What are the Best Things to do After an Accident at Work?

L. Burgoon

The period immediately following an accident at work may determine the victim’s survival as well as the overall accident investigation and any compensation owed. Among the best things to do, victims must first ensure their own safety and seek medical assistance. If able, take note of coworkers present in case their statements are needed to prove liability later, and consider seeking legal advice. Witnesses should notify emergency services and supervisors as necessary, and should immediately jot down notes about the event in case they are questioned later. All accidents also must be reported to the company and, if applicable, the union.

Minor injuries are common in the workplace.
Minor injuries are common in the workplace.

A person involved an accident at work must first look out for himself. Move away from the scene if able, or call immediately to nearby colleagues for help. Do not hesitate to request medical attention if there are any injuries. Obtain a medical exam soon after the event even if emergency medical assistance is not necessary. Doing so will help document any injuries for an insurance claim or if the accident at work evolves into a lawsuit.

Obtain a medical exam as soon as possible after the accident, even if emergency attention is not necessary.
Obtain a medical exam as soon as possible after the accident, even if emergency attention is not necessary.

Be sure to take note of who witnessed the incident and either write down the names or relay this information to a trusted source. Witnesses can be vital to an investigation or liability determination. Victims can ask coworkers for their recollections, but a better course of action in a contested accident case is to have an attorney or union representative question witnesses.

In the aftermath of an accident at work, consider seeking legal advice. This precaution can protect the accident victim from improper responses from management, including misplaced blame for the incident, or denying benefits, such as short-term disability leave. An attorney also can help the worker navigate tasks such as an accident settlement, a workers' compensation claim, or pursuing a lawsuit.

Witnesses to an accident at work should first ensure the safety of the injured party. This means immediately contacting emergency services. Return to the victim and provide emotional support while waiting for medical assistance. If possible, attend to any injuries, such as an open wound, with workplace first aid supplies. Seek advice from the emergency operator to see what actions are appropriate given the situation.

Accident-at-work observers also should promptly contact a supervisor. Managers usually are trained in how to act following an accident at work, so take their lead. If there isn’t a supervisor on site, reach one by phone as soon as possible.

After the victim is taken care of and supervisors have been contacted, the best action for witnesses is to write down all the facts about what they observed. Record any warning signs of the impending accident such as careless actions by coworkers, faulty equipment, or hazardous conditions. Describe in writing exactly what was witnessed during the accident itself, and note any other coworkers present. Supervisors, union representatives, or attorneys may later request this information; recollections are usually more accurate when recorded immediately.

An accident at work also must be officially reported to the company and to the union if it is a unionized workplace. Many jurisdictions require companies to keep an incident report log where the accident will be registered and reported to government agencies. Notifying the employee union is recommended because it will act to protect the victim, possibly offering legal services or advice on insurance claims.

A person involved in a workplace accident should move away from the scene or call for help.
A person involved in a workplace accident should move away from the scene or call for help.

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Discussion Comments


After I fell off a defective ladder at work, I had to spend a few days in the hospital for a fractured hip and several weeks in a physical rehabilitation center. I wasn't really thinking about my legal options, but a workplace injury lawyer came into the rehabilitation center and discussed some options. I wasn't looking to sue my company for a lot of money, but I knew having an accident at work usually meant compensation.

I filed an accident at work claim with my health insurance company and also looked into a workman's compensation claim. My company actually offered me private compensation so I wouldn't file a negligence lawsuit against them. I decided that all I really wanted was my job back and a safer ladder.


One thing I needed to know after my accident at work was would I be able to return to my current position. The accident caused a lot of damage to my back, and my job requires a lot of heavy lifting. I asked my doctor and my physical therapist about potential restrictions when I finally did get back to work.

As it turned out, I can only do very light lifting, so the company transferred me to a supervisory position in the warehouse office.

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