Reducing Lost Time Claims: It Pays to “Be Nice”
Trying to reduce workers’ comp claims and lost time? Do you tend to look at the obvious first? Things like workplace design, injury prevention training, Cal/OSHA regulations, safety signs and reminders, prompt attention to injuries and measures to prevent them. But, with all that in place, costly lost time claims still occur?
You may be overlooking a major factor. It’s the impact a supervisor’s attitude can have on the injury and the claim, including claim escalation and length of disability. In theory, of course, supervisors know it’s important to be nice. But do they really put that theory into practice?
In fact, it may not be especially difficult or costly to address this often overlooked ingredient. One study (Shaw, William; Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, 2006) showed that just four hours of training on communication skills and respect for injured workers, along with ergonomic accommodations, reduced lost time claims by 47%, existing claims by 18% and workers’ comp costs by 80%.
Some may see this approach as “soft science” or “psychosocial fluff.” But can you really afford to ignore the impact of supervisor behavior? In addition to training, another valuable tool is to compare supervisor and employee perceptions on issues like workplace culture, staff engagement, workflow, work overload, supervisor openness and preconceptions about injuries.
Is there a disconnect? Most of the time, there is. The supervisor feels they have an “open door” and always have the “best interest” of the employee at heart. Yet the employee says the supervisor rolls their eyes about discomfort or pain, doesn’t act on the information, won’t order ergonomic accommodations or there’s no follow-up.
As a supervisor, there’s value in being nice. Value that’s both tangible and intangible. So train your supervisory team on communicating with injured workers, how to provide and embrace ergonomic accommodations, and the importance of being supportive, proactive and collaborative with their injured workers. You’ll see a difference!