Hiring practices: Thorough processes can prevent injuries and problem claims

Following a thorough hiring process is one important way you can prevent problem workers’ compensation claims, along with other challenges.

“I always talk to employers about the importance of hiring and retaining the right people,” said Loss Prevention Specialist Dana Mickelson. “Usually if you have problem employees and they stick around long enough, they then are typically the ones with work comp claims that become more expensive.”

Choosing the right employee for a role is rarely easy, but there are steps you can include in your process to help you more confidently make hiring decisions.

Consider safety in your application and job description

Use the application to start the process off on the right foot.

We recommend employers have an official application process that includes a form applicants must complete that follows local, state and federal laws. Each job posting should include a current job description noting the physical requirements of the position.

“Consider having an ergonomist or physical therapist review the position and job description,” said Loss Prevention Specialist Nick Johnson. “This ensures you’re documenting, in detail, the correct physical requirements for the job.”

Being competitive in the market can also help you attract the best applicants for the role.

“Some companies have recently improved their pay and benefits to be competitive in the market, which in turn helps them to hire and retain their best employees,” Mickelson said. “That includes not only medical and retirement fund benefits, but also flexible schedules, among other perks for employees.”

Ask the right interview questions

Once you’ve narrowed down the pool of applicants, it’s best to hold several rounds of interviews, and have multiple people interview each candidate, to gather a more complete view of the candidate.

When preparing interview questions, we recommend including open-ended questions related to workplace safety.

“Let that person give their thoughts on the role and safety, rather than feeding them the answer you want, or making it easy for them to give you the answer you expect,” Johnson said.

How you ask questions is important, but so are the questions themselves.

State and federal laws are strict about what an employer can ask regarding a person’s physical limitations or workers’ compensation claim history, but don’t avoid these topics altogether. Employers can glean helpful information by asking other, related questions.

For example, asking an applicant about their past workers’ compensation claims is prohibited, however, employers can ask them about their previous workplace safety training and if they feel ongoing safety checks are important.

Similarly, an employer may not be able to ask a candidate about any disabilities, but they can use the job description to demonstrate the requirements of the role, and to ask whether the candidate can perform the tasks listed.

“I suggest employers use a detailed job description as part of the hiring process,” Mickelson said. “During the hiring process, you can review the essential functions of the job and have the applicant or new employee sign a statement confirming they can perform those functions.”

Mickelson said that having a confirmation of the employee’s capabilities documented may be helpful in the event of a work injury.

Follow a thorough vetting protocol

Once you’ve picked a candidate to move forward with, it’s in your best interest to do a background check and call references.

Below, we offer a list of recommended steps to take for every applicant you want to hire. Keep in mind that some of these steps may not be permissible until a conditional offer of employment has been made. Be sure to consult your employment law attorney.

  • Call references.
  • Conduct a nationwide criminal background check. Be sure to check state and local laws for any “Ban the Box” type regulations and compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Consider a pre-employment physical examination for physically demanding jobs in accordance with state and federal laws.
  • Verify their educational credentials and professional licenses.
  • Verify legal eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • Use E-Verify as a tool.
  • For jobs that require driving, check motor vehicle records.
  • For safety-sensitive jobs, conduct drug and alcohol testing in accordance with state laws.

“The applicant may interview well, and you can’t always pick up on red flags during the interview process, but the background check and references may prevent onboarding the wrong candidate,” Mickelson said. “Many employers don’t check references because they feel that they don’t learn anything, but it’s important to at least verify employment history.”

Keep safety top of mind while training a new hire

Once you’ve hired your new employee, include safety training as part of their onboarding and then follow up afterward to reinforce the training.

SFM loss prevention experts recommend checking in three, six and nine weeks after a new hire is onboarded to answer any questions they may have and to emphasize the safety training they heard early on in their new role. It’s also important to maintain safety training records and have the employee sign acknowledgement forms regarding safety policies and practices.

“The three-, six-, and nine-week check-ins are critical to identify any additional safety training needs,” Johnson said.

Also ensure a robust safety orientation is provided to everyone, regardless of language. If a new hire does not speak English and that is your company’s primary language, make sure to assign a bilingual supervisor to stay in contact with them and to provide them the same standard of safety training.

This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for employment practices.

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