When Unemployment Goes Down, Workers’ Comp Injuries Go Up

Published on Mon, 03/09/2015 - 23:21

The uptick in the U.S. economy has brought a noticeable ray of sunshine to employment statistics. In fact, the unemployment rate has been dropping in recent years, reaching 5.5 percent in February according to data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s great news for job seekers and for businesses alike.

But for employers, it’s a double-edged sword: when unemployment goes down, work injuries go up.

Statistics from workers’ compensation insurer SFM show that as unemployment drops, the number of claims filed by employees who have been on the job less than a year goes up. Those newer employees account for 40 percent of workplace injuries, and they’re five times more likely to have a lost time injury in their first month of employment than an experienced worker, according to OSHA.

Your hiring and onboarding practices are your first line of defense against runaway workers’ compensation costs. So before you hire, make sure you’re following these best practices:

  1. Prepare before you hire. Gather complete information about the duties, responsibilities, skills, expectations, and work environment of the position, and develop well-defined job descriptions that accurately detail the physical demands of the position.
  2. Screen thoroughly. Conduct thorough background checks, including work references, educational credentials, drug screening, criminal history, and pre-placement physical exams. Be cautious about third party workers’ compensation background checks; you can’t ask about an applicant’s prior workers’ comp claims with other employers, but you can ask strictly job-related medical questions to determine whether the applicant has any restrictions on their ability to perform certain tasks. Also, make sure you comply with all civil rights and discrimination laws to avoid costly legal troubles.
  3. Interview smart. The questions you ask in the interview are critical for picking out the best candidates and assessing the applicant’s level of interest. Pose real-life work scenarios and ask candidates how they would handle the situation, and pay close attention to how they form their responses and their manner of presentation.
  4. Provide clear objectives. Make sure new hires fully understand their job functions and all company policies such as dress code, computer restrictions, and compliance procedures.
  5. Foster a culture of safety. Stress safety with every new employee from day one, with thorough training on topics such as fire safety, electrical safety, housekeeping, sexual harassment, proper lifting techniques, fall protection, and hazard communications. Help them take ownership of workplace safety.
  6. Stay connected. Don’t take a “hire and forget” stance with new employees. Connect regularly with them to provide feedback, first at 30- and 90-day checkpoints, then through regular performance feedback from the new hire and the supervisor. Don’t just be a boss; be a mentor.
  7. Rinse and repeat. Once you have an effective hiring and onboarding procedure down, stick to it for every new hire.

Workers’ compensation continues to be one of the most challenging and costly risks for employers, but there are measures you can take to control those costs. Your hiring and onboarding practices are a crucial first step. For more ways to hire smart and take charge of your workers’ compensation costs, contact the experts at Heffernan Insurance Brokers.