Employees of nursing homes and personal care facilities experience some of the highest rates of on- the-job injuries. Consequently, nursing homes experience a lost workday illness and injury rate more than four times higher than that of private industry as a whole – greater than mining, construction, and manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Why does nursing home care come with such a high injury exposure? In large part because of the manual lifting of patients that is involved; i.e., moving residents to and from bed, assisting with bathing and positioning patients in chairs. This can result in micro-injuries to the spine and trigger moderate to severe musculoskeletal disorders. These injuries, in turn, not only reap havoc on the health and earning potential of workers but also on the turnover rate and financial health of nursing home operators.
How can you help a nursing home facility reduce its Workers’ Compensation premiums and the cost of claims? First, it’s important that when looking to place comp coverage that correct information is submitted. This means having complete and accurate classification codes for employees, correct payroll information and thorough loss history information included with an application. Second it’s important to look at the nursing home’s experience modification factor. A nursing home facility’s mod is based on the number and severity of workers’ comp claims filed. The ex-mod rate is used to gauge past injuries and potential risk to predict future losses and calculate Workers’ Comp premiums and should be examined to ensure its accuracy.
In addition, ensure that the nursing home has a safety program that is fresh and changing so that workers don’t become complacent. Also, implement a Return to Work (RTW) program. Studies cite that returning to work sooner rather than later can improve employee relations and reduce the overall cost of claims. Essentially, the longer employees sit at home, the less likely they are to return. Therefore, assist the client in developing a well-conceived RTW program that includes options for “transitional duty” in which employers adjust employees’ responsibilities temporarily as prescribed by the doctor so they can heal properly. This might involve replacing patient lifting responsibilities with less strenuous work — passing ice and water, answering calls, assisting with bathing residents, taking vital signs, folding linen and clothes, or making a safety bulletin board. These modifications are important because they keep employees in the routine of coming to work daily and give them a sense of responsibility, all while giving the employer a more active role in their recovery.
Also critical in keeping Workers’ Comp costs in line is that insureds understand the importance of reporting accidents and injuries on a timely basis. There are two components to timely reporting. First, employees must report any accident, whether it causes an injury or not, as soon as it happens. Second, management needs to document the incident immediately, and report injuries or questionable accidents to the insurance company within 24 hours. Documenting all incidents, regardless of whether an injury occurs, is a critical step that protects the nursing home facility in the event that an employee comes back days (or even weeks or months) later linking a new ailment to a past incident at work. Some injuries do manifest over time, but the best way to lower the risk of unsubstantiated claims is to document everything from the first day. In fact, numerous studies indicate that faster reporting correlates with lower claim costs because it allows the insurer to step in, investigate, and take action in a timely manner. In addition, statutory requirements necessitate prompt reporting, and in many states, failure to report work-related injuries (and deaths) can result in significant fines.
Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing Workers’ Compensation insurance to nursing homes, including offering a program designed for members of the Indiana Health Care Association (IHCA), HOPE, and Leading Age Indiana associations. We can assist you in reviewing an existing Workers’ Compensation plan, securing coverage, boosting safety plans and implementing RTW programs for your nursing home clients. Please contact us at 877.226.1027.