Guest Column: Steps to Help Reduce Workers’ Compensation Claims

by | May 1, 2023 | 2023, May/June, TimberWest Magazine

By Jeff Cecchini

Logging work is the most dangerous job in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of 100,000 full-time logging workers in 2021 alone, 82 were killed due to work-related incidents.

Hazardous working conditions, the potential for long-term disability claims, and the high risk of occupational diseases caused by prolonged exposure to certain materials used in these jobs all lead to workers filing workers’ compensation claims. It’s no surprise that the industry reports a large number of claims annually.

As such, companies must be especially vigilant when it comes to creating a safe environment that minimizes potential risks and encourages employee well-being at every level. Here are four proactive measures your company can establish to reduce work-related injuries — and workers’ compensation claims overall.

1. Establish Pre-hire Screenings

One of the most effective ways for logging and lumber companies to reduce workers’ compensation claims is to implement pre-hire screenings. This step enables employers to assess a prospective employee’s physical abilities to determine if they can do the job. Screenings help ensure that only qualified employees are hired, which can help reduce work-related injuries. Assessing an employee’s strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, endurance and agility prior to hiring them also helps eliminate any unforeseen risks associated with certain duties.

Consider hiring a third-party professional to perform pre-hire employee physicals and functional capacity evaluations to help identify and manage potential risks. Through these screenings, employers can acquire an understanding of an individual’s medical history, as well as any underlying health issues that may affect their ability to perform certain tasks.

2. Maintain or Improve Your Physical Workspace

Creating a safe work environment not only leads to improved productivity among employees, it can also reduce workers’ compensation claims for those working inside or outdoors. Regular inspection of worksites helps identify potential safety hazards and any other potential risks, which then can be promptly addressed.

Employers can also take additional steps to promote employee wellness and safety within the physical workspace, including:

Allocating areas for stretching or other exercise

Encouraging stretching can help reduce fatigue-related injuries and promote better posture while working. Regular stretches can also improve blood circulation throughout the body, which can help prevent muscular aches and pains associated with extended periods of sitting in one position.

Providing healthy food options

This not only encourages employees to make healthier dietary choices but also fosters an atmosphere of health awareness.

Providing ergonomic workstations for those who work indoors

Ergonomic workstations reduce back strain caused by poor posture while sitting down for long hours at a desk or computer station.

Encouraging walking to boost cardiovascular activity

This includes encouraging the use of stairwells versus elevators for those who work inside a facility or using outdoor walking trails when taking breaks. This encourages physical activity during breaks from work and helps relieve stress during busy periods in logging operations.

3. Promote Physical and Emotional Health

Stress and anxiety can increase the chances of injury and illness. Implementing formal wellness initiatives is one way to help improve your employees’ physical health and reduce fatigue-related injuries.

Employers can start by offering stress management classes and seminars as well as providing access to mental health care providers or counselors if needed. This can help employees cope with anxiety or depression while promoting a positive work environment. Companies should also encourage regular breaks throughout the day and provide rest areas where employees can take time away from their desks to stretch or do light exercises.

Similarly, employers can offer incentives for participation in fitness activities, such as discounts on gym memberships or reimbursements for exercise classes.

Beyond physical health, employers should also focus on fostering a sense of emotional wellbeing among staff. Creating an open dialogue between supervisors and employees helps businesses create an atmosphere of trust within the workplace that promotes communication and understanding among all levels of staff.

Additionally, employers should provide resources for employees who may be dealing with personal issues outside of work. This includes grief counseling services or financial advisors who can assist with budgeting advice.

Providing resources such as the ones described above not only shows support for those struggling but also demonstrates that your company cares about its workers beyond their job performance alone. The result: increased morale and satisfaction among workers.

4. Focus on the Tasks at Hand

When it comes to logging and lumber companies, the nature of the work often poses the greatest risks for worker’s compensation claims. As such, employers must take steps to ensure that employees are properly trained and equipped to carry out their duties safely.

Establishing clear and concise work rules is essential for reducing the likelihood of work-related injuries. Education and training also should be provided to all new employees to ensure they understand how to complete tasks in a safe manner. Implementing post-hire training sessions that emphasize safety protocols and regulations also helps your company stay compliant with relevant labor laws.

Additionally, employers should provide employees with all necessary tools and equipment needed to complete tasks and avoid using potentially dangerous improvised methods.

For jobs that are especially injury-prone, employers should implement a daily check-in routine so workers can report any potential safety issues or hazards they come across while carrying out their duties. This can help identify any areas of risk before an incident occurs and allows you to address them promptly before any harm is done. This also allows you to adjust any safety protocols or procedures if needed in order to protect your workers from harm.

Ultimately, enforcing regular check-ins encourages open communication between managers and staff which, in turn, fosters trust amongst personnel.

Taking proactive measures to reduce work-related injuries and foster employee health and well-being will go a long way in reducing work-related injuries and ultimately, workers’ compensation claims.

(Jeff Cecchini is a licensed insurance agent representing HUB International; his office is in Portland, Oregon.)




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