Workers’ compensation insurance can be one of the largest employee-related expenditures for many businesses. Some companies see their premiums increase each year because accidents, many times the same types of accidents, continue to occur. By developing and implementing an effective plan, this trend can be reversed and your workers’ compensation costs greatly reduced.
The following steps have proven to be successful to many organizations in decreasing the severity and frequency of accidents and their associated expenses:
Have an active accident prevention program. An accident prevention program involves identifying the cause(s) of accidents and developing and implementing corrective actions to prevent future occurrences. This can be a simple process or become very involved, depending on the nature of your business and the types of accidents you are having. Once your program has been developed, it must be communicated effectively to your employees. Your program will not be successful unless your employees understand and support it and realize that the program is totally backed by the management team.
Investigate all accidents/incidents. Investigation is an integral part of any accident prevention program. Until you know why and how accidents happen, you will not be able to prevent them from recurring. All accidents should be investigated, even if they do not result in claims. The supervisor or manager and the injured employee should be interviewed. If there were any witnesses, you will want to talk with them as well. The accident scene should be thoroughly examined so that you fully understand why the accident occurred. The investigation should be documented and the documentation retained. Your investigations should focus in three areas: physical conditions, behaviors, and programs/training.
Develop corrective actions. Once you fully understand the details of why and how an accident happened, you will be able to address the cause and develop conclusions on prevention of future accidents. This could be a simple decision on your part or require a team to decide on the best course of action. For instance, the work process may need to be changed or equipment may need to be modified. You should move quickly on developing your corrective actions. Most employees like to know their company cares about them – your decisive leadership in accident prevention will positively affect employee morale.
File accident reports quickly. As soon as your employee has obtained any needed initial medical care, complete the First Report of Injury form and file it with your insurance carrier. The insurance carrier will evaluate the claim and follow any continuing medical treatment so that the employee may return to work as soon as possible. Accident reports should always be completed by the employer, never by the employee. If you are not sure an accident is truly work-related or if it was caused by another party like a subcontractor, be sure to let your work comp carrier know. It is the insurance carrier’s job to make the final determination in cases such as this.
Stay in contact. You need to remain involved with a claim after it is filed and in contact with the employee during their absence. By frequently talking with the employee and providing updates on their claim, they will feel that you are interested in their health and well-being. Keep in touch with the insurance carrier to ensure that the claim is being handled properly and in a timely manner; this will also help you spot any errors. It may also be necessary for you to work with the employee’s doctor. You need to know how the employee’s recovery is progressing and that they are receiving proper medical care. If the employee experiences any difficulties with medical care, payment of medical bills, or other problems resulting from the injury, you may need to function as a liaison to assist them. If an employee is able to work while recovering, you need to be sure that they observe any restrictions given by the doctor and that they return for follow-up appointments as needed.
Establish a relationship with a medical provider. It will be very helpful for you to find a physician or medical clinic that specializes in occupational medicine. They understand the demands of a workplace and the importance of getting your employees back to work. It is a good idea for the doctor to visit your workplace and become familiar with your processes and jobs. Whenever there is a non-life threatening injury, your company should send your employees to the same doctor for treatment whenever possible. Your business and employees will benefit by developing a good relationship with an occupational medical provider. Be sure to check your state’s work comp laws regarding medical treatment as they may specify the use of a designated medical network or have other requirements.
Develop a transitional return-to-work program. Before the employee is completely recovered, they may be able to work on a restricted or what is commonly referred to as light duty basis. Depending on the doctor’s advice, the employee could work in another job or work their current position with restricted duties, such as no heavy lifting. If they are able to perform the essential duties of a position without causing a hardship in the workplace, they should be allowed to return to work. Lost time incidents have a negative effect on insurance premiums, so returning someone to work as soon possible can have a positive impact on the outcome of the claim. To best take advantage of a return-to-work program, you will need to identify the jobs or tasks where employees may work with restrictions, which should be done prior to injuries occurring.
Create safety awareness and involvement. No accident prevention program is complete without an emphasis on safety awareness and involvement. In addition to governmental regulatory standards and training, such as emergency action plans and lockout/tagout, many companies do additional training to create a higher awareness of safety. For instance, consider conducting monthly safety training meetings on topics like proper lifting techniques or steps for hot weather protection. You should consider forming a safety committee to assist in accident investigations and to complete monthly walk-throughs of your facility to identify safety hazards. Incorporate intense safety training into your new employee orientations. At some businesses, new employees account for a large number of accidents. Additionally, supervisors should be held accountable for safety on their performance appraisals.
By following these basic principles employers can see significant results in reducing the frequency of workplace injuries and improvements in worker behavior and commitment to the the overall performance of the company. If you would ever like assistance in implementing such a program in your workplace feel free to contact us any time.