After talking about Zero Injuries and different strategies to avoid injuries altogether over the last 3 weeks, now we’re entering new territory. Even the most conservative estimates from the most conservative safety experts state that 2% of workplace injuries are completely unavoidable. In other words, no matter how hard you try for zero injuries, one is bound to happen sooner or later.
There was an accident at work and an employee was injured. What happens next will determine the ultimate outcome and how it will impact your bottom line. When an employer complains about an injury, they often start by telling me how upset they are that the employee did not notify anyone until sometime later. When an employee is injured and doesn’t immediately report the injury, whose fault is it? There are only two choices; it must be either the employee or the employer.
Why do we care about the timeliness in which a claim is reported? That is a good question. Here are some facts and figures from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI):
- Sprain or strain injuries account for nearly half of all claims. Other common injuries are fractures, contusions and lacerations. These four injury types account for over 70% of all claims.
- The median cost of a sprain or strain injury reported in Week 4 is about 70% higher than the cost of a similar claim reported in Week 1.
- The median cost for fractures, which are generally reported quickly, contrasts with sprains and strains.
- The median cost for contusions and lacerations tracks more closely with that of sprains and strains.
- Overall, delayed injury reporting can increase workers comp claims costs by up to 51%.
- The number of claims involving an attorney increases almost 250% between Day 1 and Week 4.
The correlation between the reporting lag and claim costs is easy to understand. The longer it takes to report, the higher the overall cost. Higher overall costs impact your business in many ways. You have your actual costs such as higher premiums due to increases in your EMR and you have your soft costs such as hiring & training replacement workers, lost productivity and costs to clean up, repair or replace damaged equipment and machinery, the list goes on.
In order to ensure that injuries are reported promptly, it is imperative to communicate your expectations up front with every employee. When should this happen? It should be part of your on boarding process. If your goal is to have a safe workplace and have your employees return home in at least the same condition in which they arrived at work, tell them!
Every employee should understand how everything works in relation to an injury or illness in the workplace. Start with communicating your expectations by implementing an ‘HR Policy Relating to Injury’. Some of the topics to include are:
- Incurring a Work-Related Injury
- Your Injury & Treatment
- Lost Time & Wages
- Understanding the Waiting Period
Finish by explaining what happens if the policy is not followed and have each employee sign off just as you would any other important HR form. A sample ‘HR Policy Relating to Injury’ is just one of the many items included in the Conquering Zero guidebook to assist you with HR compliance.
It should be a condition of employment that all injuries are reported before the end of day in which the injury occurs, even if the employee thinks they will “feel better tomorrow”. Even an event that might result in an injury needs to be reported. Be transparent about the process. How an injury or potential injury is handled is an opportunity for you demonstrate that you care. Foster an environment within your organization in which your employees are comfortable coming to you with this information up front instead of being fearful they will get be in trouble for their possible contribution to their injury.
Eliminating reporting delays is just the first step in an effective cost containment strategy related to workplace injuries. I will be back next week to dive deeper and share information on other steps such as immediate medical care, utilizing the right providers and the benefits of accommodating restrictions. Questions in the interim?! Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
About the Author:
Ray Gage, Director of WalkerHughes Allen County Office, is a Master Work Comp Advisor who's passion and life's work is to help sophisticated, process-oriented businesses create safe, healthy, productive workplaces, and as a result, more profitable firms. For more information on Automate Safety along with the other tools offered by WalkerHughes to assist in your quest for Zero Injuries, contact Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 260-627-3641 with any questions or inquiries.