Controlling workers' compensation costs is essential to protecting the financial health of your business. Since even the most efficient safety plan cannot yield a perfect safety record, getting a grip on those costs means reducing the severity and number of claims-generating workplace injuries that do occur.
Conversations about improving workplace safety most often focus on what employers can do to reduce hazards in the work environment. While those conversations – and the resulting improvements – are important, they are not the only factors that need to be considered. Employee-related factors contribute to the rate, severity, and costs of injuries in your workplace as well.
Employee Health and Fitness
The most obvious employee-related factor that can affect workplace safety is worker compliance with good safety practices. This is why solid employee safety training is essential. However, less obvious, but just as important, is employee health and fitness.
For instance, obesity is a problem in today's workforce – one that certainly, according to a number of studies, has an impact on workplace safety and workers' compensation costs. Research done by Duke University Medical Center found that obese workers filed twice as many workers' comp claims, racked up seven times higher costs for those claims, and lost 13 times more days from work due to work-related injuries and illnesses than did non-obese workers. Additionally, studies have shown that obese workers are at greater risk for slip, trip and fall injuries than non-obese workers, since obesity changes the center of gravity, which, in some cases, can lead to poor balance and stability.
Other health issues in employees that can affect workplace safety include smoking, poor fitness levels, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, and age-related changes in muscle strength, coordination, eyesight, and reflexes, among many others.
The bottom line is that the personal health issues of employees can create more risk of workplace injuries and workers' comp claims and may also lead to complications that make recovery longer and more difficult – which makes those claims more costly.
Hire Smart to Avoid Unnecessary Claims
Hiring healthy, fit workers is the obvious solution to this problem. However, it is important to realize that not all workers who are obese or have health issues present an increased risk of workplace injuries and/or costly workers' compensation claims. Should you automatically screen out candidates based on these issues, not only do you run the risk of sending many great job candidates packing unfairly, but you will also stand a very good chance of violating EEOC anti-discrimination regulations.
So how can the average employer identify which candidates pose a higher injury risk than those who do not? A Pre-Hire/Post-offer Physical Abilities Testing program offers an effective, accurate, and legal means of making those determinations. A well-designed PAT program depends on a thorough job analysis to quantify the physical demands that potential employees will face in performing the essential functions of the job for which they applied. The job analysis is then used to formulate a test that measures the candidate's physical ability to meet those demands.
Physical Abilities Testing presents employers with a solid, legally defensible foundation for good hiring decisions. This smart approach ensures that each employee hired is physically capable of performing the essential functions of the job without undue stress or higher than average risk of on-the-job injuries that result in expensive workers' comp claims.
By combining hazard reduction, safety training, and Pre-Hire/Post-offer Physical Abilities Testing, employers can achieve multiple objectives: fewer work-related injuries, lower workers compensation costs, higher productivity, and lower turnover. It’s a combination well worth considering.