In part three of this series, I will explain the benefits of conducting a thorough investigation and documenting those investigative findings.
The importance of performing a comprehensive investigation into all claimed injuries cannot be overstated. Doing so allows the employer to gain important and accurate information regarding the claim, while that knowledge is fresh in the minds of those involved. This applies to the injured employee, the supervisor to whom the worker reported the injury, and any witnesses. In no industry is the importance of documenting all evidence more necessary that in the restaurant industry. With the seasonal fluctuations in business which rely on short-term employees, it is important to lock down information which may be necessary to the defense of a claim while the witnesses are present and the details are clear. Failure to do so can make it difficult when your star witness heads back to college or heads back home from the summer at the shore!
During the initial hiring process and training, management should discuss with employees the requirement that all potential work-related injuries should be reported immediately. Afterall, employers cannot investigate a claim which they do not know exists! This policy should also be posted in the kitchen and any break or staff rooms as a reminder. In that same vein, copies of blank incident reports should also be placed in commonly frequented areas, so employees have easy access to them.
The incident report is a great way to obtain a written version of the event from the employee, thus memorializing the mechanism of injury and initial complaints at the time of the event. This also allows employers to identify any witnesses to the event. The incident report should request information regarding the time and location of the event; any witness; a narrative outlining what occurred; any tools or materials being used during the incident; whom the incident was reported to and when; and whether the worker is seeking medical treatment. When possible, have the injured worker fill out the document in handwriting and sign the incident report.
Likewise, statements from the manager(s) who fielded the claim will provide evidence of initial complaints (or lack thereof), witnesses and how the injury occurred. Finally, the same information should be taken from any witnesses to the event. These accounts of what transpired should be obtained as close to the event occurrence as possible, to ensure the witness provides an accurate and objective recollection of the incident.
Incident reports and witness statements often prove crucial if the matter goes into litigation, as the provide a concrete basis for rebutting erroneous testimony. They can also serve as training points, particularly in the fast paced and ever-changing restaurant industry, on how to avoid similar injuries in the future. If you would like more information on what should be included in the incident report, or the best way to go about investigating a claim, please feel free to contact me at 484-469-1231 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.