No matter what line of work you’re in, there’s a chance that you could be injured on the job. In construction, you could fall from a high place or be struck by an object. In more white-collar environments, you could slip and fall, or be the victim of a violent act in the workplace. Common injuries across the board include overexertion, slipping, falling, being hit with an object, machine-related injuries, vehicular accidents, and repetitive motion injuries.

Almost any injury has the chance to be debilitating; it may prevent you from working, cost you thousands of dollars, and negatively affect your quality of life. Thankfully, there are safeguards in place (like workers’ compensation laws) and steps you can take to improve your life after suffering one.

What to Do After an Injury

Most workplace injuries are acute, happening as a direct result of a specific event, such as tripping and hitting your head on the ground. Others develop more gradually, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which can result after years of repetitive stress. Either way, you’ll need to follow these steps if you want to maximize your recovery:

  1. Treat any injury seriously. For the most part, any injury you obtained while on the job is compensable under workers’ compensation. Therefore, any injury you may obtain deserves to be treated seriously. Just because it doesn’t seem like a big deal isn’t a reason to brush it under the rug.

  2. Get first aid and/or treatment as soon as possible. Immediately after you receive or notice the injury, get first aid as soon as possible. For sudden or severe injuries, you may require help from a coworker or emergency assistance. For less extreme injuries, you may be able to get by with a bandage or a wrap until you can get more attentive treatment.

  3. Document everything you can. As long as you’re coherent and are in a non-emergency situation, take a moment to document everything you can. Take photos of the location of your injury and of the injury itself, and write down or record some details about how, why, when, and where the injury took place. The more information you have, the better—especially if the injury was a direct result of egregious neglect.

  4. Notify your supervisor. It’s a good idea to notify your supervisor about the injury as soon as possible—especially if you’re leaving work for the day. Each state is slightly different, but in most states, you’ll need to notify your direct supervisor about the injury’s occurrence in writing within 30 days of the initial injury. Otherwise, you may forfeit your right to workers’ compensation benefits.

  5. Complete a workers’ compensation form. After notifying your supervisor, they’ll probably work with you to complete a workers’ compensation form. Again, it’s a good idea to complete and file this form as soon as possible, to prevent the possibility of missing out on workers’ compensation benefits.

  6. Contact an attorney. If you’re concerned about getting the benefits you need to fully recover from your injury, or if you believe your injury was the direct result of egregious negligence, it’s in your best interest to contact an attorney. They’ll be able to help you understand the nature of your injury, the workers’ compensation laws that affect your claim, and any legal actions you might be able to take against your employer or other third parties. This is especially important in cases with high costs or life-changing injuries.

  7. Complete your treatment. Follow your doctors’ recommendations for treatment to accelerate your recovery. Depending on the nature of your injury, this may require time off from work or subsequent hospital visits to make sure everything is healing properly.

The Importance of Prevention

Knowing how to react to a workplace injury is important, but it’s even more important to conduct yourself in a way that prevents workplace injuries in the first place. Every day, 12 workers die on the job, resulting in 4,500 job-related fatalities per year—many of which are preventable. Committing yourself to more training, being aware of your surroundings, and taking safety precautions at all times can dramatically reduce your risk of an onsite injury, as well as the risks of the people around you.

Unfortunately, even with these precautions, accidents can happen, so be prepared for the possibility of injury while still doing your best to avoid them.