Safety and OSHA News

Worker hides injury for 2 months – then sues for comp

InjuryCalendar

An employee was injured at work. At first his injury seemed minor. But as time passed, his condition grew more serious. He didn’t tell his employer about the incident until he needed to see a medical specialist.

In Kentucky, where this incident took place, workers’ comp law states that compensation shouldn’t be provided if the employee didn’t tell his employer about the injury “as soon as practicable.”

So the question in this case is: Does the worker get comp?

Here’s what happened:

A crate coming down a chute struck the employee on the shin. The force of the blow knocked him over. He immediately noticed a red welt on his leg. The worker didn’t report the injury because, at the time, he felt it was “no big deal.”

The next day the welt was bigger and started to turn black and blue.

The leg got worse several days later.

Two months after the injury, the spot was “like a blister or boil.” Soon after that it turned into an open wound.

It wasn’t until 60+ days after the incident that the worker finally reported the injury at work.

By this time, doctors had to bandage the wound. Eventually he had to see a specialist for wound care.

The company said it always stressed to its employees the importance of immediately reporting injuries because of the presence of bacteria and chemicals in the workplace that could cause even minor cuts to become infected.

An administrative law judge (ALJ) found the worker had waited too long to report the injury to qualify for workers’ comp. On appeal, the workers’ comp board upheld the decision. The worker appealed again to a state court.

The court found no reason to disagree with the ALJ’s finding. It noted that there are three reasons the notice requirement was required in the state’s workers’ comp law:

  1. to provide prompt medical treatment
  2. to allow a prompt investigation, and
  3. to prevent fraudulent claims.

The worker said he provided notice to his employer as soon as he “became aware of the seriousness of his injury.” But the ALJ and the state court said that wasn’t good enough.

Verdict: No workers’ comp.

A side note: The court observed that there is no definition of “as soon as practicable” in the state’s workers’ comp law. It relied on the ALJ’s discretion to determine that.

How soon is soon enough? Within 15 minutes of injury? The same day? Is first thing the next morning OK? At what point should an employee be denied workers’ comp benefits for delaying the report of an injury? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

Cite: Granger v. Dairy, Court of Appeals of KY, No. 2009-CA-001345-WC, 3/5/10.

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  • Elizabeth Hanshaw

    He should have reported the injury the day it happened; this could have been evaluated by the company’s on site staff if available and allowed the company to be proactive in the care needed

  • Kevin Dawson

    I see that there was more to this incident than just not reporting it to the company in a timely manner. I would guess that this particular employer has a number of gaps in their management system that are systemic. I would have to look at a random sampling of injuries at this particular location to in fact, as the ALJ state that the injury was not compensible, before I would ever render a decision. There many have in fact been a past practice at the location to fire employees for receiving injuries as I have personally seen a number of times over the years. Really the information provided here is not enough to make a decision.

  • Bob Poll

    Finally! A sensible ruling that highlights that fact that workers have some repsonsibility in all this too.

    A strong safety culture needs to stress that ALL incidents must be reported right away, not just the ones that might require medical treatment. There’s no such thing as “no big deal” – even minor incidents (including “near hits”), when properly reported and investigated, can serve to help identify issues that might othwerwise produce a major injury (or worse) down the line if left unidentified and uncorrected. So reporting is everyone’s responsibility as part of incident prevention, it’s not an optional thing that’s just the first step in the claims process.

    We’ve all got to do our part to help the workforce understand that they report incidents, not claims!

  • Safety King

    Given the industry some people just have the tough it out mentality no big deal. Even when I get sick unless I’m really ill I just won’t go to the doctor. Same mind frame. Also this person may have been scared he’d lose his job or get reprimanded. Nonetheless, the injury happened at work. I think it should be covered.

  • RWB

    The employee should have informed management when it happened. If he felt that it wasn’t at the time serious enough then it should have been treated as a near miss with documentation. Then management should have done an investigation to determine if there is an unknowm safety issue or human error. If after a day or two a follow up should have been done with the employee and if condition had gotten worse, then company should have arranged a doctor visit themselves.

  • http://SafetyAlertNews Kathy

    I think that it should be reported no later then the end of the work shift, if no immediate attention is necessary. That way if something comes out of it later, there will not be any problems.

  • Stacy

    At th very latest, the employee should have reported the injury & seen a Doctor after he noticed the wound was getting worse, in the text above, this was “several days” after the injury. Often employees get hurt & think it’s nothing, only to have the injury get worse. As soon as it is noticed the injury is getting worse, it should be reported/

  • Rob Puhl

    All injuries should be reported as soon as possible but before the end of the employee’s shift – before they go home. That’s the only way to have some degree of certainty that it didn’t happen at home.

  • Rod W

    Not knowing anything more about the injury i would probably side with the court. 60+ days is too long for reporting an injury.

    Who knows if it indeed did happen at work. If he had injured his shin to the extent described above one would think this employee probably limped. I have had this type of injury to my shins also, not fun and you do not walk normally. I find it hard to believe this employee carried this injury for 60+ days (over 2 months).
    We as employers stress to our employees to report injury immediately after it happens. In addition we require them to report a near miss too. Some employees do, some don’t, here is an example of an employee who decides “to Tuff it out”. Ultimately in the end he now has to use his medical insurance and not workers comp.

    this is a good example to use during the annual safety training of employees. Examples like this usually will get the employees to understand why we need immediate accident reports and investigations.

  • Michael Fienberg

    Since even a near miss is to be reported, some point during the same day of the injury is “as soon as practicable”.

  • Safety Lady

    Have a written policy that is signed by all employees stating the time frame in which injuries must be reported. Our policy is the same day as injury.

  • Cool Daddy

    Based on the article, it appears the correct decision was made in this case. It appears the company did a good job in communicating to employees the importance of immediately reporting injuries – this employee evidentally, did not seem to take them seriously…

  • Dan

    Common sense; after 1 or 2 days should have been reported.

