To most workers and employers, being involved in a workplace injury can be a traumatic and frustrating predicament that becomes complicated to deal with. Equally complicated is the combination of federal and state laws that protect workers and regulate employers regarding job related injuries. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA, requires employers to comply with specific health and safety standards specified by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As well, employers have a general duty to maintain a workplace that is free from recognized hazards. This becomes a particularly arduous task when your employees are moving about from one place to another in a vehicle. Since worker’s that are injured on the job are entitled by state law to workers’ compensation benefits, it is to your advantage to understand the laws that apply and make certain that your company has a policy in place to properly react if any injury occurs. Worker’s Comp In a Nutshell What is it?
Required by state law, workers’ compensation insurance is furnished by the company, at its expense. The policy is intended to provide workers with medical care and pay for lost time resulting from injury or illness caused by their work. Several types of workers’ compensation are available to injured workers, they include: medical expenses, temporary incapacity, or permanent incapacity benefits. In cases where death to the worker has occurred, benefits may also be extended to the dependants’. Who is eligible?
Workers that have been in your employ for at least one month conducting manual or non-manual labor are eligible. Prepare Your Place of Work Creating a policy that considers applicable state laws and is consistent with your work environment is crucial for your comprehensive coverage. Livery operators spend most of their working time in the driver’s seat of a vehicle. Inasmuch, policies regarding their posture, frequency of stretch breaks, condition of the drivers’ seat cushions are all potential issues for your business and its drivers. Likewise, dispatch operators are seated at a desk most of the day. Policies regarding posture, level of the work surface, risks related to carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive motion are necessary. It is important that your company has a policy that is compliant with your state’s workers’ compensation laws. State regulations can be accessed through the U.S. Department of Labor website. Handle Reporting Properly/Promptly Reporting a workers’ compensation claim in a timely manner is crucial to the success of its proper handling. When an accident occurs, an employer should follow the filing policy of your company and the advice of your insurance carrier. “It is critical to have a good working relationship with your insurance provider. It is to your mutual benefit that the carrier advises you on how to minimize your risk and the potential risk to employees,” says Robert Chiaravalli, attorney and Human Resource Strategy president. “An effective insurance agency will provide reference, case management studies, and even training where necessary to educate you on minimizing risk. It’s also imperative that you understand your state laws regarding these issues.” According to a recent seminar at the LCT Summit, Bobit Publishing’s Human Resources Manager Mary Todd reported that the following steps should be taken: * Report the accident in a timely fashion. OSHA laws suggest guidelines and restrictions in this area. * Make it easy for employees to report accidents and injury by providing information to them on the policy and proper contact person within your company. * Be aware of potential fraud – remain compassionate to your employee, assisting them without accepting immediate responsibility – allow the insurance agency the opportunity to complete their job by investigating the claim. Protecting Yourself against Insurance Fraud Workers’ compensation attorneys can be found in every telephone book across the nation. Protect yourself from unwanted abuse by following a few simple steps: * When you hire a new employee, review the workers’ compensation policy and keep a signed copy with his/her employment records. * Keep your policies updated and when revised, require all employees to read and understand the policy changes. Have employees commit their understanding with a signature on the policy and keep a copy in their employment file. * Treat employees fairly as not to inspire “wanting revenge”. * Keep communication open with your insurance carrier. If you suspect an employee is abusing the system, be clear when you report the claim that “you have reason to believe that this claim is fraudulent”. Make certain that you have documented information to back up your suspicion. * Inform your carrier immediately if you get a post-termination claim from a dismissed worker. Conduct Safety Checks Once policy is established, make certain that your employees are practicing according to your standards. If your policy for livery drivers requires that they maintain good back health with regular stretch breaks, see to it that they are complying. If you require a regular physical for all employees, require proof of this at their annual employee review. It also is important that every business conduct safety training pre- and post-hire. This simple checklist is a good place to begin, modifying according to your personal business practices. * Pre-screen employees and conduct background checks. Conduct drug screenings as allowed/required by law. * Require trainer-assisted defensive driver’s training for livery operators. * Hold regular safety meetings with all employees. Document attendance and materials presented. * Consider implementing drive-cams to record accidents and driving habits of operators. * Draft all operational policies with ultimate safety in mind (example: restrict phone usage while driving).
Resource Training Is Available
There are many on-line resources available to assist you in your preparations. In addition to seeking the advice of your corporate attorney, websites referenced for this article include: the U.S. Department of Labor at http://dol.gov , the Ministry of Manpower at http://www.workerscompensation.com for simplified rules and regulations. Human resource managers can access http://www.counciloned.com for HR seminars regarding workers’ compensation reference materials and seminars. Contributing attorney for this article can be found at Robert@hrstrategy.biz.