Pandemic restrictions are lifting, and you’ve been ramping up your business. Customers are coming back and you are hiring staff. The outlook is good.
Still, you should be aware of situations in the workforce that have changed during the past few years. These new developments affect your operations, your risks, your liabilities and your ability to keep your employees safe.
If an employee is injured while in the course and scope of their job, it’s a workers’ compensation claim. Even if the employee leaves your employ, the claim for the work-related injury remains the liability of you and your insurance company.
Absences due to these injuries cause disruptions in your scheduling; sometimes, recoveries drag on, and there is a cloud of uncertainty about what’s going on. Here are three developments to keep in mind to protect your employees and your business:
1) Newly hired workers are more likely to be injured on the job.
In a rush to re-hire and staff up, many service businesses are seeing an increase in work-related injuries among their employees with less than three months of tenure.
When multiple people are brought on board right away, training may not be as thorough as it would have been during “normal” times. Data suggests that restaurants and bars employ younger workers more than other businesses, and this segment of employees are those most likely to be injured. Inexperience in the job and less experience in life lends itself to taking safety procedures less seriously.
Now is the time to look at your training program and the reinforcement of safety procedures ensuring they are up-to-date, thorough and continually enforced by supervisors. Potential opportunities to mitigate injuries include procedures around the lifting of heavy objects, decluttering spaces, installing non-slip floor coverings, wearing slip-resistant footwear and using gloves to reduce knife injuries.
While strains from slips and falls are the leading risks of injury in the restaurant industry, cuts and burns are close behind. Wearing proper attire, keeping arms covered when handling hot utensils, and using caution when carrying hot or greasy foods are necessary protective steps.
It may also be prudent to look at any new processes or systems you’ve put in place and identify new hazards related to order procedures, how customers queue, how they are served, how they are seated and how food and beverages are served.
Your workers’ compensation insurer or administrator can help by analyzing claims data to identify and correct prospective hazards. They can also consult with you on prevention and safety loss control measures.
2) Lean on technology to promptly treat and manage injuries.
Just as we learned to rely on telehealth and remote doctor visits for medical care during the pandemic, we also saw these innovations becoming standard practice for workplace injuries.
For example, when an accident or injury occurs, the decision must be made about what to do: Call an ambulance? Send the worker home? Send her to the urgent care center? Fix her up from the first aid kit?
Now, telephonic and virtual triage services connect supervisors and the injured employee to trained medical professionals who can immediately assess the best course of care. Employees that experience this service know they are receiving proper treatment and are not unnecessarily losing work time.
Digital connectivity will also speed up the treatment program throughout the course of care of an injury, leading to faster recoveries and return to work. Doctor visits can be performed remotely, where specialists can be brought in for consultations to make treatment decisions immediately. This eliminates making an additional appointment with the specialist and losing time during recovery.
Physical therapy can also be done at home with remote coaching; devices can measure the employee’s functionality and recovery. If you do not have these innovations in place, ask your workers’ compensation carrier or administrator about them. These resources can be a boon to you and your employees if injuries occur.
3) Be aware of the impact of behavioral health issues within your workforce.
The pandemic helped spawn an epidemic of another sort — spikes in anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Younger workers are more prone to these problems and are more likely to leave jobs because of them.
Employees are especially vulnerable when they have experienced a work-related injury that results in pain, inability to work, and uncertainty about their ability to recover and return to their job and normal life.
Pain and isolation are correlated to anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders, which can complicate recovery and even lead to long-term disability, as well as an inability to rejoin the workforce. Case managers are now trained to screen for and spot emerging signs of mental health problems and to provide or arrange for additional coaching to help these injured employees cope with their situation and continue on the path to recovery.
As an employer, your engagement with your injured worker and your demonstration of compassion and empathy can make a profound difference, mitigating some of these behavioral health issues. Ask your carrier what resources they are providing in this area, so you know that your employees are getting the best care and oversight if they are in this situation.
Jeff Gurtcheff is vice president of enterprise comp for risk management technology provider CorVel Corp.