    Feel sorry for the employee; but , do not disagree with the result and findings.

  • Robert

    No the worker should not receive any Workman’s Comp benefits. There is no proof the incident happened at work, no written documentation. It doesn’t matter if there are gaps in the management at his place of employment. His supervisor is required to make an accident report when the accident is reported, if this is a problem then someone at the company needs to call “Whistle Blowers” and have OSHA come audit their records.

    This guy should have to bite the bullet on this one and pay for his medical problem out of pocket or with his medical insurance.

    I wonder if this employee didn’t report the incident so he wouldn’t be disqualified for some safety incentive program reward.

  • Scott

    The incident should have been reported as soon as he saw a supervisor/manager. Even if it was a “By the way” comment. I have first hand experience. Earlier this year I had to go to our warehouse (around 10:30pm) to check out a burst pipe on our sprinkler system. Being in Florida I completely forgot about the possibility of ICE. and sure enough I fell… I was basically uninjured(so I thought) so I stopped the water flow and returned home. I phoned my supervisor to let him know the situation on the leak, and informed him of the fall. We both laughed about it having grown up in the north. Three days later the injury let itself be know as I was unable to lift mt right arm above my head without pain. But since the injury was reported even unofficially the comp took care of the Dr. and the reabilitation.

  • D.P.

    Report the injury the same day and have refresher training explaining what company policies and state laws are. Have every employee sign a sheet that they attended the meeting. This will suffice as an admission of training.
    It doesn’t matter how many times we talk about this subject or how many times an ALJ rules against them, there will be some employees who remain indifferent and will not report injuries. Do the next best thing: remove them from your employ.

  • http://www.utecsurvey.com sam jarvis

    Typically, employers never tell their staff to report injuries. Maybe a few cursory comments here and there. Why should they; we can see the advantage the company above gained by winning the denial of the employee’s claim.

    Ignorance is no excuse; something one often hears in reference to taxation matters. How are citizens to keep abreast of all the changing laws and employment laws imposed upon them?

    The ALJ should have considered documented training records from this company in coming to a just conclusion.

  • Justin

    If the OS & H ,signed acknowledged, Policy states “immediately”, then look up the word in Webster’s and hold a Safety Meeting on the verbiage! Simple and DONE!
    Now get back to work ……

  • Mike R

    I would be interested in the nature of the injury and whether it could have occurred away from work. It would seem to me if that this injury resulted from an exposure on the job to bacteria or chemicals that would not occur away from work, then this should have been allowed. The focus has been the date of the initial injury to the shin, however the company indicates the presence of bacteria and chemicals in the workplace that can cause minor injuries to become infected and serious. If the infection was caused by checmicals and bacteria that could only reasonably be found in the workplace, and the infection is the serious injury that was reported (and not the date the shin was hit by a crate) then I would expect that the compensation should have been allowed. I’d be interested in the company policy on reporting incidents and how it is encouraged and enforced, and their history of discipline and other actions that might discourage reporting.

  • http://ENCSD.NET Chip Willey

    While decisions tend to favor the plaintiff, this is a case of willfull neglect on the part of th plaintiff to follow notification of the employer. The test of “what a reasonable person would do” should be the measurement. While within 24 hours is reasonable, this may be precluded in operations that do not have round-the-clock operations and/or do not operate during weekends. Using verbage similar to “by the end of the individual’s next regularly scheduled work shift” should cover all the bases.

  • http://www.portofmontana.org Mark Darlow

    60+ days is way too long to report the injury making it look like a case of fraud. The reality of small injuries or near-misses is that most people feel it is not a big deal. I tell my men to report anything because it could fester over time and become a real issue. I hurt my back 20 years ago and didn’t feel a thing bothering me for a day and a half, then it hit with a vengeance and I missed 7 months of work. I wondered if my employer would question the accident but felt I needed to report it anyway, better safe than sorry.

    A problem with these stories is they don’t tell the whole story. I had a supervisor that would ridicule a person for filing an incident report so things like that do happen.

  • http://www.djanda.com Marjean Charles

    I believe the employee should have reported the incident the day it happened. If nothing comes of it fine – if it gets worse as it did, then there is no question that it may have happened somewhere other than the workplace and he would be encouraged to have it checked. Our policy is to report an incident as soon as it happens, whether to a co-worker or to a supervisor. Good topic for a safety meeting.

  • Scott

    I just have one question about this case… Was a complete investigation performed? Were there any witnesses? Did his supervisors not notice him limping around or favoring one or the other leg? Is it not our duty to ensure all employees are capable of doing there job in a safe manner?

    If an employee has an injury, work related or not, and management knows that something is wrong with the employee and does nothing, that it simple negligence. Of course I do not know everything about this case so maybe all that was done…

    Managers and line supervisors are the eyes of the company. They need to know what is going on with their employees.

    However, again waiting 60 days to report an injury is a major red flag as to whether it really happened at work or not… Courts are right in this situation, but the company might want to review their Safety policies and proceedures. As well as keeping their eyes open. Ok, I am done now….

  • Terri

    First, rules are rules. If he is reguired to report it, why not report it and say, “it seems fine”.
    Then when it got worse, he was covered. Maybe, he didn’t report it sooner because he
    couldn’t pass a drug test. I think the decision was a good one.

  • Baby Huey

    There’s more to it than just seeking medical attention for your injury. By not reporting an accident in a timely manner you are placing other employees in possible peril from the same hazard.
    It is very suspicous when ever someone doesn’t report an injury promptly and it indeed sounds likely that this injury occured outside of the workplace.

  • Bob-CWCP

    We have a written policy that all events must be reported immediately, but no later than the end of the shift on which the event occurs. Failure will result in denial of claim. We specify that delayed reporting is interpreted as a refusal to submit to a mandatory substance test.

  • Cherise

    My opinion is that the injured should have reported the injury at the time of the accident, but no later than 24 hours after the accident. This allows for a proper investigation, medical treatment (if needed), and appropriate prevention methods to be implemeted so that another employee is not injured.

