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Employers cut workers compensation costs by getting data from insurers

Insurers can provide detailed reports


LAS VEGAS — Employers can help keep their workers compensation claim costs down by partnering with their insurers to receive data and services that aid in safety and claim management, an Aon Risk Solutions executive said.

Companies often don't ask for assistance from their insurers that can help them understand factors that are generating workers comp losses, said Scott Lassila, Houston-based lead consultant with the Aon P.L.C. unit.

This includes providing reports that show workers comp claim data in formats that are customized to a client's specific needs, and offering help from consultants who can troubleshoot a company's safety weaknesses, he said.

“Ask the question, "What other services do you have? How can you help me? Can you provide training?'” Mr. Lassila said of how employers should talk with their insurers.

In particular, Mr. Lassila said companies should request data that shows a company's workers comp claim development trends, along with asking for lag reports that exhibit the time it takes for an employer to report a workplace accident to an insurer.

The latter can help employers keep costs down, Mr. Lassila said, because claims cost about 18% less on average when reported within three days of an accident.

All insurers and brokers have strengths and weaknesses in relation to industry knowledge, Mr. Lassila said, and companies should seek to do business with those that have a strong understanding of their firm's business environment and operations.

Mr. Lassila was one of several experts addressing safety professionals last month during the American Society of Safety Engineers' Safety 2013 conference in Las Vegas.

In another conference session, a Liberty Mutual Group Inc. executive said slips, trips and falls are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries, and that safety professionals can work to prevent such accidents.


Falls on the same level — where workers slip and fall on the surface on which they're standing — represented $8.61 billion in 2010 workers comp costs, or 16.9% of the total workers comp cost burden, said Wayne Maynard, Hopkinton, Mass.-based manager of technical services and product development for Liberty Mutual's loss control advisory services unit. The data is based on Liberty Mutual's 2012 Workplace Safety Index.

Bodily reaction injuries — which include injuries caused by slipping or tripping without falling — represented $5.78 billion of comp costs in 2010, or 11.4% of the overall burden, according to Liberty Mutual data. Falls to a lower level represented $5.12 billion, or 10% of comp costs in 2010.

Such costs are rising, according to Liberty Mutual data. Falls on the same level increased 42.3% from 1998 to 2010, while bodily reaction injuries increased 17.6% during that time period, said Mr. Maynard, who attributed the increase in part to an aging workforce.

Mr. Maynard said safety professionals can help mitigate such injuries by pushing for ergonomic designs in their workplaces. That includes adding slip-resistant flooring, eliminating raised surfaces that could cause tripping, installing handrails on stairs, and training employees to immediately clean up spills that could create slippery floors.

“What we're trying to do is get people thinking up front about the design process to minimize these risks and exposures,” Mr. Maynard said.

Another presenter at ASSE's conference said wellness will play a crucial role in reducing workers comp exposure for employers.

Employers should perform job skill analyses that identify the necessary functions of every job, conduct post-job-offer skill testing to see if employees need accommodations to perform identified job skills and conduct employee interventions for health risks such as smoking and obesity, said Matthew Condon, CEO of Overland Park, Kan.-based Arc Physical Therapy.

Wellness should be viewed as a preventive measure that can reduce workers comp costs, rather than as a reactive effort once employees are already experiencing work-related injuries and illnesses, Mr. Condon said.

“Wellness is an integral part of how you hire on board new employees,” he said. “Wellness is an integral part of what medical providers you partner with and why. Wellness is a major part of what comprehensive and preventive support you provide” to employees.

About 4,300 people attended ASSE's 2013 conference in Las Vegas. Next year's conference is set for June 8-11, 2014, in Orlando, Fla.