Tips for Reducing Workers' Comp Costs

A workers' compensation expert tells employers to be aware of the toll workers' comp claims can take on companies, and suggests steps to minimize employee injuries.

If you''re not in an industry where a slip-and-fall injury is at the forefront of your mind, you might not think that workers'' comp costs are something to worry about.

But as a manager, you should be aware of the toll workers'' comp claims can take on your company, and take steps, however small they might be, to minimize employee injuries.

William Walley of WorkComp.com provides the following suggestions to reduce workers'' comp costs:

Prevent the injury. This is the ultimate cost-reduction solution. Work-related injuries and illnesses represent a failure of the preventive process. Actively support your company''s safety, health and ergonomics program and remind employees that you''re always open to their ideas. Such actions will reduce claims. Also make sure that all accidents, injuries and occupational illnesses are investigated, and that you take an active role in identifying and correcting unsafe behavior through proper training in safety and health, including ergonomics.

Develop good relationships. Workers'' comp claims are less frequent, less costly and require less administrative time in companies with good employee/employer relations. Malcontent employees working in an environment of hostility, unhappiness, suspicion and distrust will invariably file more claims. Managers are the keys to good employee relations.

Discourage the need for attorneys. Help ensure that your company is providing explicit instructions, verbally and in writing, to new employees regarding accident and injury reporting. If not, bring it up to upper management. Simple questions regarding medical services, drugs, physical therapy, weekly benefits, appointment times, costs associated with fraud and job status are often not addressed by the employer.

Issues can invalidate claims. Employees may occasionally have a circumstance surrounding a claim that makes the claim invalid. Let your employer know if you suspect drug or alcohol use; falsification of medical history; the injury is the result of failure to use required personal protective equipment; the claim is fraudulent; the claim is based on an underlying, often degenerative, condition with symptoms surfacing while in the workplace; the claim is from a preexisting condition previously settled with lifelong medical benefits but which is exacerbated by some simple task or job or is spontaneous.

Temporary alternative duties. Employees who are kept on the job by using modified work invariably recover more quickly, are not as likely to experience delayed recovery and consume less workers'' comp dollars. For the program to be effective, employees need to be educated regarding TAD and its benefits to them personally, such as quicker recovery, preserved wages and specific employer benefits. Managers have the obligation to rigorously adhere to the physician''s recommendations for restricted duty.

by Melissa Martin

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