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Workplace Safety Bulletin
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Drugs and Alcohol: What to Do When You Suspect Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is unfortunately everywhere, and the effects can strike at any time. You can only know so much about your employees, no matter how many checks you put them through before hiring them. If you suspect substance abuse, then you really need to be proactive before someone gets hurt. Whether that's the person who's abusing drugs or alcohol or their fellow coworkers, you need to know the truth about this nationwide problem.
The Odds Aren't in Your Favor
Studies suggest up to half the claims filed for workers compensation come from substance abuse when on the job, and the claims cost twice as much as those who do not take drugs. It also increases the likelihood of violence and other incidents that will inevitably cause your insurance premiums to rise. It's not that your employees are bad people, but their actions could be erratic and your business is too important to be taken by surprise.
Invoking the Power of Procedure
As much as employees may not love the idea of procedure, it really is helpful if you want to curtail the wrong behavior. Employees get used to routines in both good ways and bad, so if you're lackadaisical then they might assume there will be few consequences of testing their limits. Aside from paying attention and trying to address problems that may trigger the wrong behavior, like stress or depression in employees, try implementing the following plan instead.
Write It Down:
Make sure that your policies are all in place, make people aware and then live by that code. Some rules can be bent for extenuating circumstances, but the less watchful you are, the more likely it is you'll have a problem.
Supervisors, employees and you will inevitably miss certain things. We're not all-knowing, but we can be trained to be better attuned to the warning behaviors. No matter what anyone says about an accident happening out of the blue, there were probably a lot of signs that they missed over time. Encourage employees too to come forward when they know things - specially if you're in an industry with a lot of hazards.
General education about drugs in the workplace heightens awareness and can lead to safer practices. Make people aware of help that they can receive if they're currently suffering from any type of addiction problems. This also shows the commitment you have to their safety.
Random checks may be a good way for you to get some peace of mind that you're doing everything you can to prevent danger from befalling your employees. Ultimately, trust is better between employer and employee, but if the risks are too great then you may want to try this as an option.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
A Look at the Bright Side: How Workers Comp Is Succeeding Today
Not everything is doom and gloom, though it sometimes seems like it that way. People only seem to want to report on the bad stuff, but what they often ignore is how far the world has come. Here's a look at some of the good things that have come from workers comp and how you can do more to fix the bad.
Getting Necessary Help
Our society is trying to help people who need it, however much we fail or however much people try to take advantage of the system. Our shortcomings are frustrating to no end for honest people who are trying to do the right thing, but it doesn't take away from the fact that the intentions are there and that there has been progress. Before an employee may have lost a leg to a faulty machine, and he would have received a pittance of compensation or perhaps none at all.
Letting Employees Come Back to Their Job
People's jobs are not just tied up in how much money they make, but in their self worth as a human being. Idle hands makes us feel like we have nothing to contribute to anyone. An employee who lost their job due to an accident has recourse to claim discrimination based on their circumstances, and what's more, they have the laws in place that are on their side. Being able to come back to their old position without being completely replaced is really a priceless feature in our workers comp system.
A Focus on the Problems
Yes, there are some definitely problems that need to be addressed, but they're not just being ignored entirely by policy makers. During the election years, there's a focus on workers comp which sees reforms suggestions and honest discussions about what can be done. There are no federal programs (and few non-federal programs) that anyone can point to and say that they have no flaws or inefficiencies. As long as people are looking at the problem, then there's every chance that someone will come up with a compromise that works for insurance carriers, lawmakers, company owners, medical practitioners and employees. With the long list of people involved in workers comp and with all of them having wildly different interests and incentives, it's not wonder we've seen as many problems as we have.
The best thing you can do to continue seeing workers comp as a force of good in your life is to continue to pay attention to and active with what's happening in your city, state and USA. Voicing your opinion isn't always easy but staying silent will be worse for everyone involved.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
Could Taxing Opioids Affect Workers Comp?
It's not an exaggeration to say that opioid painkillers have been a scourge on society in the past couple decades. In the 1990s, doctors were taught across the country that these dangerous pills weren't addictive when they were actually one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Addiction rates are still highest in the states where they were prescribed for anything from a slightly sore back to an eye infection. However, for some people, there are really no other options out there, making this a controversial and hotly debated topic for many. Still a popular prescription for many in pain regardless of who's right and who's wrong, a tax on them could raise workers premiums across the board.
Money and Addiction
The Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act was recently proposed by 7 senators, and suggested that there should be a 1% tax on each milligram of the active ingredients in the painkillers. This could generate up to $2 billion based on current prescription rates, and the money would paradoxically be designated to building more addiction centers and facilities.
Who Pays It All?
Well, ostensibly it will be the insurance carriers dishing out these potential billions of dollars, which will ultimately cause everyone's premiums to rise. Of course, workers comp isn't addressed in the bill as it's meant to propose a solution for addiction, but it's not clear if the lawmakers know or even care about the types of ripple effect that will be seen across the board for those who will cover the costs. Medical practitioners often receive major kickbacks from their pharmaceutical partners, and they have no monetary incentive to stop prescribing as they do now. While those who can only take opioids are exempt from the tax (as are cancer and hospice patients), it still means that insurance companies will have to shoulder the burden.
A Change in Behavior
No one knows what this law will do in practice, but it will likely mean that insurance companies may start putting pressure on doctors to start claiming that a patient has no other choice but to be on these particular types of painkillers to avoid the tax. In an ideal world, it will hopefully mean less unnecessary prescriptions which will lead to fewer unnecessary addictions. However, some have speculated that the real problem here will be with rising workers comp costs. Between the people who have chronic back pain and those who experience one-off accidents, there are many people who take these pills and those prices will add up quickly. Talk to your insurance carrier and ask their opinion about the potential act and how it would affect their business and yours.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
What Is Proactive Claims Management and How Can It Save You Money?
There are few people out there who don't want to be considered proactive. A proactive person isn't taken by surprise and doesn't feel helpless when they encounter problems. However, the definition of proactive is so different for every person that it can sometimes make the term feel meaningless. In the case of workers comp, there may be a way that you can implement a solid plan to take your claim costs down to a more reasonable level. With fees having risen steadily over the past few years, prevention programs are really one of the best ways to help yourself out.
Learning, Managing and Acting
It can't be stated enough just how much it helps to stay on top of an employee's progress. For example, knowing the amount of time it will take for an injured worker to heal lets you figure out how a person will fit back into your workforce, which ultimately makes for a happier environment overall. It means being able to prepare to put someone to work on transitional tasks that much sooner which can lead to more revenue being brought in for the company. It can also help facilitate better communication between you and the injured employee, which can lead to a better understanding and less chance the employee will take any type of legal action against you.
Safely Getting Everything Back Together
While it's important to get someone back to work as quickly as possible for the benefit of their routine and your business, there still has to be major emphasis placed on the safety and welfare of the employee. The last thing you need is to aggravate them or their injury by rushing anything. Creating an effective dialog with their medical practitioner means you're that much more likely to be making your decisions proactively rather than waiting for someone to update you and then feeling put on the spot. The more information you have, the more you can plan for what it means to have someone come back to the office or facility.
Your employees act on a variety of self-interests, as do you. Some people avoid learning more about what happened with their employees, partially because they may not think it's necessary to devote time to but partially because they're afraid of what they'll find. To be proactive though, you may need to discover a problem that will ultimately just make more work for you and potentially get the employee in trouble. An employee who has done something dishonest will raise policies for everyone. It's also recommended that you learn more about workers comp in general for more information about trends and potential popular scams around your area.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
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