  • Safety First

    Very frustrating scenario that all safety managers will come across from time to time. Not only did the employee undergo unnecessary pain and suffering by not reporting the injury, an investigation was not conducted so similar incidents could be avoided.

    Another posting said that since it happened at work it should be paid for through worker’s comp. 1st aid or minor medical would most likely have been sufficent at time of injury and most employers wouldn’t have much of an issue with paying. It’s enormously frustrating when worker’s comp claims increase in cost due to poor decision making by employees. The employee obviously made a poor decision by not reporting and I am pleased that the employer did not have to pay for it.

  • Sheila Safety

    yes this was the right decision,the employee did not follow policy. we have a policy all injuries must be reported the day they happen,to their supervisor or any member of management in the plant at the time of the injury.reporting injuries the day after they happen or later results in step in the disciplinary action,they are given a written notice and this is put in their personal file.

  • http://www.harbro.com Jorge Sanchez

    In any industry, construction, general, maritime incidents happen. One of the best approaches to employees being responsible to report all incidents immediately to the immediate supervisor is at the hiring time with a new hire safety orientation. Which should cover all hazards in the environment the employee will be working, and introduce company best practices, policies, procedures and rules, and have them sign an acknowledgement document of the safety orientation and responsibilities. One of the company procedures is how the company supports the injured worker from day one till his/her recuperation by implementing return to work under modify duty plan, that’s when employees feel their job is not in jeopardy when reporting an incident. There are many reasons why the worker didn’t report the incident. Unfortunately the bad experience of the issue in comment can be use as a good example for both employee and employer to work together to prevent this event happening again.

  • Deb

    I think anytime an employee leaves the work premises without reporting the injury, the employer has the right to investigate and question the authenticity of the injury. Too many people abuse the system to get free health care at the expense of the companies reputation.

  • Safetyismylife

    Does this individual think he is fooling anyone? It didn’t become an issue to this person to report this injury until the injury itself starting racking up the costs of a specialist. It was his own delay in reporting the injury that allowed it to become a serious wound requiring a specialist’s care. This is a good lesson that there is no penalty for reporting what is perceived as a minor injury on the day it occurred. By doing this you can tie it to an event and specific time, present an opportunity for hazard analysis and control resolution. In the following days after the injury the safety staff can periodically check the injury to see if it is improving or getting worse. If worsening, a decision to seek a medical evaluation can be made. Kudos to the ALJ for a correct ruling.

  • The Safety Guy

    Colorado WC Law states that an injury must be reported to the employer within 4 working days after the injury. Our company policy requires that any incident (includes personal injury or near miss) be reported immediately. On our daily time slip, we give each worker the opportunity to report incidents by asking the question, in writing: “Have you had an accident or injury today?” Yes or No? This daily time slip must then be signed by the Employee and the Foreman or Supervisor and turned in to the office. The time slips are reviewed by payroll personnel and red flagged if this question has been answered “Yes”. At this time, the safety manager will arrange for an “Incident Review”. We don’t use the term “Accident Investigation” as it sounds too harsh and intimates that someone did something wrong and may be punished for doing so.
    While some injuries require obvious first aid or medical attention and are reported immediately, others may go unreported due to the seemingly inconsequential nature of the injury, the fear of retribution on behalf of the employer, or the “attitude” of the injured employee at the time of the incident.
    Regardless of when an injury does become knowledge to the employer, the best way to handle a WC case is to follow company procedure, report the injury to your WC carrier, provide input if you have questions or concerns, and then let the WC system do it’s thing!
    I agree with the courts decision!

  • Nate

    We have a report all incidents policy that allows the employee to fill out an incident report that is kept on file. On those occassion when the incident transforms in to a WC claim we have the incident report to file with the claim.
    There is no penalty for filling out an incident report.

  • Bill K

    I agree with Bob. This is a classic example as to why an incident should be reported no matter small the injury.
    Worked with a guy once that dropped a flask and grabbed for it just as it broke into pieces. A tiny piece of glass punctured a tiny spot on his index finger. It barely bled. He reported it anyway. The next day he had to have surgery to repair a severed tendon.
    It is the empolyee’s responsible to report an injury to protect his/her interest. It also helps the company identify problem areas that may save someone’s life.
    In this case, was the issue of the box hanging up left unattended for it to happen to someone else? This reminds me of our Safety Motto for 2009, “Recogonizing Potentual Hazards Can Prevent Accidents.” This was an ovious potentual hazard but apparently wasn’t recongized as such by the employee or he would have reported it.
    It it so important to recongize something as being a hazard but so hard to get it through employees. I would like to know if there are methods to drill this into the heads of workers, Lord knows I’ve been working on that issue for years, to no avail.

  • Crojak

    Interesting thread, and we promote as soon as practicable reporting also, definitely by end of shift. Some employees think they will be singled out for ending strings of days without a medical aid, or lost time, and thus try to tough it out, or do so to avoid the “hassle” of filling out forms and incident investigations. This can be tricky to manage – promoting engagement in the process of managing injuries up front, and also conducting investigations in such a way that employees don’t feel as if they are the focus of blame. Even with all of this, 60 days is way too long, and I agree completely with the Court’s finding.

  • Killer Safety Lady

    As part of new hire orientation, safety meetings and re-fresh training, employees agree by signature and date that they acknowledge, understand, and will adhere to general plant safety rules, guidelines, and policies. Our policy states that all injuries, near misses, property damage, un-safe conditions, must report immediately to their supervisor and/or before they leave the premises. Failure to do so will result in worker’s compensation and employer questioning the claim and may be denied. It is the responsibilityof the employer to provide these policies, but it is the responsibility of the EMPLOYEE to understand and adhere to the policies 24/7.

  • http://www.vbcassdhd.org Safety Committee Chair

    We require all employee to report any injury (regardless of severity) because of situations like this. It is part of our policies of the employee handbook which all employees review and sign off on the first day of hire. We also have our employees review our policies annually and sign off. If this injury would of been reported right away there would be no doubt that it was a workers comp case. I agree with the verdict.

