According to a report by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor, a staggering 69 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses may not be represented in the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, which many trust as a gauge of the safety of American workplaces. On a corporate level, not reporting or underreporting workplace injuries can have serious ramifications for the organization and the employer, which can include fines, exorbitant and unnecessary, health costs and more.
Research has found that the employer’s behavior, policies and attitude are key determinants in a worker’s decision to report an injury. Not only is it essential that employees are educated on the importance of reporting injuries, it is also important to examine your company policies so you are not inadvertently discouraging reporting. The consequences of underreporting can be severe.
Consequences of Underreporting
The unfortunate trend of injury underreporting can have serious ramifications at both the industry and company level. Widespread underreporting can be quite damaging to workers’ compensation rates on a large scale. Employers may not realize it, but such an underreporting problem may lead to more audits by insurance companies of their clients and higher rates for everyone. Many employers erroneously believe that reporting injuries leads to audits and higher rates.
At the company level, underreporting injuries can be quite costly for the employer. If it is an OSHA-reportable incident, the employer may face significant fines if it is not properly recorded or reported.
In addition, often when an injury isn’t reported or properly cared for immediately, it worsens and leads to higher health care costs and more lost time. Even if it is never reported as a workplace injury, the employer still loses out on health care costs and productivity. If it is eventually reported, it becomes much more difficult to prove that it was workplace-related. Additionally, a study reported by the Hartford Financial Services Group found that injuries reported four or five weeks after the incident are 45 percent more expensive than injuries reported within the first week due to increased health costs and possible legal fees, or even a lawsuit, associated with late reporting.
One of the best ways to control workers’ compensation costs is through early reporting and intervention. Not only will it save money in health bills and legal fees, but it will also help to constantly improve your safety program. When there is an injury, consider it an opportunity to examine current safety procedures and decide if there is a suitable change that could be made to prevent similar injuries in the future. Thus, prompt reporting can be a productive element to your safety program in your quest to always strive for the safest work environment. Rather than accepting a vicious circle where injuries are not reported and thus nothing is done to fix the problem, leading to more injuries, take advantage of injury reporting as a proactive solution to safety.
Reasons for Underreporting
There are several reasons why employees may not report injuries immediately or at all.
Incentive programs: Many employers have reward or incentive programs to promote their safety initiatives, such as rewards for going a certain number of days without an injury. This can create a negative attitude toward reporting an injury, since doing so could cost that employee, a co-worker or a superior a reward or bonus.
Having incentive programs are a good idea, but a more effective strategy is to reward positive, safe behaviors. This can include reporting a safety hazard, attending a safety meeting or training class or equipment maintenance. Rather than rewarding for days without an injury, reward behaviors that strive to avoid injury, or even reward employees for prompt reporting when an injury occurs.
Fear of negative ramifications: Some employees fear that reporting an injury will create an image of them as weak to their co-workers and managers. He or she also may fear that such an image will be a detriment to his or her career.
Dispel this fear by assuring all employees that reporting an injury will have no negative impact on their job, and ensure follow through on all levels of the company. Work to promote a safety culture where prompt injury reporting is encouraged and praised. Injury reporting should never be frowned upon, even subtly or behind closed doors. If employees find out you are angry about a reported injury, he or she is less likely to report an injury in the future.
Some companies have a policy mandating drug testing after any incident whether or not there is evidence of drug use. This deters some employees from reporting injuries as well. Consider making the drug testing conditional depending on the circumstances of the injury and whether there is evidence that drug use was a factor.
For more information about injury reporting or your company’s workers’ compensation and safety programs, please contact Scurich Insurance at 831-661-5697 today.
Employee Drug Use Reaches 12-year High
The positive drug test rate for the U.S. workforce was 4.2 percent in 2016, according to the Drug Testing Index (DTI) released by Quest Diagnostics. This represents a 5 percent increase over the positive rate in 2015, and the largest single-year positive rate since 2004.
The DTI analyzed over 10 million workforce drug test results from 2016 and categorized employees into three categories, including employees with federally mandated drug tests, the general workforce and the combined U.S. workforce. Here are additional details about the DTI’s findings for specific drug types:
- Marijuana—The positive test rate for marijuana increased nearly 75 percent in oral fluid testing, which is used in the general workforce. Federally mandated marijuana tests only utilize urine tests, and the positive test rate increased 10 percent in 2016.
