Minimizing the risk of overexertion and falls on the same level

Overexertion and falls on the same level account for more than 40% of the top 10 workplace injuries in 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available) and cost companies as much as $25 billion that year, according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index 2014. And yet, with a little extra effort and consideration, employers can take steps to minimize their risk.

Overexertion

An overexertion injury is cumulative in nature and results from long term wear and tear on the musculoskeletal system. Work conditions often only contribute to the injury and are not typically 100% responsible for it, making it difficult for everyone – from business owners, supervisors, claims representatives and insurance carriers as well as the employee themselves-- to determine the injury’s root cause.

“Not being able to see the injury and not being able to identify a specific point in time when the injury occurred makes it very difficult for the employee and employer to determine where the incident really happened and to understand if the injury was sustained in the course of the work day,” said Thomas Heebner, CSP, ARM, ABCP, CLCS, senior vice president, Risk Services Division, HUB International. “There may have been a specific point in time when the employee felt the injury, but it can be difficult to quantify where the responsibility lies..”

In order to prevent these overexertion injuries from having a negative effect on your workforce, it’s important to take the following multi-faceted approach:

1. Focus on pre-hire qualifications. Hire a third party to perform physical and functional capacity evaluations and assess the physical abilities and requirements of each job. Once these are solidified, qualify potential employees to make sure they can meet the demands of the job.

2. Make work conditions as safe as possible. Provide tools to make the job as easy as possible, including designing the workplace so employees of all sizes can work with good posture to avoid excess stress to their musculoskeletal system. Try to provide as much flexibility as possible in a fixed workstation so your employee population can work in a neutral and comfortable posture.

3. Maintain a healthy workforce. A fit and healthy employee is less likely to have an overexertion injury and will recover faster should they sustain an injury than an employee that is unfit and unhealthy. An unhealthy workforce will drive up the costs of employee care.

Falls on the same level

Often times an employer doesn’t have complete control over the work environment. Ice, water or other liquid spills can increase the risk of falls. Or, a fall could happen outside in the parking lot while a customer is getting out of their vehicle. There are a few ways businesses can protect their employees and business associates from this workplace injury:

1. Maintain physical worksite. Make sure your worksites are maintained in a clean and orderly fashion, including preventive maintenance of flooring materials. Have a plan in place so there is a method to inspect and monitor slip and trip hazards. Designate a team or individual responsible for doing a periodic inspection.

2. Establish a footwear program. Depending on what workers are doing and what types of surfaces they are working on, HUB recommends designating safety footwear for employees. Establishing an official program where employers share in the cost of the footwear or purchase them for employees will ensure compliance.

3. Specify flooring with a higher level of slip resistance or friction coefficient. Business owners should consider slip and fall prevention when building a new facility or making modifications to existing buildings. Some flooring types provide more slip resistance than others. Visit the National Floor Safety Institute for more information.

Final Step: Establish a return to work program

Regardless of the workplace injury, establish a well-thought-out return to work program to minimize employer costs and keep employees mentally and physically acclimated to the work environment, even in a modified capacity.

When the insurance carrier pays the employees wages for a prolonged period of time, it negatively affects the cost of insurance for employers. HUB recommends keeping employees as close to (without exceeding) their doctor’s restrictions as possible to aid in quickly returning them to normal duty.

“Instead of giving the employee a desk job, its better to adjust temporary-modified duties as their physical capabilities improve and restrictions are lifted,” said Heebner. “Financially it makes sense to bring people back to work as soon as possible. It keeps them on a schedule, helps them feel productive and sends the message that the employer wants them back. It keeps employers’ costs down and employees engaged.”

For more tips and information on how to manage your workers' compensation costs, talk to a HUB Workers' Compensation Insurance Advisor.