Injuries can be frightening, especially if they are severe. When an injury takes place on the job, our panic levels can rise exponentially higher. We can find ourselves trapped in a spiral of questions. Is this injury serious, or should I ignore it? What happens if I ignore it and it gets worse? Will I lose my job? Should I file for worker’s compensation? Will my boss be mad if I do? Will my co-workers think less of me?
Between the pain of the injury and the stress of the unknown, injured workers can easily find themselves so focused on what could happen in the future that they forget to take any action in the present.
Report It Right Away
If you find yourself injured on the job, your first step should be to report your injury, and you should do it immediately. Even if you think it may be minor and even if it happens at the very end of the day, don’t put it off. Failing to report a work injury right away may hinder your chances of receiving worker’s compensation should your injury turn out to be serious.
If you think your injury requires medical treatment, discuss that with your boss, HR representative, or other applicable staff member. Each state and each company vary in their approach to work injuries and compensation. Your company or state may utilize specific doctors for work injuries. No matter how you choose a doctor, make sure that each doctor you see is made aware of, and makes note of, the fact that your injury was work related. Just like a failure to report an injury, not noting that the cause of the injury was work related is another common reason worker’s compensation claims are denied.
Don’t Be A Hero
My biggest problem I faced when suffering a work-related injury was myself. I tend to think of myself as being pretty darn good at my job… irreplaceable even. Meaning, if I’m out for a month, the whole place might just fall apart. Sound familiar?
It can be extremely difficult to let yourself take some time off. If you’re like me, you might decide to “work through the pain” and tell yourself that you’re hurting the company by going home. This is a dangerous way of thinking and can lead to further and more serious injury. Trust your doctors and don’t take it upon yourself to “take one for the team” by showing up to work when you should be in recovery.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
Many employees fail to report their injury or make a claim out of fear of what might happen, or what others might think. However, you shouldn’t let such worries hold you back.
If you are afraid of being fired for filing a worker’s compensation claim, don’t be. It is illegal to be fired for filing for worker’s comp. If you feel you have good reason to fear harassment, retaliation, or termination for reporting your injury, make sure you document the entire process from the beginning. Get as much in writing as possible, whether that means you conduct all your reporting/interaction via email or that you simply send follow-up emails recapping your latest interaction. For example, if you report your injury in person, send a quick follow up email thanking your boss/HR rep for their help and understanding. If they promised to handle a specific aspect of filing for you, be sure to include that in your thank you.
Whatever happens and whatever you do, stay informed. Know your rights. Most importantly, be your own advocate and don’t let fear stop you from getting the help that you need.
No one expects to get injured on the job, but it happens. Staying informed of the proper procedures will help you get through that difficult time with as few complications as possible.