So the accident happens. What do you do next?
Sometimes we lose sight of the connection between safety programs (which try to prevent or mitigate the outcomes of hazards) and loss control (which tries to manage the costs associated with those hazards).
Of course, the biggest cost-saver is to prevent the incident. However, if an incident does take place and a worker is injured, a new study says what you do next will have an enormous impact on the cost and potential disruption of that incident. The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) looked at factors that resulted in workers getting back to work and not needing continued medical treatment. It turns out that one of the biggest factors is worker trust:
- Workers who were strongly concerned about being fired after the injury experienced poorer return-to-work outcomes than workers without those concerns.
- One in five workers who were concerned about being fired reported that they were not working at the time of the interview. This was double the rate that was observed for workers without such concerns. Among workers who were not concerned about being fired, one in ten workers was not working at the time of the interview.
- Concerns about being fired were associated with a four-week increase in the average duration of disability.
In other words, workers who were worried about being fired after an accident spent an extra month on disability compared to workers who felt secure. Clearly the takeaway is that spending time reassuring workers about their future post-incident isn’t just the right thing to do; it is also the financially prudent thing to do.
The study also gives additional support to company wellness programs. We often think about wellness programs as a way to hold down initial healthcare costs (If I exercise, I may avoid a heart attack). However, the study looks at the worker’s health as it relates to recovery rates when there is an incident:
- Workers with hypertension (when compared with workers without hypertension) had a 3 percentage point higher rate of not working at the time of the interview predominantly due to injury.
- Workers with heart problems reported an 8 percentage point higher rate of not working at the time of interview predominantly due to injury and had disability duration that was four weeks longer.
- Workers with diabetes had a 4 percentage point higher rate of not working at the time of the interview predominantly due to injury than workers without diabetes.
(Are you rethinking whether putting those donuts in the break room was such a good idea?)
Some companies may not be convinced that safety and wellness programs or post-incident employee outreach are valuable, but the evidence clearly shows that they are critical to the bottom line.