We are all too aware of the economic circumstances. Some of us are walking in our doors every morning knowing we have to cut costs—and possibly have to lay someone off or be laid off ourselves. All of this uncertainty leads to increased stress in the work environments for many workers.
This brings us back to making sure we are watching costs, especially in the area of safety and workers’ compensation. If ever there was a time to focus in this area, the time is now. Good people—those who we would never think would do anything questionable—will often switch to survival mode when their livelihood is threatened. Don’t think this is true?
This February, The New York Times ran an article about the effects of recessions on the workplace, giving this example. “On June 1, 1991, a jeans manufacturer named Big Yank shut an Oklahoma factory employing 225 workers. As the plant closed, the employees filed nearly 400 workers’ compensation claims for injuries on the job, despite having filed only six in the previous year.” I’m sure that not all of these people were “of questionable character” in normal times, and many probably had legitimate claims.
As an employer, what can you do? In short, focus, focus, focus. Regardless of the stress, it is too costly to not be vigilant managing workers’ compensation costs. Here are some tips to help you stay attentive.
- Insurance carriers manage claim files and money, not medical care, and at times focus on the wrong area for cost savings. Your company is responsible for the effective management of a claim.
- Begin managing injuries from the time of the injury, including investigation of the injury with a proper and timely medical evaluation.
- Choose claim battles wisely. In Illinois, employees win significantly more of these battles than employers.
- Focus on maintaining a drug-free workplace. Seventy-one percent of all illicit drug users over the age of 18 are employed full-time and have significantly higher injury rates than their non-drug-using counterparts.
- Focus on workplace morale. Little things matter. Let employees know what their status is and what it might be in the near-future. Remind employees of their value to the company. Having a small contest and giving the winner a lunch coupon is one way to work on morale with little cost involved. Remember, the most predictive factor in the claim of a work-related injury is an employee-employer conflict in the workplace. Also, at a time when your workforce may be shrinking, maintaining or improving morale in the workplace can increase productivity by 30 percent.
- Finally, make sure that your medical provider specializes in workers’ compensation. Generalists and family practitioners are wonderful for your workers to see for non-work-related issues. However, when family doctors are treating stress-related issues and providing general family care, it is unfair and unwise to have them make work-related decisions for the worker, especially in these times. iBi