Many HR managers and company leaders know that workers’ compensation is not a topic to be taken lightly, especially in manufacturing. Not only can injuries sustained at a company become a financial burden, but it can tar the image of an organization and affect morale, recruiting, and even sales. However, it’s not just the huge, headline-generating injuries that are the biggest culprit.
Smaller injuries such as strains or sprains of the neck and back make up a staggering 80-90% of all costs in the claims system. Even if an HR manager recognizes the care necessary in working with this area, there are still several ways to take a proactive approach to workers’ comp in manufacturing.
In the simplest of terms, manufacturing environments are more dangerous than many other workplace settings. Factories often have workers moving heavy objects and interacting with large machinery, all while surrounded by loud noises and potentially lowered air quality. New workers are more subject to injury than experienced ones in this environment, especially when they lack appropriate training.
Education early and often is essential to a proactive approach to workers’ comp in manufacturing, with employee training and development proving itself to be a valuable investment. Training employees before they ever step foot on a manufacturing floor and taking great care in their first days and weeks of hands-on training will help to prevent future injury. Any slight increase in costs by implementing a longer and better training process will be heavily outweighed by avoiding huge workers’ comp cases later on, and will limit the all-too-often horror stories of new employees losing limbs on their first day of work.
Not only do employees need to be appropriately trained, but direct managers and supervisors must also know what to do when injuries happen. A floor manager is often the first line of interaction in a workers’ comp case, as they are often on the scene when the injury takes place under their watch. Should they be unsure how to proceed, they could injure an employee further and make initial mistakes that have costly repercussions later on.
Taking the appropriate steps the second an injury occurs can only happen if a supervisor knows what to do and doesn’t have to spend time reading a manual or calling HR. They must know the initial moves to make including getting medical attention, documenting everything appropriately with necessary forms, and communicating early and regularly with the employee and HR.
Setting the appropriate tone of training and taking a proactive approach to workers’ comp begins at an upper management level, and HR must have procedures in place for the whole organization to be fully prepared to act immediately. Forms must be kept updated and readily available to avoid last-minute confusion and scrambling. Errors aren’t cheap, as making a single code misclassification paperwork mistake can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Maintaining a professional relationship and open lines of communication with attorneys and insurance brokers will also make things easier in the long-term. An organization will be kept up to date with changes in laws directly affecting them, and will also be better informed as a case goes through what can be a lengthy process. Such a sensitive area is not a time to take a back seat, and keeping lines of communication open between all players will go a long way in taking a proactive approach to workers’ comp in manufacturing.
In a perfect world there would be no dishonest behavior, but to run a successful business one must recognize that deception happens and they must be cognizant of potential signs of fraud. While many HR managers may be familiar with the filing of fake claims or of exaggerated injuries, there are many other ways in which fraud manifests itself in workers’ comp. Employees working on the case could steal premiums, a doctor could receive money for falsifying medical documents, and a lawyer could encourage unjustified lawsuits.
Instead of being constantly paranoid and suspecting the worst in everyone, it is more important to take a proactive approach to workers’ comp in avoiding fraud. Doing the right things such as properly training all levels of the organization and keeping lines of communication open will go a long way in eliminating most fraud, in addition to many other steps such as screening new hires better.
As much as one can hope for an accident-free workplace, injuries are bound to happen in manufacturing environments. Workers’ comp can be a very complicated process and mistakes can easily happen, but these can be limited by proper preparation. If a proactive approach to workman’s comp is adopted by an entire organization, then a safer, happier, and smoother workplace will be the result.