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By Ashley Cuttino, Ogletree Deakins, co-chair COVID-19 Litigation Practice Group

April 17, 2023

InjuryQ: What are the basic rules of the road regarding workplace injuries I should know as a rental company owner?

A: Workplace injuries can take a variety of different forms and can even occur in a remote work environment. Employers should implement robust policies and practices to investigate and respond to all types of workplace accidents. Employers also should be mindful of the various laws that may apply, depending on the location, nature and severity of the injury at issue.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the United States Department of Labor, is the federal agency that enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) and ensures safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. OSHA covers most private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program.

Covered employers must comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires them to keep their workplaces free of serious recognized hazards. The OSH Act also contains certain reporting requirements. For example, all employers covered by the OSH Act must report to OSHA any work-related incident that results in a fatality, the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees, an employee amputation or an employee loss of an eye. Finally, The OSH Act also protects employees (also known as whistleblowers) who complain to OSHA about alleged unsafe working conditions against retaliatory action by their employer.

Employers also should be aware of any state-specific OSHA requirements or workers compensation regulations that may apply to each situation. These requirements may include, but are not limited to, reporting and recordkeeping.

Although OSHA does not have specific standards for accident investigation, as a best practice, all workplace accidents and incidents should be investigated regardless of severity. Many of these best practices overlap with the workers compensation claim investigation. Completing an accident investigation on a consistent and uniform basis will be beneficial for determining possible safety hazards or safety training that will need to be addressed to reduce the risk of more injuries. Proper claim investigation also can generate the appropriate documentation to defend against a legal claim that may arise from an employee’s injury.

Depending on the situation and any other state-specific considerations, appropriate investigation steps may include the following:
  • Assess the injury to determine if immediate medical attention is necessary.
  • If immediate medical attention is necessary, the employer should have a manager take the employee to the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility, or call 911 to request medical assistance to the work site, depending on the severity of the injuries. State workers’ compensation laws have different requirements regarding the use of panel physicians for nonemergency treatment. Employers will need to check if their state requires employees to select from a list of approved physicians or allows the employee the right to choose a medical care facility/physician to receive treatment.
  • Provide the employee with all appropriate medical forms for the physician(s) to complete.
  • Interview the injured employee, the supervisor(s), and witness(es); and obtain statement(s) from the employee, supervisor(s) and any witness(es). It is important to investigate immediately before memory fades. A proper investigation also is important to determine whether an accident is compensable under the applicable state’s workers’ compensation law.
  • Report the accident to the state’s workers’ compensation agency and/or OSHA Form 300 or 301, if necessary.
  • Implement any corrective action following a determination of the cause of the accident in order to prevent a recurrence.

OSHA provides similar recommendations. Learn more at Investment in worker safety and health can reduce injuries and illnesses, and produce significant improvements to a company’s productivity and profitability.

This column is provided by Ogletree Deakins, Atlanta, as part of a partnership with the American Rental Association (ARA) for ARA’s Human Resources Assistance Program. ARA members can receive a single sign on from the ARA webpage to a microsite specific to ARA on the Ogletree Deakins platform; get access to two 30-minute calls with an HR professional per year; access to an FAQ section as well as to Ogletree Deakins’ library of webinars; and access to Ogletree Deakins’ ARA-specific webinars. To learn more, visit