By Alex Leone
In most parts of the country, construction season is relatively short. Late spring and summer months tend to be filled with projects, particularly those projects that are dependent on good weather such as roofing, concrete pouring, or road work.
Because of the surplus of seasonal work, contractors must hire short-term seasonal employees in order to get the work completed. Workers are given safety training at hiring time then put on the job.
Inevitably, construction workers’ compensation claims start to rise. While workers’ compensation claims in construction are not uncommon, claims that come in as a project finishes and seasonal workers are no longer needed is a red flag. Too often, the end of the project is when construction companies are hit with fraudulent or suspicious workers’ compensation claims.
While not all construction workers’ compensation claims coming at the end of a project are fraudulent, contractors and project owners should investigate those that come with the following characteristics:
- No witnesses,
- Conflicting accounts of what happened by the claimant,
- Late reporting of claim with no explanation for the delay,
- A history of claims filed by the claimant in the past.
Protection from Fraud
While claims cannot be avoided entirely, construction companies can implement a number of processes that can reduce the occurrence of claims once the construction season ends.
Background Checks and Pre-hire Testing
Establishing a pre-hire testing and background check can help employers identify potential problems in their seasonal workers before the claim is filed. Background checks can uncover claims history and can help employers detect any health issues or other limitations that might make the worker prone to injury.
Also, pre-hire testing can help companies reduce employee turnover and improve productivity. Testing can uncover weaknesses in skills and help identify strengths, thus improving job performance by hiring the right people for the position.
Ongoing Safety Training
Safety is a concern every day, not just at hiring time. Companies that implement ongoing training, including weekly meetings and monthly “toolbox talks” can keep employees focused on safety rules and regulations. Tailor safety training to those injuries that are specific to the job – back and shoulder injuries, sprains, and slip-and-fall injuries – to promote safer work habits and help minimize claims.
Comprehensive Claim Investigation
No matter when the claim is filed, companies should be diligent in investigating each claim. However, in the case of late claims reporting, companies should look for repeated behavior in the claimant. The same injury reported in the past, previous questionable or litigated claims, medical treatment sought for the injury both now and in the past – such data can help companies determine the legitimacy of a claim before payment is made. In some jurisdictions, employers are permitted to deny a workers’ compensation claim if the claim does not fall within an established reporting timeframe.
Seasonal workers are an integral part of the construction industry, helping complete projects on time. By establishing practices that can strengthen safety, improve hiring, and investigate questionable claims activity, construction companies can make better hiring decisions and create safer work environments.
HUB International’s brokers are available to work with you in understanding how seasonal workers and construction workers’ compensation claims impact your risk posture today and in the future.