Worker’s Compensation: Controlling Risks at Work Can Reduce Claims

Posted on July 1, 1995 by Sara Eastwood

What causes accidents?  Bad Luck?  Usually accidents happen when two or more work-related risks collide.  The more risks that are present, the greater the likelihood of an accident.  Controlling potential risks can have a dramatic impact on your accident rate.

It’s so important to properly maintain hallways, garages, parking lots, and stairways.  Poor lighting, loose wires, and greasy floors also increase the likelihood of an accident.  As the employer, the workplace is your responsibility.

If you service your own vehicles, pay special attention to the condition of your tools and the cleanliness of your facility.  Your staff must be trained in the use of the equipment.  If equipment needs repair, address the situation immediately or replace what is not operating properly.

Employee safety training is the employer’s responsibility.  The training must stress execution of what has been taught.  The best safety measures and training will be unsuccessful if they are ignored.  Workers are your eyes and ears in the workplace.  The following are a few things employees can do to keep themselves and others safe:

  • Encourage staff to speak up, identify, and report unsafe conditions before they contribute to an accident.
  • Learn the proper way to do a job.
  • Learn to use equipment safely.
  • Educate drivers on the importance of daily leg and back exercises.

Recently, there was a case where a man from Northern California was mugged in the parking lot of his workplace.  He filed for and received workers’ compensation.  This man was out of work for a few months.  The position had to be filled to keep the operation functional.  The injured man eventually returned to work.  However, he was given a different position within the company.  He sued the company for violating ADA provisions because he was not reinstated to his former position.

The employer argued that the claim should be dismissed because workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for work-related injuries.  The court ultimately found in favor of the employee.  Needless to say (in California), workers’ compensation does not protect employers from ADA suits.

Because of the above scenario, it is important to deal cautiously with employees.  Avoid any form of retaliation or even the appearance of such against and employee who is injured on the job.  Seriously consider your obligation to reasonably accommodate an employee who has sustained a disabling work-related injury.

Finally, be sure you are making the correct distinction between permanent and temporary disabilities.  A temporary disability does not “substantially limit” an activity if they heal within a reasonable period of time.  There is no long-term impact.  Permanent disabilities are those which take significantly longer than expected to heal or cause long-term impairment.

In every work environment there is the written rule and then there is the reality of how things really get done.  Being serious about reducing the risk of job-related accidents means making safety a real issue and an active part of each day.


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