Study: Supervisors Play Key Role in Keeping Injury Claim Costs Down

It pays to have supervisors who know how to effectively respond to worker injuries and safety and health concerns, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, found that having supervisors who know how to address employees' work-related safety and health concerns can produce significant and sustainable reductions in future injury claims and disability costs.

The study found that supervisors who were trained to properly respond, communicate and problem-solve with employees reduced new disability claims by 47 percent and active lost-time claims by 18 percent.

The institute studied the impact of a supervisor-training program that provided education and training for both management and supervisors to help them respond better to worker injuries. The program also included suggestions for employee communication and problem-solving skills to help get injured employees back to work.

"In this study, we saw a substantial reduction in injury claim frequency and disability," said William Shaw, Ph.D., the Research Institute's lead investigation researcher. "Employers in industries with highly physical work demands can use this program to improve communication between supervisors and workers on work-related health issues."

The complete study, "Controlled Case Study of Supervisor Training to Optimize Injury Response in the Food Processing Industry," was published in the February 2006 issue of WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation.

Earlier studies from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute have shown that how a supervisor responds to work injuries influences how quickly the injured worker can return to work. In some cases, the impact of the supervisor's response on disability was more important than either the severity of the injury or the quality of medical care.

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