Workers compensation is a form of insurance designed to help employees recover from injuries sustained in the workplace. While each state has different laws pertaining to workers compensation, benefits typically include paying for medical expenses, death benefits, lost wages, and rehabilitation services.
Despite the amount of preventative actions a company may take, accidents do and will always happen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “More than 1.1 million injuries happened in the workplace in 2011, with an average recuperation time of 8 days.”
Keeping workers safe on the job is one of the biggest expenses for employers; a large portion of the company budget goes to informing and training employees on safe work practices as well as reviewing facilities and making any necessary changes. Below, we’ve summarized helpful tips for employers dealing with workers compensation claims and how best to prevent them from occurring again.
Small Injuries, Big Problems
More than 80 percent of injuries are “inconsequential,” and usually only require first aid treatment or a quick visit to the doctor. However, if the frequency of minor injuries is not addressed, a more severe claim is likely to follow. It is important to treat minor injuries as seriously as major injuries. The top 5 injuries of all major claims are: 1. Strains and sprains: 30% 2. Cuts or punctures: 19 % 3. Contusions: 12 % 4. Inflammation: 5 % 5. Fractures: 5 % There are certainly cases where claims are recurring due to a pattern of specific employees or within hazardous industries. Certain workers will be more apt to injury. For example, employees who are older tend to experience more issues than others, and depending on their health, may take longer to recover. Remember that some reported claims may be fraudulent; it is important to recognize a pattern of problems with employees and address them carefully and as necessary. Almost all injuries are a result of unsafe acts and not always unsafe conditions. Unfortunately, even if all workplace hazards are eliminated, injuries will always still occur.
Get the Dirt
Collecting an insufficient amount of information is a dangerous risk to take. Be sure to keep detailed notes throughout the internal investigation surrounding an accident and ensure all statements are signed. Take immediate steps to preserve evidence and secure the accident scene, such as taking pictures or creating diagrams. Doing the “homework” is an essential part of understanding a claim, and remaining informed of the incident(s) and subsequent claim(s) is one of the best things you, as an employer, can do.
Clear and consistent communication is key for a successful work environment in general, so it is no surprise that communication is just as important when dealing with worker’s compensation. Many common issues and misunderstandings associated with workers’ comp can be traced back to employer silence. For example:
- Employers and business owners should be communicating with the affected worker. Handling claims properly means being in the know; employees should be working with their employer rather than a lawyer. In order to reassure workers, make sure you’re able to answer their most pressing questions regarding how to proceed, what they can expect, and how their case will play out.
- 46% of employees incorrectly assume their employer is contesting their claims. A recent survey found that 46% of workers who filed claims also hired lawyers because they assumed their claims were being contested, even though that was not the case. Keep employees updated along the way in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Understand what’s required throughout the claims process. Not knowing what to do or what happened is not an excuse to avoid the responsibility that comes with supporting an employee. Communicate with workers in order to offer solutions to any issues that may arise.
Overall, the most frequent causes of workplace injuries are the mishandling of materials, slips and falls, colliding with and being hit by an object, accidents with tools, and overuse or strain of the body. This may seem like a daunting, inevitable list, but these are some of the best ways to prevent the likelihood of injuries. A good first step in reducing claims begins with the hiring process. It’s important to hire employees who are mentally and physically fit for the job. As a hiring employer, be sure you’re providing accurate job descriptions with a detailed list of the physical demands of the job. Other things to consider implementing in the workplace are:
- A swift response process that reports injuries immediately.
- Have a triage nurse or first aid professional available if your budget allows for it.
- Enforce a workplace safety program.
- Develop an effective communication strategy to enable employees and employers to speak with each other often and easily, and to be on the same page with regard to accident treatment.
As with all reports involving monetary or rehabilitation compensation, false workers comp claims might be made. It can be difficult to pinpoint whether a claim is legitimate; there’s a fine line between wrongly accusing an employee of fabricating an accident and accepting a claim with doubts about its authenticity. Reducing false claims can be accomplished in several different ways, such as by utilizing in-house video surveillance, pre-employment and post-accident drug screenings, and anonymous tip lines where other employees can report exaggerated or fraudulent claims. Leadership and injury prevention go hand-in-hand. A good leader promotes, emits, and maintains a secure atmosphere and does not hesitate to take action on behalf of his or her employees. The best kind of leadership often results in job satisfaction and pride in one’s work. These play a big role in preventing workplace accidents. An employee who feels respected and valued will take more care in completing their job requirements, and will not feel hesitant to approach their employer in the event of an accident. If you need help determining the best options for your organizational safety plan, contact us for more information.
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