Workers’ compensation claims can be a considerable cost for organisations. But there are actions organisations can take to reduce the risk of employees being injured and therefore the number of claims. Some of these actions can have significant a return on investment so they’re worth taking the time to implement.
You want your staff and visitors to feel safe whilst at work. But sometimes there may be safety issues that your organisation is not aware of. Often a WHS audit is the only way to uncover the areas that pose the most risk. Audits can be carried out by internal staff or an external expert can be brought in to complete the physical inspection and report.
Looking back at previous compensation claims can signal possible future events if no action was taken to remedy the problem. So the audit should include a look around of all front and back office areas of the premises as well as a review of previous incidents.
Conducting a thorough WHS audit quickly identifies any gaps in compliance and minimises any risks of injury to your staff. This benefits both your employees and your organisation, ensuring your employees’ safety is a priority and helping your organisation save money on insurance premiums in the long-run.
Organisations can never assume employees know the basics of health and safety. Even if they knew it two years ago, there’s a chance they’ve forgotten now. Ongoing training covering what to look out for, how to perform risky tasks, how to spot a potential risk and what to do about it is important to ensure the safety of all employees. Safety training can take many different forms from a “Take 5 Checklist'' to all-day training sessions or eLearning modules. Effective health and safety training can have some of the largest long-term returns on investment an organisation can make.
An employee with a previous or mild existing injury may be doing tasks that put them at risk of a serious injury. As employees age, they may not be physically capable of doing a role they used to do when they joined the organisation. An organisation needs to give employees the opportunity to say they feel at risk of an injury.
But it’s not just employees’ physical capabilities that need to be considered, mental fitness is just as important, if not more so. When workers feel the task isn’t suited to their skillset or they need to use technology that they’re unfamiliar with, it can lead to stress, depression and serious mental illness. Compensation claims for mental illness are on average higher than physical illness claims because the recovery time is often longer. In 2017-18, the median cost of a mental stress claim was $36,600, becoming the highest compensation amount for all diseases in recent years.
By providing your staff access to a free counselling service such as an Employee Assistance Program, you can help reduce work-related stress and mental health claims. Tell workers regularly that they can have a confidential conversation with HR or management if they’re having any physical or mental difficulties. Remind workers not to suffer in silence.
When staff have been off work for a few weeks or more, they can feel apprehensive about returning. They may be unsure whether they will be given their same role and responsibilities or how their injury or illness will impact their ability to work. The anxiety can build and they put off going back to work. They may know that they’re physically capable of returning but mentally not prepared. Sometimes a little reassurance goes a long way.
Explain to a staff member that the organisation has return to work support (or organise outsourcing a return to work coordinator) to help them ease back into the organisation with tasks that won’t be too physically or mentally demanding. Telling employees that they will have a support person who they can liaise with (rather than their manager) can also help with the transition. Getting an employee back to work, even on greatly reduced hours, can make a difference to the final value of the claim.
When an employee is off work recovering from illness or injury, it’s ideal for their line manager, colleague or HR personnel to keep in contact with them. A friendly phone call to check-in can show the organisation cares for their wellbeing. It can ensure they’re using the rehab services provided and to check if any other help is needed.
Keeping a line of communication open makes the return to work process easier because the same person will be there to greet them when they return to work. It allows the organisation to prepare for their return by purchasing any equipment needed or making modifications to help with access to ensure the first few days back at work go as smoothly as possible. It reminds staff that they’re expected to return to work as soon as they’re fit to do so.
Not all organisations have the knowledge or resources internally to assist staff on workers' compensation. Altius offers an Injury Management program with consultants to assist insurers, employers, workers and treating doctors find solutions for complex return to work plans and injury management. For more information about the program, contact us online.