  • HAIRSTYLIST

    At my place of work, it has to be reported the same day. They immediately do mandatory drug/alcohol testing. That is likely for their protection in the end and also convenient for them because I work for a nursing home. I have reported bad cuts from my scissors (which is an occupational hazzard for hairdressers) because you never know what could potentially happen with bacteria or infection. Better safe than sorry!

  • http://www.peninsula.com Christopher N

    I think there are States out there require that injury must be reported to supervisor/manager. NYS requires 30 days max otherwise they will throw the case out.
    “The employee notifies the employer of the accident in writing, as soon as possible, but within 30 days”.
    In our company, I set the policy that all employees are required to report all near-misses and accident with or without injury immediately. If they don’t we will ask they to sign a statement not to file a report or if they refuse, we will sign it with a witness, most likely a delegate. I know this is not going to prevent employees from not to report or walk away with it when there is no one aroaund, but simply that if we know or see the incident, we will ask them to come down to file a report right away. For near-misses, we use it as counseling and training.

  • Chuck

    Our company wants all injurys reported, no matter how small. Not real likely for an employee to get fired for that. If this employee had reported the incident when it happened, there would have been no problem getting comp later when it became worse.

  • Mike J.

    The probability of a claim being fraudulent statistically goes up exponentually with the lateness of reporting. While we should as employers always do what is right for our employees we also have to abide by the law. The law in this case is clear with the exception of a definition of “immediately”. I don’t think any reasonable person could consider immediately as 60 days unless a coma was involved. We do not as a rule write people up much less fire them when injured unless they violate safety rules such as lock out tag out. Now if drugs and drug testing were invilved the late reporting makes perfect sense.

  • Earl Keith

    Sad to say. We live in a litigious world, and too much of what we do is to avoid being sued. There are also too many people who think employers were created to take care of them. That is why laws are written to require prompt notification.

    If this had been an automobile accident, would the local police like to investigate an accident 2 months after it happened?

    Even if everyone is honest, the exact truth of what happened rarely gets remembered after such a long time. Also if no injury had occurred this time, what about another employee who may get in the same situation again. That would have been preventable.

  • John G

    I have the type of job (HVAC work) that getting little cuts and scrapes is normal. If I reported every one of them, they would think I was accident prone when I am not, just the nature of the work. I think some workers may be afraid of that label which could haunt them for job promotions and/or transfers. This leads to ignoring minor wounds, which could turn serious without paying close attention to the condition of the wound, keeping it clean, etc… No system will ever be perfect so the workers will just have to decide for themselves the risks involved with not reporting every little scrape and balance that against the need to protect yourself financially if the injury is more serious than they first thought it was.

  • Linda

    “A crate coming down a chute struck the employee on the shin. The force of the blow knocked him over. He immediately noticed a red welt on his leg. The worker didn’t report the injury because, at the time, he felt it was “no big deal.””

    This is a problem in itself. An Incident Report should have been written up right away. Its even beyond a Near Miss because he was struck by the crate. In any case, that is the only way we can put counter-measures in place to keep it from happening to someone else. I’m sorry his mindset was “no big deal” because he left it open for someone else to possibly get hurt.
    60 days is WAY too long to wait. Immediatly report it is the best case, or at least when he realized it was getting worse several days later.

  • Joe

    New employee safety orientation should provide provision for reporting “incidents” immediately (albeit injury or property) with the proviso for disciplinary action for any late reports . Policy should be documented and reinforced frequently; further, if alleged injury was not witnessed there is no proof that injury occurred in the workplace – I agree, no workers’ compensation.

  • Ken

    60 + days. How do we know where, when it happened. Tough decision as an employer.
    Employer should do its best to determine whether or not the incident occurred at work and be liable for the claim if it did.
    Do the right thing. Would you report and bump on the shin if it happened to you?
    If there is no way to know, the employee will have to continue to “tough it out.”
    Should have been reported and managed conservatively, in a perfect world.

  • Wilma

    Our policy is that all incidents are to be reported, whether there is an injury or not, including Near Miss Incidents. Employees are to make the report immediately or at least by the end of the shift; however, to get around the “I didn’t realize that I was hurt until” we add a clause that the employee must report the incident “As soon as they become aware of it”. 1. The incident, even the struck by or fall should have been reported. 2. The employee has the responsibility to tell you when they have an issue. 3. There is nothing in the article to indicate that the employee was afraid to make a report so there is no reason to question the company’s intent. I would support the decision as it stands.

  • http://www.clean-works.com Kelly Kline

    We have an on-call supervisor available 24/7 since the majority of our employees work for our clients at night after normal working hours (commercial janitorial/facility maintenance services). Our policy is that they are to notify the supervisor when an injury occurs, no matter how trivial it seems to them, so we have the report on file in case the injury does need treatment at a later point in time.

    I have had someone wait two weeks to report an injury and they ended up having the claim denied by the WC carrier based on the lateness of the report to us and from statements made to the medical facility practitioners. Had it been reported in a timely manner, it probably would have been covered, but the delay and statements made cast doubt on whether it was actually an on-the-job injury. He did have health insurance coverage, but that was subject to the deductible which he hadn’t met at that point. I doubt this employee will ever do this again since he ended up paying for the care provided, which fortunately for him was not excessive, but a few hundred dollars. He also received a warning about not following proper company procedure.

    The bottom line, these reporting procedures are in place to protect everyone; the company from fraudulent claims and the employees to have coverage for legitimate claims.

  • bsue

    Our company, too, stresses incident reports, both with supervisors and employees. we had a case where an employee was unloading a metal barrel that kicked back as it hit the floor, and hit him in the mouth. he didn’t think much of it, but next dentist visit he had a dead tooth and needed root canals. even tho’ an official incident report wasn’t on file, they chose to pay it, as he had told a few people what happened when it happened. but following that, supervisors are very watchful–just in case–because we do want to be responsible when we should, but don’t want to pay unneedfully.

