Is everything possible being done to protect your company from the costly impacts of workers' compensation claims? As an employer, you know that injuries will happen. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't try to prevent them by knowing the dynamics and utilizing safety strategies.
Minor Injury, Major Claim
It's the small injuries that often result in big claims. Some statistics show that 80 percent of workplace injuries are inconsequential, meaning they just require first aid or a trip to a physician.
Some research has found patterns of re-occurring claims within groups, such as among certain industries or particular groups of employees. For example, more injuries may be seen in equipment operators who don't receive proper eye screenings.
Overweight employees tend to have more injuries than those of an average weight. The healing of injuries may be longer and more difficult among certain employees.
Overexertion, meaning doing too much, too fast and too frequently, is one of the primary causes of sprain and strain injuries. This often comes from employees demanding more of their bodies than they are capable of doing. The challenge is that this is a human behavior. Studies have shown that the majority of workplace injuries are from unsafe acts, not unsafe conditions. In other words, even in the absence of workplace hazards, injuries will happen.
Additionally, there are also patterns of re-occurring fraudulent and exaggerated claims, such as an employee that seems to repeatedly have accidents.
Eight percent of such claims are sprains and strains to the neck, back and various joints. However, these types of injuries account for an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the system's costs. Major claims are likely to follow if the frequency of such seemingly inconsequential injuries is not addressed.
Falsified and Exaggerated Claims
Claims that didn't actually occur or that occurred outside the workplace are only representative of a small fraction of claims. However, employers can implement tip lines, video surveillance, drug screenings both before employment and after accidents and so forth to reduce false claims:
The larger problem is from exaggerated injuries. Employers can take these steps to address exaggerated claims:
- Get injured employees immediate and appropriate treatment.
- Even if their duties need to be temporarily modified, get injured employees back to work as quickly as possible.
- Ensure that supervisors communicate with injured employees and convey their concern and support.
- Do as much as possible to reduce the disruption that employees may face after an injury.
- Assess and address behavioral issues that could be driving an injured employee's disability.
Begin with the hiring process. Ensure that potential employees are capable of doing the physical and mental demands you've listed in the applicable job description. It's important to understand that injury prevention must be embraced at the leadership level to be effective. Some statistics show employees are most likely to have injuries when they feel their management doesn't care. You may also consider:
- Effective workplace safety programs.
- Efficient communication programs that allow your business, injured employees and insurance adjusters to easily communicate.
- A post-injury protocol, specifying the immediate reporting of an injury to appropriate personnel.
- Routing injured employees to seek medical care from a provider specializing in occupational injuries.
- Staying in touch with both the injured employee and their medical provider, making sure that your business communicate its concern and care to the employee as they recover and accommodate any physical restriction recommended by the provider upon their return.
Employers can take several routes to reduce the financial impact of claims. Transitional duty programs that enable an injured employee to continue working in some capacity as they recover would be one example. Research shows that around 40 percent of employers don't currently have a transitional duty program.
Another example would be referencing treatment guidelines to determine typical recovery times for various injuries. This information can be used to approximate how long it should take an injured employee to be treated and recover.
Employers may consider having an on-site clinic for employees to go to for both acute injuries and everyday health issues.
Partnering with a physical therapy network may be a consideration. Some research has shown that companies affiliated with physical therapy networks see injured employees returning to full-duty work 30 percent faster.
Consider Wellness Programs
Lastly, some employers are apprehensive about implementing wellness programs because they're concerned that participation itself may cause injuries. However, the risk is far outweighed by the many benefits of a wellness program, including claim-related benefits such as having injured employees heal faster and be able to resume work sooner. Remember, the success of any program comes from it being accepted from the top down.