Hidden costs of work injuries

Few employers realize just how costly a work injury can be until they experience one at their organization.

That’s because there are so many hidden costs of work injuries that aren’t covered by workers’ compensation benefits, such as lost productivity, overtime costs, and lowered morale among the remaining employees, among others. Not to mention the impact on the injured worker.

When you’re thinking about the impact of work injuries on your organization, and the value of preventing them, the following not-so-obvious costs are worth taking into account.

Overtime and lost productivity

While an injured employee is out with an injury, you may have to hire and train a temporary replacement who is less experienced and efficient at the job. Alternatively, if you choose not to hire a replacement, you may have to pay your existing workers overtime as they cover the injured employee’s responsibilities.

These costs increase when the injured employee has a specialized or unique skill set. It is much harder to find replacements for employees with advanced degrees or the technical ability to run specialized machines.

Increased injury risk for other employees

Employees who cover for the injured worker can increase their own risk of injury due to rushing and fatigue. As a result, one workplace accident could cause a domino effect that leads to injuries among remaining workers.

Supervisors’ time

Work injuries also cost supervisors time. They may have to spend time investigating the accident, reporting the claim, working with their claims representative, implementing corrective action and checking in with the injured worker. They may also have to spend time finding light-duty jobs for your injured employees.

Disruption in the workplace

Immediately following a work injury, there can be a lot of lost time and productivity. Employees may need to stop working to try to help the injured worker, get the attention of supervisors, or get the injured worker medical attention.

Depending on the severity of the accident, you may have to stop work for a few hours or even a few days. This might affect just a few people or possibly your entire com­pany. You may receive visits from outside individuals such as attorneys, the Occupational Safety and Health Adminis­tration, or even the police following an incident, which can further disrupt your work environment.

Equipment losses

Tools or equipment that were directly involved in the accident may have to be taken out of service until investigation and litigation is over. This could mean buying or renting replacements.

Low morale

Following an injury, other employees may become distracted and uneasy as they worry about their own safety and risk of being injured. Employees who witnessed the accident, or who may feel somewhat to blame, might also be dealing with lingering trauma. They might also feel less confident in their supervisors or the company.

An injury can also disrupt the dynamic between your workers. Other employees may be resentful toward an injured worker who is off work or on light-duty, or they may doubt that the employee is actually injured.

Harm to company reputation

If word gets out about a workplace injury, it could harm your company’s reputation. Customers and prospects could get the impression that your company doesn’t take care of its workers. Additionally, your employees may have to field questions or opinions from people outside the company about the accident.

Financial costs to injured workers

Injured workers who, prior to the injury, made more than the maximum compensation rate allowed by their state will take a pay cut if they can’t immediately return to their regular work. Employees who can’t ever work again could miss out on the future wage increases they thought would secure their financial stability. Being injured at work can continue to impact employees financially for years to come.

Costs to injured workers’ families

The families of injured workers often suffer from the same financial losses as the employee, and family expenses can increase, too. They may have to pay for services the injured employee can no longer perform, such as snow removal, lawn mowing and house cleaning.

There are many good reasons to do everything you can to prevent work injuries. Knowing the hidden costs provides you with a fuller picture of all that’s at stake.

Mitigating costs

The best way to avoid the hidden costs of work injuries is to focus on workplace safety and prevent accidents before they happen.

But if an injury does occur, here are a few things you can do to help your injured worker recover and avoid unnecessary costs.

  • Stay in contact with your claims representative

    They can help you take a proactive approach in preventing some of these hidden costs.

  • Encourage return-to-work

    Getting your injured employees back to work quickly in light-duty positions lowers your claim costs and helps prevent re-injury.

  • Check in with injured employees

    Contact your workers regularly to check on their well-being and recovery.

  • Communicate with all your employees

    Being open with your employees about protocol following work injuries and offering them support can boost morale. Let them know what your expectations are following a claim.

  • Communicate with the medical provider

    Working with your injured employee's medical provider can help facilitate return-to-work. See our past post on why employers should get to know medical providers to learn more.

Focusing on workplace safety and preventing injuries before they happen will go far to protect your employees and your organization from harm.

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