Accidents Happen: You Shouldn’t Have To Be There When It Does

A friend of mine had an accident happen in his store yesterday. A patron got a cut on one of the seats in the store and the parent reported it to the store employees. My friend, the owner was at a meeting in the corporate offices out of state and his general manager was off and unreachable. What should have been a simple accident report to the insurance company became a fiasco that caused him to call me to investigate an angry call to corporate 800 complaint line.

The basic question is: Is taking an accident report from an injured employee or a member of the general public a safety manager’s job, a risk management job or is it just a simple function for a supervisor/manager.

  • Well it is a safety function (you want to correct unsafe acts or conditions)
  • And it is a risk management function (you want to minimize the risk to your company)
  • But, I don’t think that it requires a CSP or a safety degree.
  • And it should not require the risk management department (if you even have one).
  • Unless, you made a rule (IMHO a silly rule), it should not require a general manager.

Therefore, it truly is, or should be, a first line supervisor’s job and responsibility.

The supervisor is often the highest member of the management team that is on site 24/7. The supervisor is usually in a position to the first person responding to an incident. This person will be the first management person that the public sees if there is an accident. If the supervisor does not know how to respond to the general public, then you will often have a problem. If someone is injured or needs medical attention, then the supervisor should make sure that this is the first priority, even before an accident report or investigation. Too often, I have seen supervisors who feel the need to protect the company by not taking any action, feeling that if they take action they are admitting guilt on behalf of the company. If a parent is telling the supervisor that their child got hurt, then the supervisor should ask if the child is okay or if they need medical attention. The same applies to any member of the public. This is NOT admitting guilt, it is admitting that you care. If you forget the human piece of an accident, you will be perceived as cold and uncaring. And that’s when they call the Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe or one of those 1-800 law firms you see on TV. You want to minimize or prevent that!

  1. The supervisor needs to remain focused.
  2. Get injured people help (ie., medical treatment) , if needed or requested
  3. Ensure for the safety of others and secure the site if necessary
  4. Collect the important information that you need for the injury/incident report
  5. Report the incident/accident to your insurance company.
The accident report used by your first line supervisors should be a simple form that collects the needed information.  Don't make it complicated!

The accident report used by your first line supervisors should be a simple form that collects the needed information. Don’t make it complicated!

It might be best if you create a simple form to collect important information from the public. You can ask your broker or carrier to review the form to make sure it collects all the information that they need from the party who was injured or affected by the incident. The person reporting the incident will often ask for a copy of the report. You should NOT be afraid to give them a copy. SO the form should NOT list the carrier or broker on the form. It should have a place for the name of the person taking the report, but NOT his/her phone number. If you have a corporate office, a safety office or a risk management office and that office will be following up after the initial report, then that contact information could be added to the form.

What should be on the accident report form? I suggest the following as a minimum:

  • Name, address, age, phone number or contact information for the injured (name of parents if injured is a minor)
  • Time and Date of incident/accident
  • Location of incident/accident
  • Brief description of incident/accident
  • Known injury(ies)
  • Known property damage (if any)
  • Was EMS/police called? Names/badge numbers of responders
  • Names and contact information of any witnesses
  • Name of supervisor taking report

If an employee is injured, the same process and concern needs to be followed. Got the injured medical help if needed, and then collect the information. Most states have workers compensation reporting forms. You should have copies of these forms at your site or electronic versions on your computers.

Since this will be the first line supervisor’s job, then ALL of your first line supervisors need to be trained in how to take an accident reports – both public incidents and workers compensation injuries. If it is not part of your training repertoire already, then the training should begin as soon as your forms are ready.

I recommend the Tell, Show, Do, Review Method of Training.

Tell: Tell the supervisors what their responsibilities are AND why they are important. Tell them what needs to be done – the concern for the injured, medical response, what forms to use, information that needs to be collected, how to fill it out the forms, where or how to report the incident to the insurance company and the GM or owner.

Show: Show the supervisors how it is done. You could use a mock accident or role play in the class (using instructors) and demonstrate the proper response. You might want to demonstrate how to deal with irate persons who claim injury. Show them how to use the forms based on the incident they witnessed.

Do: Let everyone know that they are going to witness an accident or a report by a patron of an accident. Again you can use role playing to show an incident or you can use a video. Your supervisors should demonstrate their response to the incident and demonstrate how to collect information (using any forms that you develop) and how to report the incident. During this section give one-on-one feedback to the participants on what they did right and what needs improvement.

Review: Review what you want them to do. How to respond to the immediate situation. Show concern for the injured. Collect the important information. How to report the information to the insurance company and upper management.

In my next post (which I hope to complete by Sunday night), we will discuss the companion piece to this post. That piece is accident investigation – another function that should be done by the first line supervisors


About homelandsafety

John Burke, CSP, ARM is currently seeking new opprtunties in the Safety and Risk Managment field. Previously, John was manager of health and safety compliance of Homeland Safety. John is a Certified Safety Professional and holds a designation as an Associate in Risk Management. He has been in the safety business since 1997 as a safety consultant, developer of emergency response plans, trainer and safety engineer and manager. John was also a Facility Security Officer and trainer under DHS/USCG regulations. Prior to joining Homeland, John was a technical consultant for a major insurance company and environmental and safety manager for a NY based utility. John also has experience as a firefighter and EMT. John has been an authorized OSHA construction outreach instructor and has developed and conducted training courses for construction and general safety, fire safety, incident command and emergency response. John previously taught first aid and CPR under the American Red Cross. John is a former marine engineer. He graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy (BS), Adelphi University (MBA), and NY Institute of Technology (Graduate Certificate).
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One Response to Accidents Happen: You Shouldn’t Have To Be There When It Does

  1. val says:

    Sounds like there is a break down in the responsibility of the store manager. Really? I’m sure they would have a protocol to follow if this happens to the general public or an employee. I would be sitting that person down and having a chat.

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