How to Reduce Workers' Comp Costs for Physically Demanding Jobs

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 2, 2015 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

Controlling workers' comp costs is a major concern for virtually all employers today, with just the medical costs associated with the average claim creeping towards $30,000 and projected to exceed that figure within the next several years. However, for employers who operate in industries that place heavier than average physical demands on workers, those costs are of even greater concern since the jobs offered in their workplaces tend to generate higher worker injury rates.

Does that mean that soaring workers' comp costs are unavoidable in tough, physically demanding industries? Not at all. Injury rates in these physically demanding jobs can be substantially reduced, bringing those costs back down to earth. Below are proven, cost-effective steps that employers with high injury rates can take to decrease them.

Hire Smarter for Your Physically Demanding Jobs

Matching those tough jobs with workers who you know are physically capable of meeting their demands goes a long ways towards preventing workplace injuries. Hiring smarter can reduce injuries among your new hires, which is sure to make a significant difference in your overall workplace injury rates. Employees who have been on the job for less than a year are typically the biggest contributors to those injury rates. According to research from the Institute for Work & Health, new hires (those who have been employed less than a month) are three times more likely to be injured than those have been on the job a year or longer.

The most accurate means of ensuring that you are filling positions in your workplace with employees who are physically capable of handling them is by using pre-hire physical abilities testing (PAT) as a component of your hiring process. These tests can be designed to accurately and objectively assess factors that affect safety and performance in your workplace, including strength, agility, endurance, and balance, greatly increasing your odds of hiring employees who are capable of handling the essential functions of your jobs with ease.

Use Physical Abilities Testing Throughout the Worker Life Cycle

Fitness levels can change over time, so making sure that employees who have been with you for a while remain fit for duty is also important to minimizing workplace injury risk. A physical abilities testing program that periodically evaluates the ability of existing employees to perform essential job functions can help identify issues that may place those workers at risk – issues that might otherwise go unnoticed until a serious accident or injury occurs. Additionally, in cases where an employee appears to be struggling with job demands, casting doubt on fitness for duty, PAT can clear the air.

Physical abilities testing is recommended for job transfers as well, ensuring that workers will perform safely and well in their new positions. PAT can also help ensure a safer, more efficient return to work process for workers who have been injured on the job, accurately assessing whether a worker is physically capable of returning to full duty, and if not, aiding in formulating a safe and effective work accommodation or transitional duty program.

So, what sort of injury-lowering results can you expect from these steps? Numerous studies conclude that taking the time to conduct a pre-hire employment screen can significantly reduce workplace injuries from the get-go – before workers even begin their new jobs in positions that they may be ill-suited for. A case study done at the University of Illinois at Chicago provides solid evidence of testing’s effectiveness, as researchers tested physical plant applications at this major university hospital and found an 18% decrease in the number of lost day cases, and a massive 78% decrease in total injury costs. Additionally, these researchers also discovered that for every $1 spent on screening, the employer saved $18 as their ROI.

While results vary from one business to another, the findings of this study and many others demonstrate that you can expect your results to be significant.

Physical Abilities Testing ROI Whitepaper

Topics: Workers' Compensation Costs

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.