  • Tex

    It is the responsibility of the injuried employee to notify thier supervisor before the end of their shift of any/all incidents that occur, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem. In our state we are required to report to our workers compensation company all first-aids and property damage, as soon as we can gather the facts or not later than 48 hours after occurance.
    Cases that are reported well after the fact like several days, are out of our compliance policy. Going back several days after an incident with a report of claim is asking for big trouble. If this ai allowed just think how many worms will come out of the wood work.

  • http://n/a Teflon

    Agree to stress to employees the need for reasonable reporting. There are many reasons. Open wounds (even scratches) can become infected if not treated. Contusions (expecially in the case of diabetic employees) can become complicated if not treated. In most states (but not all), medical treatment is compensable only after reporting. So there can be cases where the extent of the injury and therefore the level of treatment required is driven by the lack of immediate treatment and not by the severity of the original incident. Employers need to have some protection against only being involved in a case after it is too late to manage it appropriately. But there are also those cases that legitimately are difficult to tie to a specific incident such as repetative trauma or stress. In those cases, employees often recognize the comp requirements so they create these great stories of “3 weeks ago I did a lot of work that day and my elbow started hurting”. It is for these type of cases that I think the judges need some discretion. Yes, no, maybe – anyone who states how these cases should be handled without knowing the specifics of the case are just defending the $$. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometime partial. You can’t put it all on the employee and you can’t say comp pays for everything either. Sometimes discretion is required, otherwise we might as well commit to socialized medicine.

  • http://www.theindustrialathlete.com Dwight Gaal

    Since no clear definition exists in the State’s laws, the employer needs to establish a policy which clearly states the timeframe within which an injury must be reported. It should definitely be reported by the end of the employee’s shift so as to rule out the possibility that the injury occurred off of the job. I place Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs) in the workplace. These uniquely skilled healthcare professionals triage all injuries which occur on the job and determine whether they need to be sent outside the system or be treated by the ATC on-site. The ATC can evaluate the injury and direct the care, just as they do with the highest paid workers on the planet, professional athletes. However, if a supervisor makes the decision that the injury isn’t severe enough that it needs to be seen, the employee goes home and there is no way of determining actual cause from that point on. We have had this same circumstance occur where the supervisor knew about the injury, failed to send the employee to the ATC, only to have the employee return later complaining of the injury. At that point, there is now way to determine the credibility of the claim and the employee is in the driver’s seat.

  • Steve H.

    One of the main reasons employees do not report injuries in a timely manner is their inability to pass a drug screen. Many companies require a drug screen for such incidents and especially if they require a trip to the doctor. Employee’s who are doing drugs will wait until whatever is in their system dissipates to a level where they feel comfortable to report the incident. (Marijuana for instance can take over 30 days to dissipate ) Company’s must have the right to at least initially manage work related injury claims. After all isn’t it their money? If injuries are not reported in a timely manner, they lose that ability and lose control of the claim, which means more cost!
    Employees who do not report in a timely manner should suffer the consequences of their actions.

  • Sawtooth

    In general, late reporters are subject to scepticism. It’s good fortune for the company that the State supports that hard and fast rule. If you snooze you lose. There was also no mention of a witness another red flag of suspicion. Collectively, when you add all of the circumstances of this case together it seems to have fallen on the correct side of the scale.

  • Aïda

    I have to wonder how tough the safety incentive program is at this company for the guy not to report even a first aid (what the injury was initially) for the potential fear of losing his safety incentive pay. Our safety incentive program does not penalize first aids. We even will take closer looks at our plants that seem to have no first aids being reported. All plants have at least a first aid here and there. If this guy would have reported it initially, the company could have at least have given him some form of first aid to mitigate any wounds getting worse later.

  • Pat

    I agree with Cool Daddy. In the company I’m employed with, we stress the importance of reporting an injury on the job “immediately” regardless as to the seriousness of the injury. We publish a newspaper and there are various chemicals in a certain area as well as other potential basic hazards in a work place. The safety & well-being of our employees are of the utmost importance. We provide the necessary safety training and tools for the employees to practice safety on the job. Consequently, our injury rate has been “0” for the last 3 years; with minor injuries in the previous years. I might also add it greatly reduces the risk of the company being sued by the employee outside of workers comp!

  • Safety Greg

    As a Safety Professional and an Industrial Medic, it is my opinion that the employee acted foolishly and should not be entitled to any compensation or provided any treatment by the employer. ALL injuries no matter how minor must be reported IMMEDIATELY. By reporting the injury immediately that sets in motion a number of processes including proper medical treatment and legal documentation that will protect the employee’s rights under the law. So basically the employee was irresponsible and screwed himself. Case Closed!

  • Ray Monahan

    This injury not only should have been reported ASAP…but it also delayed any corrective action that might have been needed on the chute in question…in other words if something was broken…the same kind of injury could have happened to someone else as well because this employee did not report his inury. Also how was his training and was he signed off on the chute in question? Was he a new hire as well?…sometimes folks won’t report something because they are new on the job and they don’t want other employees to think he can’t handle himself OR the job. If he was a seasoned employee than he really should have KNOWN better than to not report his ijnury.

  • AKSafety

    I agree with Safety Greg. I think the ruling was just. If the employee had taken care of it early enough there wouldn’t have been an issue. The danger is greater because he didn’t take care of it immediately. He should have been thnking a little more about his own personal health.

  • http://www.pilink.org Ken in GA

    I worked for a company that made such a big deal of how many hours the company had been without a lost time accident that at times people would hide their injuries to keep from being the one who broke the string. The company gave out rewards if we reached million man hours segments without a lost time accident. Think the pressure wasn’t there to keep your mouth shut. I know someone who broke his hand by mishandling a piece of equipment but it never got reported. He had problems with that hand for years. Things are not always black and white. I agree with the decision here but the culture of a company can greatly influence reporting of injuries.

