By Mark Walls, Workers’ Compensation Market Research Leader, Marsh
When people think of workers’ compensation loss control services, they typically think of things designed to prevent slips and falls. Twenty-years ago when I handled claims for a department store, loss control was pretty simple. We used to walk around checking to ensure that the table skirting was not dragging on the floor and that other trip hazards were out of harm’s way.
Today, while loss control programs are still about preventing slips and falls, they have evolved into incredibly complex and sophisticated programs that go well beyond what was seen a few years ago. Present day loss control programs are customized to help companies achieve the maximum return on investment and are monitored to ensure they have the desired effect of reducing workers’ compensation costs.
Examples of key components of a “best practices” workers’ compensation loss control program include:
A good assessment of a loss prevention program looks at the big picture to determine gaps. This includes reviewing existing safety programs from the top down to ensure the intent of the program is being carried out properly throughout the organization. One important element of this is an independent assessment of employee perceptions of the safety program. This will determine whether established safety rules are actually being strictly enforced in the field, and whether employees are encouraged to report safety issues.
A lot of science goes into a properly designed work station. Some simple changes not only can reduce the likelihood of injuries, but it also can increase the efficiency and productivity of one’s workforce. A proper ergonomic review includes tasks such as videotaping the job, interviewing the employees and other stakeholders, and measuring the workstation and cycle times.
Fleet and Driver Safety
Fleet safety is more than just trucks. If employees are traveling on the road, regardless of whether in a company vehicle or their own, the inherent risks associated with this need to be addressed by the loss control program. Essential elements of a fleet safety program include a focus on accident and injury prevention, driver training, and ensuring compliance with all state and federal rules on hours of service. Look for driver training programs that focus on actual behind-the-wheel training instead of just relying on computer simulations.
A safety program is only effective if it becomes part of the company culture. Behavioral training focuses on integrating best practices into the workforce by not only demonstrating appropriate behaviors, but also enhancing the understanding of the entire loss prevention program to ensure the proper commitment from both management and the workforce.
OSHA has been very aggressive in the investigation of workplace safety issues, and the fines associated with their efforts can be staggering. It is extremely important that employers have a full understanding of all OSHA compliance issues and independent audits to ensure compliance. It’s better to spend a little money now verifying compliance than spending a lot more later in fines for non-compliance.
Post-Offer / Pre-Employment Physical Testing
It is very important that new hires are able to meet the physical requirements of the job. The best way to ensure this is to conduct post-offer / pre-employment physical testing. The first step is a detailed, independent assessment of the physical requirements of the various jobs, capturing all of the essential elements. By ensuring that your workforce can perform the essential physical requirements of their jobs, the risk of workplace injuries can be significantly reduced.
Dealing with an aging workforce involves more than just increasing the print size on postings. Repetitive injures become more acute in an older workforce because their bodies are less resilient to daily wear-and-tear. The realities of the natural human degenerative process places an even greater emphasis on ergonomic issues. Those little daily strains will manifest themselves into work injuries much quicker with an older workforce.
Return to Work Program
While most think of a return to work program as a post-loss strategy, in reality an effective program starts before the injury occurs. The job assessments used for the post-offer / pre-employment testing gives you the starting point by accurately identifying the physical requirements of each job. From there, you determine what reasonable modifications could be made to these jobs in order to meet potential work restrictions. You also need to develop temporary modified jobs to address the restrictions usually associated with your most common injury types.
The cheapest workers’ compensation claims are always the ones that never occur. That’s why one of the best methods of reducing your workers’ compensation total cost of risk is to minimize the chance of inherent claims from happening with a customized and state of the art loss control program.
About Mark Walls
Mark Walls is the workers’ compensation market research leader for Marsh. As part of the firm’s Workers’ Compensation Center of Excellence, he assists Marsh clients nationwide on a variety of workers’ compensation issues. Mark is also the founder of the Work Comp Analysis Group on LinkedIn, which is the largest discussion community dedicated to workers’ compensation issues.
Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and risk management, teams with its clients to define, design, and deliver innovative industry-specific solutions that help them protect their future and thrive. It has approximately 26,000 colleagues who collaborate to provide advice and transactional capabilities to clients in over 100 countries. Marsh is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC).