained in first aid, CPR or other appropriate emergency procedures provide assistance as necessary before emergency personnel arrives.
- Let emergency personnel assess the situation.
- Give the person experiencing the emergency a chance to weigh in, if possible. Some employees might refuse treatment or not want to be transported to the hospital.
- Ask employees who refuse treatment to sign a waiver that states that the employer is not responsible for the employee’s decision or any consequences of it.
Not having a clearly communicated emergency plan can mean that employees can sue or otherwise take legal action against their employer.
Providing First Aid in an Emergency
Workplaces that are more than four minutes away from a hospital, infirmary or other medical center need to have at least one person trained in first aid available during every shift. Should the person who is trained in first aid be concerned about being held responsible for any injury or complications another employee experiences as a result of the first aid they receive? For the most part, no, as most states have “Good Samaritan” laws. A Good Samaritan law protects a person who tries to help during an emergency, without the expectation of being paid or otherwise rewarded for their assistance.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance to Protect Employees and Employers
If an employee experiences a medical emergency at work, can they turn around and sue their employer or otherwise hold their employer legally responsible for the injury or illness? In some cases, yes, which is why it is a good idea for employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation will cover medical bills and lost wages that are the result of a workplace injury. The insurance also provides protection to employers, as it limits the claims employees can make against a company.
Managing Health Risks in the Workplace
Along with having an emergency plan in place that explains how to call 911, who can provide first aid and who else to contact, your business can put together a plan to reduce the risk of a health or medical emergency. For example, providing employees with the appropriate protective gear will reduce the risk of medical emergencies due to burns, inhalation or exposure to toxic chemicals. Performing regular maintenance and checks on the building and work areas will ensure that hazards are kept to a minimum or are removed immediately.
Having the appropriate insurance coverage is also critical when it comes to managing health risks in the workplace. Workers’ compensation insurance will protect both employee and employer. Adequate healthcare coverage for employees will also allow them to receive timely preventative care, which can reduce the risk of emergencies such as heart attacks or strokes.
Gunn-Mowery Can Help Your Business Get the Coverage It Needs
Although you can’t plan for an emergency, you can take steps to protect your business if one does occur. Having the right insurance coverage and offering appropriate insurance to your team can help to reduce your liability in the event of an emergency or protect the health of your employees so that they are less likely to have an emergency medical situation.
Gunn-Mowery is committed to being the Upside of Insurance. We have a wealth of technical knowledge and a dedication to putting our customers first. Contact us to learn more about your insurance options and ways to protect your company and employees from health emergencies.