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Prevent Costly Slip and Falls!

Bookmark and Share The bad news: slips, trips, and falls are one of the nation's leading causes of workplace injuries. The good news: working with safety professionals can help prevent these accidents - and keep your Workers Compensation costs under control.

Falls on the same level (in which workers slip and fall on the surface on which they're standing) cost Workers Comp insurance companies a hefty $8.61 billion in 2010, accounting for 16.9% of their total claims. That's the word from Wayne Maynard, Manager of Technical Services and Product Development for the Loss Control Advisory Services unit of Liberty Mutual, the largest Comp carrier in the nation.

According to the Liberty Mutual 2012 Workplace Safety Index, "bodily reaction" injuries - which includes those caused by slipping or tripping without falling - represented $5.78 billion of Comp costs in 2010, or 11.4% of the overall burden,. Falls to a lower level in that year accounted for another $5.12 billion, or 10% of claims.

These costs are rising, due in part to an aging workforce (older worker tend to have more balance problems). Falls on the same level increased 42.3% from 1998 to 2010, while bodily reaction injuries increased 17.6% during this period.

You can help reduce the frequency of slips, trips, and falls by taking such ergonomic enhancements in the workplace as 1) adding slip-resistant flooring; 2) eliminating raised surfaces that might cause tripping; and 3) installing handrails on stairs. Also make sure that your employees take immediate steps to clean up spills that could create slippery floors.

Our agency's professionals would be happy to provide a complimentary "slip, trip, and fall" safety review of your premises - just give us a call.
 

Office Safety

Bookmark and Share Offices are not as safe as many people believe. There are many injuries and illnesses that workers suffer in an office environment. The amount of paper, cloth chairs, and drapes are fire hazards. Wastebaskets or chairs in hallways or walkways in the office cubicle setting are tripping hazards. Wet break room or bathroom floors cause slip and fall accidents leading to an injury. Computer users, just like others who do constant repetitive hand motions often develop carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, office automation promotes employees sitting at their desks for long stretches of time.

With these and many other situations giving rise to injury or illness, how can an employer of office workers help prevent office work related claims? There are many preventive measures to take for you and your employees.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the use of furniture or equipment designed to help workers get the correct range of motion or position while working. For instance, desk workers have chairs that adjust to the proper height, and tilt for worker comfort and good posture.

Computer keyboards slant slightly down, and users have wrist rests for their hands when using a mouse or typing on a keyboard.

Employees who sit all day need breaks to stretch their muscles. Stretching relieves muscle fatigue and a change in position prevents disorders such as carpal tunnel.

Remove or Repair Safety Hazards

Teach employees that desk and file drawers are not left open when not in use. Aisles and walkways must not have chairs, wastebaskets, or any obstacles in them. Use extension cords sparingly and then place them behind furniture next to walls to avoid them, causing workers to trip. A worker who spills something in the break room should immediately wipe the spill up. Employees should report other dangerous conditions to a manager.

Maintenance should insure that lighting works in all walkways and stairwells so that workers see and avoid falling hazards. Loose floor tiles and frayed carpeting need immediate repair -- until finished, place floor stanchions that say "caution" around the area of disrepair.

Designate a periodic "inspection" time for employees to look around the work areas and adjacent space for safety hazards.

Management and employees who work together to find hazards before they cause injuries have excellent safety records. Employees are happy, more productive, and feel more loyalty to their employers.
 

Avoid Safety Violations

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If you think that workplace safety and discipline are incompatible, think again.

Although discipline is essential for safety, many employers just aren't imposing it. For example, a study by the Fisher & Phillips labor law firm found that 56% of large general contractors were unsatisfied with how often supervisors disciplined employees for unsafe actions.

This can create problems for several reasons. Without a record of disciplinary action, you might not be able to demonstrate to OSHA that you're operating an effective safety program. Failure to discipline safety violations also makes it harder to use the "unpreventable employee misconduct/isolated incident" defense, which argues that an employee acted unsafely, despite your efforts to run an effective program.

Some supervisors fail to discipline unsafe workplace behavior because they fear that imposing discipline will cause trouble for the employer. Others only penalize unsafe behaviors that lead to accidents or injuries, but turn a blind eye to 'minor violations of safety rules. The Fisher & Phillips survey also found that most companies make little effort to train supervisors on when and how to discipline employees.

The bottom line: disciplining workers for safety violations has a "pro-employee" purpose and should play a key role in keeping your workplace safe by:

  • Removing poor performers
  • Creating limits for employees
  • Improving morale when employees see that management recognizes safe and unsafe behavior
  • Limiting potential negligent retention and negligent supervision claims
  • Providing the accountability that's essential for an effective safety program
  • Avoiding the appearance of discrimination and unfairness when applied consistently
  • Reducing your Workers Compensation premiums

What's not to like?

 

Off the job accidents, how does your workers compensation policy work?

Bookmark and Share Examples abound of workers offering their skills outside the workplace: Nurses and doctors aid the injured or ill; contractors assist someone with heavy lifting or short hauling while on a hardware run; benevolent computer techies make a quick fix for a customer without a dispatch order. If one of your employees suffers an injury while providing such help, can the employee collect under Workers Comp? After all, they were doing their work.

A California correctional officer, injured while helping at the scene of an accident on his way to work, was denied Workers Comp benefits on the basis that his services did not qualify as regular employment. Citing an ethical standard set forth for correctional workers in the Ethics Cadet Workbook, the injured officer claimed it was his ethical duty as a corrections officer to assist those in need, regardless of when or where. Hence, he argued that his services at the accident were related directly to his employment.

However, the court disagreed, stating that: "The fact that the law enforcement code of ethics for correctional officers speaks of a duty to serve humankind and safeguard lives and property does not confer authority on a correctional officer to act outside the scope of his statutory jurisdiction."

Knowing the eligibility rules for Workers Comp benefits is essential for you and your employees alike. Now might be the time for a refresher course. For more information about your Comp coverage rules, call our service team today.