- Cocaine—Positive test rates for cocaine in post-accident drug tests were more than twice as high as pre-employment screenings.
- Amphetamines—Positive test rates for amphetamines have risen 64 percent between 2012 and 2016 for the general workforce. Quest Diagnostics attributes this increase to the prevalence of prescription drugs, including Adderall.
In order to create a safe, productive workplace, you need to watch out for potential drug use at your business.
Political Discussions Hurt Job Performance
Many people can get worked up about politics, but a new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) has shown that political discussions in the workplace can have a big impact on your employees’ job performance.
The APA surveyed U.S. employees about the impact of political discussions after the 2016 presidential election, and found that these discussions have a detrimental effect on job performance and relationships with co-workers. The survey found that 40 percent of employees have experienced a negative outcome following a workplace political discussion, such as reduced productivity or difficulty getting work done. Additionally, 24 percent of employees said they avoid some co-workers solely because of their politics.
According to the APA, social networks and constant news reports can cause individuals to adopt an “us versus them” political mentality, which can lead to conflict. As a result, it’s important to encourage respect, collaboration and courtesy in your workplace to ensure that your employees feel supported and remain productive.
New Executive Order Aims to Improve Cyber Security
President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to improve the country’s cyber security and protect key infrastructure from cyber attacks. The order also emphasized the importance of strengthening the cyber security of federal agencies. According to a survey from Thales Group, a cyber security company, 34 percent of federal agencies experienced a data breach in the last year, and 95 percent of agencies consider themselves vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The executive order did not create any ongoing cyber security requirements, but instead laid out goals to assess the current state of cyber defenses and develop deterrence strategies. Here are some of the requirements of the executive order:
- Federal agencies must draft reports on their ability to defend themselves against cyber threats.
- The departments of Energy and Homeland Security must assess potential vulnerabilities to the country’s electrical grids. The executive order specifically mentions that prolonged power outages could pose a threat to national security or damage the economy.
- Various federal agencies must review the cyber defense plans of U.S. allies in order to cooperate during international cyber attacks.
Apple Creates $1 Billion Fund to Support U.S. Manufacturing
Apple, the world’s largest technology company, recently announced that it will create a $1 billion fund to support U.S. manufacturing. Although the company is based in the United States, it has faced criticism for outsourcing most of its manufacturing and taking jobs from U.S. workers.
Apple’s CEO stated that one goal of the fund was to support smart manufacturing and to create a ripple effect in industries that support smart manufacturers. For more information on the manufacturing fund, visit Apple’s website.
DID YOU KNOW?
A U.S. Court of Appeals recently barred the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from requiring recreational drone owners to register their unmanned aircraft. The FAA had originally required recreational drones to be registered in order to help identify aircraft that posed a hazard, and to pass on safety information to operators. However, the court’s ruling will not impact the use of drones for commercial use, as these aircraft must still be registered with the FAA before they are used.
For your workers to enjoy the full financial benefits from their 401(k) plans, experts recommend that employee education sessions make sure that participants:
- Contribute enough to receive the maximum match. One expert estimates that at least one in three employees don’t make the maximum contribution, which means they’re leaving free money on the table.
- Avoid account trading. Because it’s all too easy for plan participants to panic at market bottoms and be over-confident at tops, advise them not to open their account statements during these periods.
- Diversify. Concentrating account balances in one or a few funds that employees feel will perform well or are safe means making a risky bet on only one economic scenario.
- Keep their money in the plan. Employees who take out loans on their funds, make withdrawals or cash out a 401(k) when they change jobs will have to pay taxes and penalties that reduce plan payout by almost 50%, which will make it impossible to save enough for retirement.
- Keep saving. Workers stop saving for a number of reasons. The equity market falls, their spouse loses a job, they want to save outside the plan for a home, car, boat, marriage, etc. It’s far better to lower their contribution if necessary, without going to 0%. Remember, employees need to average 15% in savings over an entire career to retire at their current standard of living.
- Focus on the bottom line. The most important factor in a 401(k) is not the allocation of assets, market timing, or investment performance, although these are important. It’s how much the employee saves!
Make sure that you follow these guidelines in retirement planning education for your employees. They’ll be grateful for your encouragement and support.