Most states require workers’ compensation insurance, but that doesn’t mean you want to use it. Multiple claims lead to higher premiums and possible fines from your workplace safety agency. Also, indifference to worker safety does nothing for your employees’ morale and desire to perform their best work!
Fortunately, workers’ compensation claims are preventable. It is never too late to build a safety culture and a hazard-free workplace. Here are five ways to prevent workers’ compensation claims.
Create a Safer Environment
This one is the no-brainer on this list. The only reason an employee sustained an injury is that there was an unsafe condition in your office.
Many people think dangerous conditions are limited to labor environments, like construction, machinery, and other physical labor industries. However, offices can also produce hazards. Examples of unsafe office conditions include:
- Nonergonomic workspaces: Your employees who spend most of their time on a keyboard need an ergonomic workspace. That means the computer monitors and keyboards are the correct heights, and your employee has a chair that fits them. If they cannot reach the floor, you provide a footrest. Without these adjustments, your employee can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other repetitive stress and overexertion injuries covered by workers’ comp.
- Slip and fall hazards: Slip and falls are the third most expensive workers’ compensation claims. Your employees can slip and fall on the loose carpet, exposed cords, spilled liquids, or ice and snow at your front door. Injuries from a slip and fall include sprains, strains, fractures, and even head injuries.
- Damaged furniture: Many small agency owners try to save money by making office equipment last as long as possible. But this can be a dangerous situation with furniture. Wobbling bookshelves, teetering desks, and flimsy chairs all threaten injury to your workers.
- Poor lighting and security: Winter working days often conclude in the dark, even with a 5:00 PM closing. Employees risk assault and battery in dark parking lots if you do not provide lighting and security cameras. Both measures are proven crime preventatives, and exposing employees leads to liability.
If you notice any of these unsafe conditions, address them. Replace damaged or old furniture with new, more sturdy pieces. Consult with an ergonomic specialist to redesign workspaces that fit your employees.
Finally, take a hard look at your building security. Lighting and cameras are important, but so are effective locks and doors that close. While these conditions may seem small and annoying, they can expose your employees to danger and make your office a theft target.
Create a Culture of Safety
A culture of safety will help you stay on top of potential hazards. That requires an open atmosphere where employees can talk openly about concerns without judgment. It can be difficult to hear how your office isn’t safe for work, but that feedback is essential for avoiding claims.
If you wish to stop hazards before they hurt someone, here is how to get started:
- Encourage open communication: Do not belittle or question employee concerns. That approach prevents solutions and could be used against you in a workers’ compensation case. Set up a reporting system and consider putting one supervisor in charge of assessing safety concerns. That streamlined process feels accessible to employees and allows you to address hazards productively.
- Respond to concerns: When an employee reports a hazard, respond with a solution. For example, if an employee notices a wobbly table that could fall, replace it as soon as possible. The same is true if a worker tells you that they prefer an ergonomic “wave” keyboard over a conventional one. These adjustments could prevent an injury later, so do not consider them a waste!
- Set rules: Communicate safety rules to your staff and post them. Examples of rules can include never using extension cords, cleaning spills immediately, and do not sit on desks, tables, or counters.
- Provide correct equipment: You do not want employees climbing up shelves or using chairs as support to access the top shelf of a supply closet. Provide stepladders and stools to encourage safe reaching. If any work duties require employees to move heavy items, provide hand trucks.
Know When to Outsource
To save money, employers may sometimes have employees perform housekeeping, change lightbulbs, or help move furniture to a new office. It can reduce your expenses, but you are taking a significant risk. These activities increase the chance of injury–and workers’ compensation claims.
Hire a cleaning service and maintenance crew. Many cleaning services include maintenance tasks, like lightbulb changing and minor repairs, with their visits. Most importantly, these independent contractors have their own workers’ compensation insurance, so you are not liable for any injuries they sustain on the job (unless you are at fault.) Besides, you likely want your clerical staff and insurance adjusters working on policies and claims–not being maintenance workers or janitors.
Outsource services for large physical jobs too. Do not make employees help with an office move. Yes, have them pack up their stuff in boxes, but have a moving company handle equipment, technology, furniture, and those boxes. You do not need to risk losing an employee for weeks because of a back strain or slip and fall while moving desks.
Allow Adjustments and Flexibility
The discussion about flexible workplaces doesn’t always consider worker injury or illness. Even if your employee wasn’t injured at work, you must accommodate them, so they do not worsen their condition. Otherwise, you risk paying out workers’ compensation.
Allow flexible schedules, but allow employees to do what is within their ability. A clerical worker in a cast may not be able to type, but they could interview clients and collect information. If an employee reports limitations, follow them.
The same applies if an employee is recovering from a previous workplace injury. Do not pressure these workers to return to the office too soon or work outside their limitations. That is an excellent way to end up with two workers’ compensation claims rather than the one.
Once you and the employee agree to limitations and scheduling adjustments, put them in writing. That documents your willingness to cooperate and accommodate an employee.
Be Transparent When Hiring
You can prevent workers’ compensation claims by being transparent during hiring. If a job has lifting requirements, describe them. Keyboard work isn’t just sitting: people may have issues for long periods typing. Make sure that it is listed as a job requirement.
While you cannot prevent all injuries this way, it gives you a baseline on whether a candidate can perform the job. It also allows them to make an informed decision on whether they can handle the work.
The American Agents Alliance can guide you to make hiring decisions that help you avoid workers’ compensation claims. Our hiring and development services help you find compatible employees who can do the work. You can also use our legal hotline if workers’ compensation issues arise in your agency. Become a member today and see how we can empower you.