We’re all too aware of the economic circumstances since the pandemic disrupted our lives and our workplaces. Some of us come in every morning knowing we have to cut costs or may need to lay someone off—or be laid off ourselves. This economic uncertainty leads to increased stress in the work environment for most, if not all, workers.
Hopefully, with the development of new vaccines and the slow crawl towards normalcy, some of this uncertainty will subside soon. Yet even when the pandemic is in our rearview mirrors, we’ll still need to manage costs in safety and workers’ compensation. We should never let our guard down, especially in times like this. Good people—those we never thought would do anything questionable—may transition to survival mode when their livelihood is threatened.
Don’t you think it’s true?
Several years ago, a blue jeans manufacturer in Oklahoma decided to close its doors. Two hundred and twenty-five workers were thrown out of work. As the operation wound down, employees filed nearly 400 workers’ compensation claims. In 1990, only six injuries were reported. Now, I’m confident this wasn’t some wild, motley-crew workforce—surely some of these claims were legit. However, uncertain times that threaten people’s livelihoods can lead to desperate behavior. As an employer, what can you do?
Whether it’s the best of times or the worst, one word says it all: focus. Regardless of the times, you must remain vigilant in managing workers’ compensation costs. Here are some tips to help you stay attentive:
- Remember: most insurance carriers manage claim files and money—not medical care. They may focus on the wrong area to reduce costs. Your company is responsible for the effective management of a claim.
- Begin managing injuries aggressively from the first report of the injury, including the injury investigation with a proper and timely medical evaluation.
- Choose claim battles wisely. In Illinois, employees win significantly more of these battles than employers.
- Maintain 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. The single most predictive factor in the claim of a work-related injury is an employee-
- employer conflict in the workplace. At a time when your workforce may be shrinking, maintaining or improving morale in the workplace can increase productivity by 30 percent. Little things matter. Let employees know their work status and what it might be in the near-future. Routinely remind employees of their value to the company.
- Finally, make sure your medical provider specializes in workers’ compensation. Generalists and family practitioners are wonderful for your workers to treat and manage non-work-related issues. However, when family doctors treat stress-related matters and apply general family care practices to a work-related scenario, the results may be less than optimal, and costs can spiral out of control. PM