  • Sad State

    At my company immediate reporting is required and encouraged, we even have a safety bonus tied to reporting an injury the same day, if you do not report the same day you lose the bonus and yet people continue to not report on time. Historically I have noticed the the people that do not report in the required timeframe have much more questionable claims or are trying to avoid the drug testing requirement when injured.

    I had one employee who called me up after a week of vacation and stated that he hurt his back while waterskiing, when he found out that he would be out of work for an extended period of time it suddenly became a WC claim that he injured his back prior to his vacation and did not report it because he thought the time off would be enough for it to heal, gee no red flags here.

    It is quite difficult to conduct an investigation when an injury happens several days or sometimes weeks prior to being reported, if an employee makes the decision to not report an injury they do so at their own risk and the thing that is interesting about this one is why would he see his own doctor and a specialist a couple of times before reporting it. Even if this employee decided not to report immediately when the injury continued to get worse for several days it should have been reported, hate to say it but this one smells of deception.

  • http://www.clean-works.com Kelly Kline

    I see what Ken in GA is saying and I believe that is one of the reasons that a lot people, especially some safety experts, don’t recommend safety awards, especially for hours of no lost time accidents. It creates the culture just as he depicts where he worked at one time. In actuality, it is defeating the purpose of your safety program which is far more important to the company as a whole and the safety of the individual employees.

    We certainly let our employees know that we have minimal accidents, but if we have something happen it usually entails the injured employee getting some retraining and it is discussed at an upcoming company meeting (in general terms). We try to reward employees with things throughout the year; not just for safety. It doesn’t have to even be a reward for a specific occurrence. It can be something as simple as a certificate in the heat and humidity of summer for a free Italian Ice, free movie passes, a coupon for a free pizza; just to show our appreciation for their work.

  • Laz

    Our company trains that if you are injured, no matter how small report it. We will sumitt an accident report for ” Report only”. This way if at a latter date the injury get to a point a doctor has to be seen the employee is covered.

  • D F

    We are a Psychiatric Center and our policy is to report any accident/injury ASAP but there is a qualifier of with-in 2 days of the incident. It is part of our on-going training to staff.

    From personal experience I can say there are times the accident/incident seems to be too silly to report. I was injured in 1993 by one of our patients. The incident took place at 10:00pm on a ward that the patients were off of because it had been painted. This patient had made sexually suggestive advances to me (Verbally and Physically) I was not supposed to be on the ward with this patient unescorted.

    We were preparing for a major survey and I was in charge of Safety Management Training. The training was conducted on a 24 hour rotating cycle to ensure the evening and night shifts received the same training the dayshift did (at this point there was no availability of video or DVD recorders nor did we have the equipment in the facility to allow video training so we went to the staff in the work locations). The program was conducted in a patient dayroom when the program was completed we has an informal Q&A session where the instructors mingles with the students.

    We were all in the center of the dayroom (This was a large room that could accommodate 24 people easily that was the reason it was chosen for the program). The patients returned to get their medications and bed down for the night. I saw the patient when they returned and saw when she ran across the dayroom to me. I turned to try and put some distance between myself and her but there were people all around me. Before I could say anything she had grabbed me from the rear. I am 5’11” tall and weighed at that time about 160lbs the patient was about 4’3” tall and weighed over 350lbs. One of here arms was around my neck and the other across my mouth and nose. I stood still and she was pulled off of me. This all seemed so amusing I was not even going to file an accident report (I know, I know but it really seemed funny.)

    When the incident occurred I had only felt a small pull in my back that did not bother me at all. The next day I was stiff and had some problems with movement in the shower that I chalked up to being in my 40’s and went in to work. I was traveling on the subway and I started having spasms to the point I had a hard time walking. By the time I got to work the spasms were every few minutes. They got so bad that after filling out the accident report I went to see our employee health physician and was sent off duty. From the above I had sustained several injuries that took 10 months of physical therapy 2 hours a day 5 day a week to return to work. In addition I have been hospitalized on several occasions and received brain damage from falling and hitting my head caused by uncontrolled spasms as a result of those injuries. I have been in treatment for all but the first year after I returned to work. When I was returned to work I thought that was all behind me…..And until the first relapse it was then I realized just how wrong I had been.

    As a note that incident happened in 1993 I started working in 1965 and I had only one comp. injury. That was in the 70’s when a light fixture fell from the ceiling hitting my head. I was stitched back together sent off duty and returned to work as soon as the Dr. in the facility I worked for allowed (they did all treatment for OJB injuries).

  • Maintenance Man

    I understand why the employee did not report. many companys offer days off, free lunch, or money if there is no accident in so many days for the group. If one person gets hurt they are made to feel bad by the group. I would have done the same thing, if I thought it was minor.

  • Cool Daddy

    I believe it backward thinking not to report any incident, regardless of how minor it might seem, or whether the company has to pay, or the worker gets comp. If the problem or cause of the incident is not known – it cannot be corrected. This incident should have been reported regardless of injury. By the way, I wonder if anything has been done to prevent the next incident at the chute?

  • Bill K

    I agree with Cool Daddy and a few others that realize that had the safety issue of the chute been reported, we would probably not even be having this conversation. In the process of writing up the safety issue his being hit by the crate or box would have been noted.

  • Ed

    The employee clearly failed to report the incident in a timely manner, the decision was correct. IMO the question should be what was the real reason for not reporting the accident? It was serious enough to knock him down and immediately leave a mark, yet he failed to report it? Was he using drugs and didn’t want to be caught? Was he horseplaying and got hurt as a result of not being safety aware? Had he violated safety restraints, guards or protocol and didn’t want to admit it? Waiting 60+ days to report an incident makes it impossible to answer any of these questions unless the employee comes clean.

    We emphasize that all incidents be reported before the employee leaves their shift. Reports recieved following a weekend off are by definition, suspect because of the potential for the injury to have come from activities that are not work related. If employees want to be covered by work comp for an on-job injury, then they need to assist in the proper investigation of the incident by reporting it quickly so that the situation can be reviewed and witnesses spoken with. Too often we find that a number of work injuries come about because of behavior on the part of the employee that circumvents safety procedures or guards on equipment. Employees need to understand the dangers of a job, but they also need to take an active part in owning up to their behaviors that contribute to incidents. Far too many want the softball/moving a friend/yardwork injury on Saturday to be taken care of by the employer as having occured on “friday”.

    Employers understand that they have to take care of their employees when incidents happen at work, but employees need to understand that the risks they take outside of work (like riding in a rodeo) that results in injury should not be dumped in the employers lap as work comp.

  • Jason

    I believe they refer to hiding injuries as “bloody pocket syndrome”. Someone gets hurt and hides it for many reasons. Fear of discipline, shortcuts, fear of losing an incentive, peer pressure, shame or embarrasment, drug testing, the list goes on. OSHA is currently investigating reward programs to see if some companies are motivating their employees to hide injuries, whether it be intentional or not.

    In this case, since we know he didn’t report the injury becasue he didn’t think it was serious at the time, I agree with the courts decision. All injuries, no matter how minor, must be reported. And yes, I have received accident reports for papercuts. Better to be safe then sorry!

  • http://lexmac.com Blackgold

    Go read the case – after having done so, I agree with the Senior Judge, who dissented.

  • Robert

    Blackgold,

    I disagree with the dissenting judges. The injuries need to be reported right away or it will be even easier for people to abuse the benefits provided by Workman’s Comp. Costs are already hard on companies to pay Workman’s Comp.

    It should be reported when it happens on site and the supervisors have to record the incident. Employees should never fear reprisals. Any Employee that has ever suffered reprisal from reporting an injury should be calling Whisle Blowers on the company.

    I knew a guy, that no longer works in my company, that would get injured at home doing things like playing basketball or slammed a sliding glass door on his hand and coming to work to report it as happening at work.

    Workman’s Comp gets abused enough and the abusers don’t get it that the costs to the company because of their abuse is a direct reflection on the possibility for bonuses and pay raises, because it comes off the bottom line.

    Allowing for a three month statute for reporting an injury opens up an even bigger window for people to abuse the system. Those judges don’t know, they’re not the ones paying the costs.

  • Mike J.

    I have a hard time understanding the people saying the judges were incorrect in disallowing the claim. If you are truly devoted to the safety of your workers then propmt reporting of an ijury, incident or near miss is essential to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of your workers. An unreported safety hazard will ensure that there will be another injury, possibly even a fatality. As a safety professional this should be obvious. The failure to report not only put others at risk but in this case allowed a minor injury to become a major injury. (My guess is that there is a complication such as diabetes ior blood thinners nvolved but not enough information). There is no excuse from an ethical standpoint to not report an injury. The fact it was not reported points to the employee trying to hide either unsafe conduct or a drug problem. I had a similar issue years ago where a maintenance manager called in sick on Monday after working alone on a project the proceeding Saturday. Tuesday, a request for vacation the rest of the week. Then a call from the Hospital requesting an MSDS on Wednesday. real problem? he had brought in a “New and improved” cleaner without an MSDS containing Methyl Etheyl Iso Butyl Ketone, MEIBK,used it for claening out isocyanates from a spray system and developed sensitization. This resulted in severe respitory distress and over a week in intesive care. Why the failure to report? Just the week before we had hammered maintance for bringing in unauthorized materials along with a company moritorium on using materials with MEK or it’s cousins. We paid the comp and then let him go for safety and company policy violations. The remainder of the product went out as Haz Waste.

  • Bill Folse

    Every injury/near miss must be reported immediately. Our experience with incident management helps us to determine if medical evaluation should be done. For example, if someone slips and falls, it should always be suspect that there could be soft tissue injury, muscle strain, or a bruise (and should be investigated to prepare the employee for any possible latent effects such as soreness). At a minimum, observation and follow up should be done. Had this incident been reported, the employer’s HSE representative could have, at a minimum, followed up on the employee’s status. The second day, the follow up observations would have indicated that a physician should be consulted, and the employee could have probably been treated with an inexpensive regiment and returned to work.

  • Joe2

    At our company we have whay we call the “MaybeBook.” If someone is injured and the injury does not require medical attention, they are required to write the incident in the Maybe book before the end of their shift. This insures them that if the injury “Maybe” need medical attention in the future they would be covered, and we would use the notations in the Maybe book to reference when filling out an Accident report. This is similiar to the “Near Miss” repot. If I’m not mistaken OSHA requires that an accident report be logged within 72 hours of the incident. rt.

  • Terry

    Our employees are told during new hire orientation that they are required to report any injury to their supervisor immediately. Our daily JSA has a sign-off for each crew member at the end of each day that states “I did not get injured today”. This is there only as a reminder for the employee to notify his/her supervisor before leaving the work site. Once the employee leaves the site you lose control of managing the injury towards the best outcome not only for the employee, but the company as well. A company is responsible for providing a safe workplace for their employees. Employees need to follow policys put in place to in order to keep them safe and healthy. Failure on the part of the empoyee to report an injury or to try and hide it should not be rewarded by providing benefits down the road.

  • http://safetypros Marbin Zimbro

    it seems the safety person when they have there safety meetings are not asking the right questions
    or asking for near miss

  • Ken

    The injury should have been reported right away so an investigation could have been started to determine how to prevent similar occurrences in the future that could lead to more serious injuries if not a fatality. Waiting 60-days to come forward immediately throws a red flag up. Why did he wait? Worried about losing his job or being disciplined, was he worried he might have to take a drug test, did he even get hurt at work? A lot of ifs on this one, based on the info provided the decision by the courts is correct

  • StacyB

    All incidents must be reported the same shift, otherwise how will we know if he was hurt at work, fell off the ATV, vehicle wreck on the way home, etc.. And don’t act like your employees would never act so mischeviously. Terri also commetned that he may have failed to report because of possibly having to submit to a post accident drug screen. Smart girl. If you have Stepford employees this wil never happen, but in the real world people ignore training, warnings, and often common sense. I’ve tried to buy into all the Value Bases programs, or Behavior based programs, but in the end you still have to deal with people. Some are accident, some are not. If they are, fire them. They only cost you money. Hard for some to swallow, but it works. Unless you deal with a union, then you should just quit and find a better job.

