American businesses lose $170.8 billion to the cost of handling workplace injuries each year. Far from being just the cost of doing business, these claims can be mitigated with the right systems in place to handle a workplace injury when it occurs. So how can you reduce workplace injuries and OSHA recordables at your business?
Tackling the Exorbitant Costs of Workplace Injuries
It would be the rare employer that would not admit that our country’s worker compensation system is, if not broken, at least, close to breaking. In addition to being an unwieldy administrative headache, few companies are set up to respond quickly when a workplace injury occurs. The workflow often assumes a trip to the ER is a necessity, which not only records an event for OSHA, it drives up costs at the most expensive point of care delivery in the healthcare system. This is especially disheartening when you recognize that the top workplace injuries are orthopedic in nature. The top four worker injuries in the U.S. include:
- Overexertion (muscle strain)
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Colliding with a stationary object or equipment
It’s rare that a pulled muscle should necessitate a trip to the ER, but that is often what happens when a worker is injured. When injuries occur to second shift workers, or if the employee is working in a rural location with no access to nearby urgent care, the ER seems like the logical choice. However, this exacerbates the costs of care, reduces productivity, and in the days of COVID-19, potentially exposes your entire workforce to a virus picked up in a jammed hospital ER. How can companies overcome these challenges?
1. Conduct a Worksite Safety Assessment
No matter the size of your business, companies should regularly perform a worksite safety assessment to determine and then mitigate their risks. The importance of this procedure has ramped up since the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to “normal” workplace safety issues, companies with on-site workers must now also consider OSHA’s concern over COVID-19 transmission.
Some of the most common categories in your risk assessment should include:
- Generic daily hazards related to employee tasks
- Risks associated with handling of hazardous substances
- Manual task risk including lifting or carrying
- Risks of fire
- Heavy equipment risks both for the operators and for employees working nearby
Historical workplace data can shed light on the most common types of workplace injuries and OSHA recordable events. Review any documentation on injury incidents, including any near-miss records to determine the best approach to mitigate the most likely scenarios. One study indicated that for every workplace fatality there were at least 300,000 at-risk behaviors prior to the incident. To mitigate your risks, look closely at workflows that eliminate safety steps to speed up a manual task or bypass machine-built safety components to increase productivity.
Once the initial risk assessment has been completed, each should be categorized by potential and probability for occurrence as well as developing workflows to respond should an injury occur.
It’s important to note that the risk of employee injury is high even in businesses devoted to white collar activities; repetitive injuries are highly probable in an office setting. Developing a preventive plan to mitigate ergonomic risks associated with repetitive motion injuries is just as critical as creating a plan to reduce and respond to physical hazards in the workplace.
2. Mitigate On-site Workplace Risks
Hazard prevention and control protects employees and cuts your risk of an OSHA reportable event. Developing a plan to protect workers during emergencies is just as important as creating workflows that lessen risks. There are a variety of resources available by industry to help you improve the safety of your job site. However, there are four necessary steps that any business should undertake to physically lessen workplace risks:
- Clearly communicate your health and safety policies to all workers, including your steps to lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission
- Eliminate any hazards quickly and remain vigilant for new hazards such as slippery floors or clutter in walkways that could cause a slip and fall claim
- Make sure every employee understands the importance of a culture of safety and that you are concerned about their health and wellbeing
- Give employees the tools they need to stay safe on the job, whether it’s the right personal protective equipment or proactive tools to improve ergonomics
Today, almost twice as many employees are working from home than those working on site, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to developing an on-site workplace safety plan, employers should also consider the safety of their at-home workforce.
3. Reduce Workplace Injuries by Creating a Culture of Ergonomics
Ironically, blue and white collar workers have one injury in common; repetitive strain injuries (RSI) affect 1.8 million workers each year in the United States. One-third of all workers compensation claims are from RSI’s that include:
- Repetitive, prolonged, forceful hand movements
- Frequent heavy lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling
- Maintaining static awkward postures for long periods
The risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder related to an RSI is high whether your employees are in an office or a warehouse. The cost to employers is just as high; approximately $20 billion each year is spent by American employers on RSI workplace injuries.
There are many ways that U.S. employers can create a more ergonomically-friendly workplace and cut down on these incidents. Providing training on how to lift properly to prevent lower back injuries, offering employees fatigue mats, or redesigning office workstations can all proactively create workplace interventions to reduce your OSHA recordables. The benefits of creating a culture of proactive ergonomics includes:
- Low-cost to the employer
- Improves the health and safety of employees
- Reduces workers compensation claims
- Increases employee productivity
- Increases profits
- Helps you attract and retain workers
Improving workplace ergonomics is a smart business move that, for the investment, yields a high rate of return.
4. Leverage Immediate Virtual Triage for Remote Injury Care
The numbers tell us that, inevitably, a workplace injury will occur in your business. How you respond to that incident could create an immediate OSHA recordable—but it doesn’t have to.
Few companies can afford a medically-trained work safety officer to provide immediate on-site triage when an injury occurs. This means that the typical workflow is to send the employee, often with a manager or member of HR to a crowded emergency room. The costs in lost productivity are high and once the injured worker is seen it immediately creates an OSHA recordable event.
This all occurs even before the medical costs of treatment at the point of care that is, admittedly, one of the most expensive points of entry into the healthcare system. The statistics show that most of these events are usually orthopedic in nature and often a sprain or other non-life-threatening event that simply ends with the ER doctor referring your employee to an orthopedic specialist.
Ending up in the ER over an ankle sprain or lower back muscle pull is overkill similar to swatting a fly with a baseball bat. Today, there is a better way to handle an on-site worker injury.
OrthoLive’s Remote Injury Care brings an orthopedic expert to the site of your employee injury event with our HIPAA-compliant telemedicine application. This virtual visit is accessible on any digital device, including your employee’s cell phone. Our medically trained teams are available 24/7/365 and can provide your employees with an immediate assessment of their injury.
The benefits of this service include:
- Access to immediate clinical triage on-site when the injury occurs
- Access to an exclusive orthopedic specialist network for injury care
- Avoid unnecessary ER visits
- Fast case management throughout injury recovery
- Improve worker satisfaction
- Increase productivity
- Decrease OSHA reportable events
Stop going to the ER for injury care. Instead, use OrthoLive’s Remote Injury Care downloadable app to bring a medical professional to your business right when the injury occurs. In fact, the Remote Injury Care program has been proven to cut your workers compensation claims by 75% or more.
Contact us today to schedule a demo to see the OrthoLive Remote Injury Care platform in action.
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