The Price of Doing Business

December 13, 2000
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Knowing the law will help you run your business effectively.

“The price of greatness is responsibility,” Winston Churchill once said. Had Churchill been a businessman, he might have said, “The price of doing business is responsibility.” This is true of all businesses, including those that may deal with independent contractors or firms on a daily basis.

Knowing what the law requires regarding injuries, illness, and disability helps to define your responsibility as an employer and can help you to more effectively run your business.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers detailed guidelines on injury and illness record keeping that help employers understand what responsibility they may or may not have to an employee in the event of injury or illness.

The first step in taking responsibility as an employer is to first identify what accountability, if any, you have to your employee. To do this, you must first distinguish between your employees and other workers that you may have on site.

The government requires that you maintain injury and illness records for your employees at each of your establishments. As an employer, you are not responsible for maintaining records for employees that have come to you from outside firms or independent contractors. This holds true even if such employees are working on site when the injury or exposure to illness occurs.

Knowing who does and does not fall under your care helps to define your relationship to your employee, and also helps you to decide what case is to be recorded.

It is the employer who must decide, based on good faith, what cases are to be entered into record.

The decision of the employer to record a case of illness or injury should be based on information from medical, hospital, or the supervisor’s records. An employee may be interviewed in order to give his employer a better understanding of both his medical condition and his ability to perform the usual job requirements.

After deciding whether or not the case is going to be recorded, the next step is to determine what the result of the recorded case will be. Cases need to be classified into different categories. These categories, along with criteria for determining whether or not a case should be recorded, can be found in OSHA’s report.

There is a system of checks and balances in injury and illness record keeping that will actually help your company run smoother.

By allowing employees to review injury and illness records, you help to maintain the accuracy of the records.

The recording of company injury and illness history enables you to increase health and safety on the job, eventually eliminating work hazards.

Another act that employers should be aware of is The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). It states that it is “unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability.”

In order to be protected under the ADA, the employee must have proof of a major as opposed to an insignificant impairment.

The employee must first meet all the requirements of the job position and demonstrate that they can perform the essential job duties on their own or with reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodation is defined by the ADA as a change or adjustment that allows a qualified employee to perform the essential duties of a job and reap the same benefits of employment as a non-disabled employee.

ADA offers its own guidelines as to what employment practices are covered under the act and criteria for situations that may arise.

After all is said and done, the end result is not simply that you have met the regulations or followed the rules. The end result is that you have better defined your relationship with your employee and have established an understanding of the place you hold in positively supporting what your employee has to offer.

SIDEBAR

More information on this topic can be found by visiting the following web sites:

OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) Record Keeping Guidelines can be found at: http://www.osha.gov

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/ada18.html

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