  • http://www.tapconet.com Janet

    At our company, a worker is required to report an incident immediately. Another employee, that has been trained as a first responder, will evaluate the situation and fill out an incident report. This protects the employee and the company. It is company policy and employees not following this procedure can be disciplined.

  • Wylie

    We are instituting a new written policy just because of this. We have always insisted Verbaally that if you hurt yourself to notify your supervisor immediately. However in the last few months we have has a rash of incidients where an employee comes in weeks, even months after the fact saying that they hurt themselves on the job. How are we supposed to know what really happened if it wasn’t reported when it happened. How are we supposed to ivestigate the incident if we are not made aware of it? If you do not report an accident the day that it happens before you clock out, I beleive you do not, and should not have right to make a claim. We are a lnadscape company and there are always cuts and bruises. Yes, it takes more administative time to process all the injuries, but the idea that “get cuts and scrapes and bruises all the time is bunch of bull. It that is happeining then the problem needs to e examined to see what measures can be taken to reduce it. Long sleeves or Gloves perhaps. There are too many virals out there to be complacent about having open wounds.

  • http://www.neumeyerenvironmental.com SafeTAS

    The judgement is sound for this case. We had an employee that had a ‘minor’ groin injury and did not report it. Six weeks later he went to the doctor and needed a hernia repair. He wanted to claim it but workman’s comp said that he could have herniated it doing anything in the past six weeks, not necessarily at work. Had he reported it when it occurred he would have been covered, no question. We altered our policy to include immediate reporting even for instances that did not require medical attention. The workers are satisfied and workmans comp is satisfied. And it allows us to identify near misses far better.

  • Julie B Safe

    As I learned at many of my courses, “If it isn’t documented….It never happened”. At time of orientation, and here and there throughout the year, I make quite clear the importance of reporting the smallest of injuries. I explain how it is only in their best interest. The younger workers are more apt to not report for several reasons including the fear that they may be ostracized or let go, as well as their youthful belief that, they will be just fine. “That won’t happen to me”.

  • http://www.portofmontana.org Mark Darlow

    Julie B safe couldn’t have said it any better. Report it or it didn’t happen, simple rule. I also agree with the statement of the younger employees being afraid to report or feeling that it won’t be a problem because they are so invincible.

  • Occ Doc

    As a physician whose 30 year plus career has been solely work-related health issues – I found the ALJ’s decision process ruling rather easy and straightforward with the facts presented . . . I was surprised that only one comment explored one leading reason in my experience for delays in reporting – the drug screen which is usually part of the process — though the 60 days here is exceptionally long – 1 to 4 weeks is quite common). If the doctors office is associated with the drug screen (and not the report), a report is may be made but “requires no care” until the delay.

  • T.C.

    obviously most of you have never actually worked in a factory or construction. During the course of doing your job it is impossible not to receive minor injuries. If every scratch and bump was reported your mgt staff would spend the whole day writeing accident reports. The individual that reported them would become osterized by his/her co workers. I agreee that he should have came forward when the injury began to progress. But he probubly figured he would get the same response he is getting here.

  • Mike J.

    T.C., your generalization, like all generalizations is incorrect. I worked 16 years on the floor before getting into management because they were tired of paying me overtime. I spent 5 years in maint., 5 years in production, and 6 years in shipping an recieving. I am now a corp. EHS manager. I got nicked up a time or ten including 3 OSHA recordables. I always reported my accidents/injuries in a timely manner and saw more than a few fellow workers try to pass off injuries they recieved at home as work related in order to collect WC. The vast majority attempted this throgh “late reporting”. This allowed them to claim a condition that occurred long enough ago that no one remembered exactly what happened. No one is saying that all late reported injuries are fake, just that the incidence of fake injuries drastically increases with the length of time that ielapses between reporting and the supposed time of the injury. The ocassional case of honest late reporting does not make up for the majority which are engineered to take advantage of the system.

  • DMac

    TC – I must respond to your post bluntly and hope I do it in a respectful way. I am employeed in a manufacturing capacity as a Safety Professional. In my prior life, I was an underground coal miner, who are much like construction or manufacturing workers in attitude. However, moving on the other side of the coin I have learned that their (and Mine) attitudes are ignorant (I don’t mean that as an insult – I mean in the manner of “they just don’t understand”). And it is just as you say – reporting incidents can bring on that type of response. I only wish to sell you on the notion that All accidents are preventable, provided the hazards are known. If they aren’t reported, they aren’t known, and they tend to repeat themselves day after day, hour by hour. That is our job to educate and hold supervision and employees accountable to report hazards, and by hazards, I mean anything that can get an employee hurt (near miss/cut/scratch, etc.). As you say, this will take a lot of time and effort, and at the beginning there will be many reportings. However, the more hazards investigated and eliminated, the less reports you will have – it’s called the “Investigators Paradox”. My current industry was once considered one where a cut or scratch is expected, reporting was frowned upon. It has turned 180 degrees – it is a challenge for our employees to find reporting opportunities. It has taken a lot of time to turn this around, but I would not trade it for the world. It can be done, but the attitude has to change and it has to be led and expected by Management. What gets managed gets done….

  • Jason

    @ TC

    It is your duty to report any injuries, no matter how minor, because what was a minor injury to you today, may not be so minor to the next guy tomorrow. We require all injuries, no matter how minor, be reported. With a company of just over 100 employees, I am not drowning in accident reports.