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Injuries at work no accident

January 7, 2014

Nearly every workplace injury has a definable, preventable cause. This means workplace injuries don’t result from “accidents.” Nearly every workplace injury has a preventable cause. For tips to prevent accidents, continue reading.

There is almost no such thing as an accident. And this means there is virtually no such thing as a workplace accident.

This concept has been spelled out by Dr. Richard Kunnes. An M.D., Kunnes has served as vice president of Managed Specialty Products, a division of the Prudential Insurance Company of America.

The concept is simple: Every workplace accident has a root cause or root causes. Employers shouldn’t allow managers, supervisors and employees to dismiss workplace injuries as, “Just an accident.”

“The next time an employee, supervisor or physician says an accident was caused by ‘human error,'” said Kunnes, “he or she is telling you they have no idea why that accident occurred. Or worse, they don’t care why it occurred.”

It is extremely important to investigate what actually caused an accident. Almost every workplace accident has a definable, and more importantly, a preventable cause. A policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” could result in unnecessary and preventable injuries or even deaths.

“All accidents need to be formally documented, investigated and reported,” said Kunnes. Some employers have a standing accident review committee composed of management and staff.

Kunnes cautioned employers against having accident-arrogant attitudes, such as “That can’t happen here” or “We’ve already done all we can.”

Similarly, the employer doesn’t want to be accident-ignorant. Understand that accidents don’t “just happen” and there is something management and employees can do. Seek out cause and effect relationships for specific accidents or injuries. Then work to eliminate the hazards and minimize the risks so there won’t be a “next time.”

And recognize accident-passivity — doing nothing — could become far more expensive than taking appropriate accident prevention measures now.

To achieve a safety-first workplace environment, management and employees must care… and cooperate.

Kunnes pointed out in a workplace setting where employer and employee are perceived as adversaries, Workers’ Comp claims are more likely to be delayed and end up in litigation. And early return to work (light duty) is less likely to happen. Such employers are also likely to be less committed to seeking causes and removing hazards.

Without mutual commitment to avoid accidents, employees risk more injuries. And the employer pays additional costs.

Make employees partners in claim prevention and even financially reward them for their help, said Kunnes. Make suggestion boxes for safety, as well as for workplace comfort, available to employees. Offer financial rewards for cost-saving suggestions.

Kunnes recommended formal and ongoing training on accident prevention and investigation. “Have a professional consultant come in,” he suggested. The major Workers’ Comp carriers can provide or recommend consultants who will look at claims records, study the workplace, and train employees on safety.

Rather than skip the training, smaller employers who find it too costly may be able to join together with other employers to bring in a consultant or trainer for their employees.

Promoting health and fitness to employees is also part of an accident prevention plan, said Kunnes, because “people in better health generally experience fewer accidents.”

Here are a few more techniques described by Kunnes to help employers promote good health and prevent Workers’ Comp claims:

  • Prevent unauthorized machine alterations and adhere to strict safety policies.
  • Do ergonomic analysis and implement the results for all major job categories.
  • For new employees, conduct fitness testing for the specific job. Kunnes suggested doing an automated health risk appraisal, which tells employees their health risks in various areas, based on their responses to a questionnaire.
  • Implement a physical conditioning exercise program (where relevant) for employees. Examples: back training for lifters, sitting exercises for drivers, and wristhand training for computer operators. After initial training sessions, employees might be encouraged to continue with regular warm-up or strengthening exercises.
  • Distribute a monthly or quarterly health and safety newsletter or information sheet. If in-house publication is not practical, ask the Workers’ Comp or health insurance carrier about providing it.Also, employee assistance programs (EAPs) can help to reduce accidents. An EAP program can handle problems of substance abuse, stress and other mental health conditions before they result in an injury on the job. Be sure the EAP is both accessible and confidential to encourage employees to utilize it.

Kunnes said statistics show “companies that have accident prevention programs have far fewer claims, and those they do have are for less dollars.”

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