For any employer across the U.S., managing the health and safety of all workers is a top priority. Injuries, illnesses and other accidents can happen at any time, and a lack of an adequate risk management plan and proper indemnification could result in financial hardships for a company.
With that in mind, acquiring the right level of workers' compensation insurance, as well as creating viable policies to help injured or ill employees return to work on time, can be great ways to keep people healthy and reduce costs simultaneously. Thankfully for employers, there are a number of ways to go about this. However, there are also several factors that can get in the way of these goals.
For instance, a recent survey conducted by Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute has found rising narcotic use among injured workers in many states, and that can complicate their return to work and insurance costs.
Narcotic use tied to workers' compensation insurance
Across the country, there are an alarming number of injured workers using high levels of narcotics, according to the WCRI study. Called "Interstate Variations in Use of Narcotics, 2nd Edition," this research looked at drug use, prescribing trends and variations in 25 states, and found a close relation between narcotics and workers' compensation insurance.
"The dangers of narcotic misuse resulting in death and addiction constitute a top priority public health problem in the United States and are shared by the workers' compensation community," said Dr. Richard Victor, WCRI's executive director. "This study will give public officials, employers, worker advocates, and other stakeholders the ability to see how the use and prescribing of narcotics in their state compares to others."
Based on the study, the top two states for narcotic use among injured workers was New York and Louisiana. Out-of-work employees there used, on average, over 3,600 milligrams of narcotics per claim. That is double the amount found in a typical state. Narcotic use per claim was also high in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Michigan. Between 2010 and 2012, roughly 65 to 85 percent of all injured workers studied used narcotics. For the survey, WCRI looked at more than 260,000 workers' compensation claims and 1.5 million prescriptions.
A return-to-work program can help cut costs
Many factors can contribute to higher workers' compensation insurance costs for employers, such as elevated narcotic use among injured workers and longer time spent away from the job. Therefore, it should be a priority for all companies to find creative and affordable ways to encourage employees to come back to work in a safe manner.
One such method is a return-to-work program. This strategy doesn't just include encouraging the injured employee to come back - it requires several changes and steps to make sure their current job is suitable for their existing injuries or illnesses. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, any assistance provided by the employer to help the injured person return to work quickly will reduce the financial impact of a workers' compensation insurance claim.
Several changes need to be made in order to get started, the news source noted. At first, the injured worker must be on the job for a shorter amount of time each day. This way, they'll gradually ramp up to their previous workload, and that will reduce the chance for another injury. Better yet, their new tasks will be slightly different than their old ones. A day at work should come with fewer physical demands, or even include a different job altogether for the time being. This might include making changes to the company as well, such as offering new tools, equipment or appliances that will make the injured person's day easier.