A lot of attention is paid to handling workers compensation injuries. However, the least expensive workers’ comp claim is the workers’ comp claim that ever happens. It is important for organizations to make injury prevention equal in priority to quality and production.
Losses will occur
It is recognized that certain industries and professions have high risk of injury due to the nature of the operation. Coal mining always has the danger of collapse, black lung disease, and blasting operations.
Fire fighters never know when a floor will give way in a burning structure. Medical providers are subjected to many communicable situations, needle sticks, and out of control patients. While injuries are somewhat inevitable with these exposures, organizations need to have protocols that limit the occurrence, severity, and exposure. Further, despite the best of plans anything can happen at any time for any reason.
The best place to start is by reviewing your loss history. How, when, where, and why did the loss occur? What was the severity of the injury? How often do the same type injuries occur? Are there any patterns such as Monday Morning injuries, pre-vacation or holiday occurrences? Was the loss caused by human failure? Was there any equipment failure? Was the employee’s health a factor? Was the employee properly trained in proper performance at the highest safety standard? Was the loss caused by an outside influence?
Since the list of reasons and questions concerning losses can be extensive, it is best that the loss review be conducted by a committee. The committee should include a person knowledgeable in the industry safety standards, an employee working in the injury causing area, management, and a union representative if applicable.
Most insurance carriers have loss prevention services available. They are generally free as the service is part of the overall insurance program. If you have such service available, the insurance company loss engineer should be added as a member of the loss review committee.
Federal and State governments have a myriad of work safety programs. However, while these agencies may profess to be of assistance in solving issues, they have a vested and sometimes mandated interest in looking for violations and non-compliance to law or regulation. Should the agent find a problem, the employer is more likely to be penalized, fined or even imprisoned. Any help they claim should be viewed with jaundice eye and used with extreme caution.
As issues are uncovered review the operating procedures. Is the equipment state of art? What are the ergonomic needs? Is employee experience and training proper for safe operation? Is the employee physically and mentally capable to do the job safely? Should there be periodic breaks or rest periods?
Is the environment (heat, light, and air-conditioning) proper and conducive to safe productive operation? Is safety equipment state of the art and in properly maintained?
When the operation is out doors does the employee have proper dress and equipment for elements? When the employee is working at various locations have they been schooled to watch for animals, suspicious activities, hazards of sun, wind, rain, snow, ice, and defective properties? Are their vehicles proper for the job and well equipped and maintained?
Set the policy
Once the initial studies are complete, and remedies are made, the next step is to set the policy in writing. Have each employee and manager trained in any new procedures and sign off on the policy.After that constant vigilance and monitoring is a must. Use trade journals, and other industry sources to keep abreast of new changes and ideas.
A focus will be necessary to engage the employees for cooperation and compliance, and reward or discipline must be part of the program. Consider compliance a part of job performance and evaluation.
When a loss does occur it is necessary to have protocols in writing that address first aid, assignment and transportation to medical facilities. Medical triage should be immediate to determine necessary treatment, disability, alternate employment and any assistance needed by the employee to speed recovery.
Prevention and reduction of losses are subjects filled with many challenges. It takes a committee and team approach to discover the problems and determine methods to reduce and eliminate injuries. It is strongly recommended that the employer enlist professional engineers in safety, mechanics, environment, and other areas necessary to assist in addressing pertinent issues.
Author Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center, which offers the Certified Master of Workers’ Compensation national designation.
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