Data from the National Compensation Insurance Council shows the high cost of allowing or even requiring employees to attempt work for which they are sadly unprepared, physically and mentally. They are not physically prepared because their bodies are not trained for the performance requirements of the jobs they are asked to do; mentally unprepared because they do not know that they are not prepared or, if they do, they are not trained for the tasks that are required of them.
In the United States, workers’ compensation costs are higher in California at $ 3.48 per $ 100 in payroll; Connecticut follows with $ 2.87, followed by New Jersey ($ 2.82), New York ($ 2.75) and Alaska $ 2.68). The state with the lowest costs is North Dakota: 88 cents. The median figure: $ 1.85 per $ 100 of payroll.
These costs are a significant burden on businesses, a drag on productivity, profits, job satisfaction, and the quality of life of the workforce, and that’s only a partial list of issues.
What are companies doing about workers’ compensation problems, besides lamenting the fact that they pay so much for injuries on the job? Here is a list of thirteen steps that companies take or that consultants and other experts recommend taking.
1. Return disabled employees to work as soon as possible.
2. Report only regular wages, if possible, when employees work time and a half.
3. Establish a joint work and management committee to identify and correct health or safety problems in the workplace.
4. Educate and train employees on the safe use of equipment, safe work behavior, and safety procedures.
5. Provide prompt medical attention if an employee is injured.
6. Determine if there is a pattern to such statements.
7. Instruct employees not to take risks.
8. Distribute safety instruction manuals to employees.
9. Hold managers and supervisors accountable for the safety record of their departments and crews.
10. Be careful when hiring.
11. Offer better health insurance to lower workers’ compensation premiums.
12. Correctly classify job descriptions and employee titles, as some classifications carry more risk, resulting in higher premiums.
13. Eliminate workplace hazards that have caused an employee to become ill or injured.
Why not take responsibility for ensuring employees are fit to work? Most are not fit for work, in fact very few are. It is rare to find literature suggesting that employers ever implement prevention or “upstream” strategies; As in the thirteen-step list above, almost all efforts are “top-down.” Downstream strategies are those focused on saving bodies in the water, without keeping workers out of harm’s way in the first place, protected from the turbulent waters of weak bodies and unsuspecting minds.
There is another way that organizations can reduce medical spending, decrease the incidence of accidents, improve productivity, and improve return-to-work outcomes. How? Engaging employees with REAL wellness programs that transcend chronic disease management offerings and that go beyond preaching on exercise, diet, and stress management.
Companies can insist on suitable workers, hire suitable workers, train and support suitable workers, and reward results linked to suitable workers.
The number one risk of accidents and injuries is not random bad luck, malicious acts of God, or dangerous workplace conditions, although the latter is an unforgivable problem that must also be addressed as a priority. The number one risk of high workers’ compensation costs is that people are unsuitable for their jobs. Specifically, they are not trained to realize and maintain the musculoskeletal function that most 8-5 or other work hours require.
Workers should be thoroughly trained in the nature of genuine and wellness-worthy musculoskeletal fitness, how to achieve, maintain and develop such fitness, and how to understand the risks of such fitness. Different types of jobs, of course, require different levels of physical fitness, and these variations must be understood and applied to specific work settings. Each job must be evaluated to determine the required musculoskeletal fitness levels.
A full program could include musculoskeletal displays and workstation evaluations, depending on the extent to which the jobs involve:
* manual operation.
* deal with existing conditions.
* strength and flexibility.
* skeletal alignment.
* body fat percentage and aerobic fitness.
Australian fitness and wellness expert John Miller describes a system for the prevention and treatment of what he calls “personally generated bodily system dysfunctions.” His work has shown that a high proportion of employees with back pain have a physical fitness problem: Their weak and tight muscles have allowed the pelvic bones and then the vertebrae to become misaligned. To quote Coach Miller, whom I have seen in action in Canberra, “only on the rarest of occasions is back pain caused by lack of rubbing, crunching, heating, vibration, strapping, doping, or surgery.” Or, expressed in the coach’s inimitable Australian talk, “It’s a great question to expect to be in good musculoskeletal health without staying fit. It’s also a great question to hope to improve if someone does something to you. You have to do something to yourself.” .
Be well, look on the bright side and take care of yourself.