HR Support on Death of an Employee

Editor's Note: Prepare for and respond appropriately to an employee's death.

Melissa BoyceOverview: Regardless of whether an employee dies at work or away from work, an employer must be prepared to handle the situation. Employers should have a plan in place before such an event occurs.

When an employee dies at work, there are many things an employer needs to do. Generally, an at-work fatality must be reported to federal OSHA, or a state branch if the workplace is located in a state with its own OSH plan, within eight hours of the event. If the death was the result of an accident, there should be an investigation to determine what caused the accident and how it can be avoided in the future. If the death was caused by something outside of the employer's control, such as a heart attack, workplace procedures should still be evaluated to ensure the employer took the best possible measures to save the employee. For instance:

  • Were emergency responders contacted promptly?
  • Was someone within the vicinity trained in CPR or the use of an AED?

No matter where the death took place, the employer should arrange support and counseling for its employees. Arrangements should also be made to support the deceased employee's family and to ensure the family properly receives the employee's last paycheck and any other benefits or compensation to which the employee is entitled.

Trends: Stress and unhealthy living have led to an increase in heart related deaths, especially for women. Offering a wellness program can help employees get healthier and live longer.

Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor

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