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Paying for Rule Breakers

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If your workers take a "rules are for fools" attitude when it comes to workplace safety, and supervisors don't enforce these standards, you could end up paying through the nose for their indifference.

Consider this story, based on a real court case:

    Joe was a wrapper at ABC Furniture. One afternoon, he worked overtime to help his supervisor, Mario, build an enclosed office within the company warehouse. Late that afternoon, Mario told him to pick up a load of sheetrock, using a forklift - even though Joe wasn't trained or certified to use it. The result: he overloaded the forklift, which turned over and crushed his leg, an injury that required amputation. When Joe applied for Workers Compensation, ABC fought the claim, arguing that because he violated company safety policy by operating a forklift without authorization or training, he was injured while acting "outside the scope of his employment."

    However, a state superior court, disagreed, ruling that Joe could collect benefits - even though he had violated company safety rules and wasn't performing his usual job. In this case, both he and his supervisor, Mario, clearly had no commitment to a policy that would have prevented the accident.

All too often, employees sidestep safety rules, while their supervisors turn a blind eye to this reckless behavior. Many of these cases involve misuse of equipment and forklifts, usually by younger, risk-taking workers.

The bottom line: If employees don't know and/or follow safety rules, and supervisors don't enforce them, resulting in an accident - especially one that involves a serious injury - your business will suffer such unpleasant consequences as higher Workers Comp rates, lower productivity, and declining workplace morale.


Defending Workers Comp Claims

Bookmark and Share 1When you're fighting a questionable Workers Compensation claim in court, you'll need to base your defense on a strong administrative foundation.

Effective workplace policies and procedures should include - at a minimum:

  • A legally compliant application for hire. What kind of information are you getting from the individual? Do you do background checks? Have you asked the right questions? Do you have enough good information about this individual on the application to help defend yourself, if needed?
  • Legally compliant interview process. Recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act mean that you'll need to be careful during job interviews in asking questions about intoxication, for example.
  • Post-offer/pre-placement medical exam. Are you using these to look for drug use? Do you meet state or federal requirements? Do you have quality policies and procedures to enforce these standards?
  • Legally enforceable drug-screen program. Does your program comply with state and federal regulations? Can you require workers to take a drug screening after an injury? What are the permissible levels of intoxication?

In addition, having effective descriptions and job function analyses will help you in three ways:

  1. They work well in the initial hiring process because you can give them to the individual and define the job is to avoid misunderstandings - this will help filter out people who are not well suited for the job.
  2. You can give them to a doctor who can determine suitability to perform the job after an injury.
  3. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can determine what restrictions a disabled employee might need, and whether this person can perform the essential functions of the job.

Our Workers Compensation specialists stand ready to offer their advice at any time.


Keeping the Parking Lot Safe

Bookmark and Share 1When it comes to workplace safety, have you considered the company parking lot or garage? Your workers use it at least twice a day to stow and shelter their vehicles, but beyond that it's fairly invisible. A closer look reveals that predators might easily be lurking there. To minimize this threat, experts recommend ensuring that workers (as well as visitors) take these precautions:
  1. Stay alert for cruising vehicles, whose drivers can stop suddenly and jump out to rob or assault you.
  2. If you're using a parking lot, park near the building in a visible, lighted area.
  3. In a parking garage, park near the parking attendant (if there is one) or near a well-lit exit. Women should avoid using stairs and elevators, if possible.
  4. Use the main exit/entrance rather than a side or secluded one.
  5. Lock any valuables (including GPS, shopping, other bags, etc.) out of sight. If you're walking to your vehicle after hours, ask a co-worker or security officer to accompany you.
  6. If you have to walk alone, ask someone to watch from inside, if possible. Turn around frequently to make sure you're not being followed and pretend that you're waving to someone ahead to give the impression you're not alone.
  7. Don't talk on your cellphone or listen to music with ear pods -- predators are looking for victims who seem distracted or unaware.
  8. Have your car keys and personal alarm or whistle ready as you approach your vehicle.
  9. If someone nearby looks suspicious, keep walking and get to a safe place where you can call for help.
  10. Before you unlock the door, take a good look around, inside, and behind the vehicle.
  11. Once you enter the vehicle, lock all doors promptly and keep your windows up until you've exited the lot or garage.

Words to the wise.


Return-to-Work (RTW) Programs Can Reduce Your Insurance Costs

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By decreasing work time lost from to job-related injuries and illnesses, Return-to-Work (RTW) programs can reduce your insurance costs (Workers Compensation, Disability, and Medical insurance), strengthen workplace morale, boost productivity - and help protect you against ADAAA litigation.

Here are ten common mistakes by businesses when using RTW:

  1. Failure to manage the higher number of employees covered by the ADAAA. An expanded definition of disability has increased the number of employees under the ADA to the point that some attorneys advise against fighting disability claims.
  2. Insisting on employee release to "full duty" before returning to work. This raises Workers Comp costs and the possibility of the employee not returning to work when medically possible.
  3. Ignoring co-morbidities. Health issues that complicate or delay an employee's recovery (such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension) can increase Comp claims.
  4. Failure to commit the necessary budget or resources. The costs of absences and non-compliance with government rules is usually far higher than that of implementing an RTW.
  5. Reluctance to set transitional assignments because employees "might get reinjured." It's even riskier to have them stay at home and develop a "disability attitude" that extends the absence and boosts costs.
  6. Failure to distinguish "light duty" from "transitional work." The ADAAA permits employers to reserve less physically demanding or "light-duty" jobs for those with work-related disabilities - and these jobs should be distinct from transitional tasks.
  7. Relying on physicians to guide the RTW process. Although physicians are medical experts, they're not familiar with workplace policies, job demands, and the availability of transitional work.
  8. Failure to understand overlapping and conflicting laws. The clashing requirements of insurance companies and state and local governments can be a nightmare.
  9. Inability to focus on the goal. An Integrated Benefits Institute study ranked a focus on the employee's job as the major success factor in successful RTW programs.
  10. Believing that Workers Comp settlements resolve other liabilities. One size does not fit all.