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Keeping Workers’ Comp Costs at Bay

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In its most basic definition, workers' compensation is the provision of income and medical benefits for workers who sustain job-related injuries or sickness. For many employers, however, it has come to mean millions of dollars in healthcare cost and lost productivity. And with average cost having risen by nearly 50% in the last three years, one of the best investments a company can make is to take steps to reduce instances of workplace injury. Fortunately, when it comes to an office environment, the solutions can be as simple as paying more attention to one’s workplace.

Two of the Biggest Pains
If you are reading this, then you are one of the more than 28 million Americans who use computers each day. As a result of our ever-increasing reliance on computers, the occurrence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) has become a virtual workplace epidemic. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials, CTS and other repetitive strain injuries are the leading disabilities reported by insurance companies today, and comprise nearly two-thirds of all North American WC claims. This results in nearly $15 to20 billion in lost work time and Workers' Compensation claims each year, reports OSHA.

While CTS and other repetitive strain injuries happen over time, the second leading cause of workplace injuries can take place in a blink of an eye. Slip-and-fall injuries have cost American employers billions of dollars – $5.7 billion, to be exact, according to Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. “Slip-and-fall incidents happen more often than people think,” says AppleOne Risk Management Manager Anne Kim. “Little things like electric cords lying across a walkway or a file cabinet drawer left open can cause serious harm to employees.”

Simple, Smart and Safe
When it comes to workers’ compensation, prevention is indeed the best cure. “Many times, it’s just a matter of being aware of the work conditions that you and your employees are in,” says Kim. “Something as simple as a checklist that outlines possible workplace hazards can go a long way toward keeping an office a healthy and safe place to work.” This in turn makes an office much less prone to injuries that not only incur, but also raise workers’ comp costs.

Below is a sample Health and Safety Checklist (click here to download a Word document version) that some companies use to ensure the comfort and well-being of their employees. While it is not the ultimate solution to preventing workers’ comp headaches, it is a smart move in the right direction. If there’s any lesson that managers should know, it’s that preventing injury is critical to maintaining a healthy workforce – and a healthy corporate bottom line.

Sample Workplace Health and Safety Checklist

General Work Environment
Are all workstations clean and orderly?
Are all spilled materials or liquids cleaned up immediately?
Is office cleaned by a janitorial service at least twice weekly?
Do all work areas have adequate lighting?
Are electrical cords positioned behind or underneath desks so that they do not interfere with the movement of the desk chair or employees’ walking to and from the desk?
Do file cabinets have locking drawers so that no more than one (1) drawer may be opened at a time?
Is at least one emergency/first-aid kit easily accessible to all employees, with necessary supplies available, periodically inspected and replenished as needed?
Yes No N/A* Walkways
Are aisles and passageways kept clear?
Are holes in the floor, sidewalk or other walking surface repaired properly, covered or otherwise made safe?
Are materials or equipment stored in such a way that sharp projections will not interfere with the walkway?
Are changes in floor elevation readily identifiable?
Is adequate headroom provided for the entire length of any aisle or walkway?
Are standard guardrails provided wherever aisle or walkway surfaces elevated more than 30 inches above any adjacent floor or the ground?
Yes No N/A* Ergonomics
Do computers have anti-glare, anti-reflective screens so that work can be performed without excessive eye strain or glare?
Are the computer monitor, chair height, and phone receiver adjusted so that the neck and shoulders do no have to be strained to conduct employees’ normal job duties?
Can work be done without twisting or overly bending the lower back?
Are there sufficient rest breaks, in additions to the regular rest breaks, to relieve stress from repetitive-motion task?
Are the desks in working order? Meaning drawers move in and out easily, no rough edges or sharp points sticking out that may cause an injury to an employee?
Are chairs adjustable and in working order?

* - Not Applicable

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