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Getting the most out of workers’ compensation statistics

What do your workers’ compensation statistics mean to you and your business? What type of injuries are occurring? How do those numbers compare to last year? Are the injuries related to certain positions within the organization? Once you have gathered the data, what do you do with it, if anything?

Many employers use their workers’ compensation data for disability management purposes, or compare it to their short-term disability and long-term disability data, but segregate it from their health and safety data. In reality, however, workers’ compensation data should be used to determine areas of focus and improvement for your health and safety program. 

Many organizations separate their disability management functions from their occupational health and safety department. While this works on a day-to-day basis, there must be information-sharing between the departments to focus health and safety efforts on areas where workers are becoming injured, or where the potential exists; as in the case of the workers’ compensation statistics indicating that there has been a 15 per cent increase in musculoskeletal injuries from a specific department or a specific job function. 

By sharing this information with the health and safety department, the organization can try to determine the root cause of those injuries. Is it poor body mechanics? Are there safe work procedures in place? What type of equipment is being used? Is it in good working order? An increase in injuries may be an indicator of a hazard for which controls can then be put into place. However, sometimes you don’t need to have a number of accidents or injuries to identify hazards. For example, one slip and fall injury because of poor housekeeping practices at a workplace should be enough to trigger some type of action for change.

Information about the root cause of accidents can be gathered through an effective accident investigation. Again, while some claims management personnel complete investigations themselves, others rely on information gathered from health and safety personnel, front-line supervisors, occupational health nurses or other incident investigators. 

An effective accident investigation mechanism should run tandem with claims management to ensure incident data does not exist in a vacuum and gets used for good within the workplace. That being said, people are often concerned about sharing incident data because of “privacy issues.” Remember what is important is what happened and why, not who it happened to.

In addition to employers reviewing their own injury trends, health and safety regulators often use workers’ compensation statistics to target specific industries or specific employers for inspection or investigation. 

From a due diligence perspective, it makes sense to try to get ahead of such issues by making proactive changes to your workplace to prevent recurrences or similar injuries. 

A health and safety management system should be an ever-evolving mechanism, undergoing continuous review and change. Having evidence of these reviews, changes and updates could mean the difference between health and safety charges and a conviction or administrative penalties, or a decision by regulators not to charge due to an effective health and safety management system. Therefore, use your statistics, or statistics from other employers in the industry to make adjustments in your own workplace. Research has shown that keeping workers healthy and working makes for a happier workplace and saves employers money.

Many employers are either unaware of injury trends within their workplaces or don’t use them to take action. 

While managing claims for injuries that have occurred, take the opportunity to examine the data that led to those injuries to try to identify any trends in the workplace. 

Share the injury data, including types of injuries, frequency and the source of those injuries (such as specific job functions or departments) with supervisors, health and safety personnel and joint health and safety committees and use that data to improve your health and safety management system and prevent injuries in the future. 

David Marchione

David Marchione is an occupational health and safety consultant and paralegal at Fasken in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 868-3468 or dmarchione@fasken.com, or visit www.ehslaw.ca for more information.
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