Safety Newsletter
May 2010
diane adams
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In This Issue
Safety in the Current Economy
Handling Workers Compensation Claims
Online Safety Resources
Safety in the Current Economy

With the slowdown in the economy, there is good reason to cut expenses. However, there may be a temptation to cut safety efforts, but that could well backfire. Though the financial benefits of safety are not always easy to gauge, there have been many cases where dropping safety efforts has come back to haunt the business.     

Losing an experienced worker can negatively effect productivity, customer satisfaction and employee morale. This is especially problematic in a workforce that has already been downsized. Additionally, there may be additional hidden costs such as overtime, increase expenses, spoilage of food, loss of production, failure to fill orders, loss of customers, etc.

When the economy is in a downturn, competition is stiff and customers will have more opportunity to look to your competitors to provide them with good customer service. Now is not the time to stop or reduce your safety efforts.  

Conversely, employees who feel they may be laid off may be tempted to fake an injury.  Injuries that have visible effects, such as cuts, can't be faked. So when employees fake an injury, it's usually an internal one such as a back injury. 

Possible "red flags" for injuries include:
  • Report of injury not timely and immediate;
  • No witnesses to accident;
  • Disgruntled employee
  • Employee with poor work/attendance history
  • Injured worker cannot recall specific details about the injury
  • Rumors/reports from other employees that injury is not legitimate or that s/he is working elsewhere.
  • Injured worker cannot be reached because he or she is never home or is reportedly sleeping and cannot be disturbed;
  • Injury is not consistent with nature of business;
  • Date, time and place of accident is unknown;
  • Injured worker moves out of state or country shortly after filing claim;
  • Accident/incident occurs immediately prior to strike, layoff, plant closing, job termination or job completion;
  • Injured worker refuses (or delays multiple times) diagnostic procedures to confirm injury;
  • Conflicting descriptions of the accident/incident between employer's report and initial medical evaluation;
  • New employee
  • Employee who has had recent disciplinary action taken against them.
  • Multiple number of injuries from this employee
  • Delay in reporting injury - on Monday morning employee says injury happened on Friday, or employee says nothing when he/she leaves work the day before but reports an injury the next day.
  • Employee isn't eager to return to work
  • Late Friday/early Monday injuries
Please advise your claims rep of any concerns when the injury is reported or as soon as you sense something is not right about the injury. It is best to provide written documentation of all pertinent facts, including:  
  • Take written statements from witnesses, including what they saw and did NOT see.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene and any equipment involved  
  • Review the history of any employee who gets involved in an accident even if there's no evidence of wrongdoing.
Most of the employees who report an injury are experiencing real pain, and they should be treated with respect while obtaining and providing pertinent information. 

Tips on Handling Workers Compensation Claims
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When an accident occurs, it can disrupt your operation for a period of minutes to years, depending on the severity. It is best to be prepared ahead of time, as better decisions can be made in less stressful situations.  In future articles we will discuss accident investigation and root cause analysis, but for now, there are a number of things to consider and plan for.

Locate a designated clinic within the Farmers Medical Provider Network (MPN).  Call 1 800 383-2763 or go to to find your choice of local clinics that are approved by Farmers. You may visit the clinic ahead of time to get to know the doctors and staff.  As of part of the work comp reforms effective in 2005, employees with job related injuries should be treated within the MPN. (In order for an employee to use his/her own physician, the employer must offer health benefits, the doctor must be the employees' primary care doctor and previously directed the employee's treatment and retained the employees records; and the physician must agree to the pre-designation. Last, the employee must notify the employer in writing prior to the injury.) Otherwise, use the MPN.  

Report the claim ASAP. Studies have shown that the quicker a claim is reported, the quicker it is settled and the less money is paid. Of course, this requires the employee to report the injury to you, so make sure to discuss prompt reporting in your safety meetings. When employees linger in reporting a claim, the injury may start to get worse, they may begin to get discouraged, become influenced by other people or TV ads to obtain an attorney, etc.

Follow-up Communication: It is important to stay in communication with all parties involved: your employee, the clinic, and the claims adjuster.

  • Your employee: Ask your employee how s/he is doing, what their thoughts are regarding the clinic, how they like the doctor, etc. If they aren't satisfied, they may switch to another physician within the MPN.  Stay in touch, send them flowers, listen to them, and keep them feeling like part of the team.
  • The Clinic: Know your doctor(s). Stay informed on the progress. Provide the clinic with a job description, so they can determine the employees' duties. If at all possible, get the employee back on the job via early-return-to- work (AKA: light duty, modified work). Employees feel more productive and part of the team when they are back to work, and they seem to heal faster. (When people stay at home to long, they get into a pattern of laziness, become disassociated with work, watch attorney ads on TV, etc).
  • The claims adjuster: Keep the adjuster informed. If you suspect anything suspicious, or are aware that the employee is working a second job, document what you know and send it (in writing) to the adjuster ASAP. The adjuster has the latitude to send a Private Investigator when circumstances warrant it. Don't rely just on verbal conversations with the adjuster, and don't wait till it's too late.  
  • Your Farmers Agent: your agent is there to help you with questions or problems; be sure to enlist their help.

Online Safety Resources

This an online safety library of risk management resources, workplace safety programs, forms, training material & management software for your company. 

United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Browse this governmental website by audience, topic or location to find important occupational safety information.

National Safety Council
The National Safety Council saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

A California coalition for worker occupational safety and health protection.

Richard Hawk - Make Safety Fun
Richard Hawk is a leading expert on making safety programs fun, memorable and effective.

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