One of the biggest shocks for an employer is to find out that a workplace incident aggravated a pre-existing injury that was sustained at one of the worker’s prior employers.
Some people are serial workers’ comp claimants who may or may not be involved in filing fraudulent claims or malingering (stretching an injury claim out long after they can return to work).
And some people, who have been injured at work while employed elsewhere, can re-injure that same injury, forcing your workers’ comp coverage to pay for an injury that may not have been sustained by someone who had not had an earlier injury.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take if you don’t want to inherit a claim that someone incurred at another employer, or an injury that they may risk aggravating while working for you.
Here are five innovative best practices that you can implement to avoid hiring individuals who may be more likely to file a workers’ comp claim.
Pre-work screenings: Pre-work screenings help weed out applicants who physically cannot perform the job. This includes subjecting prospective hirees to a pre-employment test to identify their ability to perform the specific physical demands of the job for which they are applying.
Screenings should especially be used for high-risk jobs, those which cost your business the most in workers’ comp costs due to their inherently higher injury rates.
There are two types of screenings:
- Pre-offer screening: A pre-offer pre-employment screen identifies applicants who are physically able to safely complete the essential job functions of the position for which they are applying. It also will give you a baseline assessment of their physical abilities. If they do sustain an injury at work, this is the baseline physical ability to which they will be rehabilitated, too.
- A post-offer pre-employment screen measures the same functions, but you can also require a medical examination at this stage. This can help you identify any disability, including whether they are under orders from a doctor to limit certain types of physical activity.
Drug screenings and background checks: Drug testing and background checks allow you to identify the integrity of an individual prior to hiring. Drug tests can determine if there is a history of drug use, and, if so, indicate the types of drugs in the system.
Meanwhile, background checks probe the criminal and financial records of an applicant.
If any applicant shows negative incidents on a drug or background check, he or she could be a candidate for future fraudulent activity.
On-site ergonomic solutions: Utilize physical therapists or ergonomists before injuries occur (not just after occurrences) to work with employees, supervisors and management to understand workflow and all job task requirements.
Physical therapists and ergonomists are able to recommend optimum positions, ergonomic strategies and proper physical movements required at workstations to reduce the chances of employees sustaining musculoskeletal injuries, either sudden or from repetitive work.
Employee education: Encourage managers to educate employees on how to use workers’ compensation legitimately, and to understand the implications of it being used illegitimately. Explain the damage to the employer from malingering and fraud by illustrating how claims affect the premium employers pay.
Information should also be shared about penalties and fines that could be incurred with fraudulent claims. Educating employees on a consistent basis can make the difference between having a fraudulent claim on your watch or not.
Prompt injury reporting: Train and engage employees to report any health concerns as soon as they notice any discomfort. This is important, because many workplace injuries are not sudden. Injuries can develop over time in many jobs when they are executed using improper or ergonomically incorrect motions.
Examples of jobs with repetitive motions are machinists that are using the same motion over and again to produce a product, or anyone that types on a keyboard for a living.
So, if an employer raises concerns about discomfort to a supervisor, it should be given serious attention. That way the supervisor, the worker and inside or outside specialists can address the issue. This can be done through observations and evaluations of the work pattern of the worker, and comparison to those of others in the department.
The worker should also be sent for medical diagnosis or medical care to treat the discomfort before it becomes a bigger problem.