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Knowing what to do when you witness a workplace accident

Someone got hurt on the job, and although you weren't able to stop the accident from happening, you had a front-row seat. Whether you like it or not, you're now a workplace accident witness. Do you know what your next move ought to be?

The role of the workplace accident witness: Understanding the ideal

Accident witnesses are critical to safe job sites. As the Society for Human Resource Management notes, employers should interview these individuals to determine what happened. By identifying the root causes of injuries and mishaps, responsible companies prevent similar occurrences in the future.

What happens in reality?

Unfortunately, events don't always pan out the way they should following an accident. Employers who want to cover their tracks could attempt to sway or intimidate you to shift blame onto the injured party. Your company might not recognize that you're too emotionally distraught to give an accurate statement right away, or it may simply fail to make sufficient inquiries that clarify what occurred.

Being a reliable witness

Although many post-accident witness interviews go smoothly, you should know your rights. For instance, you can usually request representation as a unionized employee and give a written or oral statement describing what happened in your words instead of just answering questions. When you sit down with an outside investigator, you should be able to do so without your boss being present.

Remember that you also have the right to report what happened without fear of retaliation by your employer. If your employer doesn't like what you say to an independent investigator, they can't demote you, cut your hours, terminate you, threaten your benefits or create a hostile work environment.

Essential steps

In the immediate aftermath of your accident, it can be hard to think clearly. Here are some critical pointers to keep in mind:

  • Help the victim by rendering first aid.
  • Make the workplace safe by shutting down hazardous machinery if possible.
  • Never move things unnecessarily or attempt to clean up the scene.
  • Try to take note of details like where you were, what you were doing and what else was going on when you observed the event.
  • Report the incident to a supervisor.

The actions you take as an accident witness could not only determine whether your coworker recovers, but also reduce your likelihood of suffering a similar fate and help make the workplace safer for everyone.

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