Looking Ahead: Refocus the Workplace Safety Lens as COVID Evolves in 2021

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In 2020, not much took precedent over muddling through every challenge associated with the pandemic. In the midst of being reactive, it was easy to lose focus on larger, less immediate initiatives. Thankfully, as we continue to create proactive steps to address the current unknowns, we can start to refocus on the day-to-day processes and strategies that impact our workforce.  

One such initiative is workplace safety. As additional organizations begin returning to the workplace, it is more important than ever to foster a culture of well-being. Taking action steps to mitigate workplace incidents and employee injuries above and beyond COVID-19-related initiatives should be a priority.

Employers should start to revisit best practices in an effort to promote proper safety standards and mitigate workers’ compensation risks. Here are five tips that we suggest.

1. Refresh Supervisor Knowledge

Look to review company guidelines and protocols to ensure leaders are up to date and educated on any changes.

Provide supervisors with the tools to address any pre-existing or new response efforts to workplace incidents. Encourage team leaders to dialogue with staff so they understand the company’s position on proper procedures. Look to reintroduce any trainings or resources that may add additional benefit to individual contributors.

2. Emphasize Safety Accountability

Showcase the organization’s safety committee.  Ensure the group is composed of the correct representation throughout the organization.  Look to the committee to continue to monitor pandemic initiatives, however also challenge them to create comprehensive action-items to improve overall safety measures. 

Task the group with annually analyzing incident data to determine focus areas in need of further prevention initiatives.  Have the committee review new procedures to ensure feasibility and effectiveness. Review all recent guidelines against current practices to confirm measures have been implemented and are being followed. 

3. Involve the Remote Workforce

As remote work options become more prevalent, it is important to remember that employers can still take steps to promote health and safety outside of company workspace. 

Actively engage offsite personnel to participate in preventative goals and problem-solving. Amend alternative work arrangement policies to reflect continued safety expectations regardless of the work location. Create a safety self-certified checklist for offsite employees to complete in an effort to promote hazard awareness and prevention. Outline a communication plan specific to the remote workforce so employees understand applicable protocols for incidents or near-misses.  

4. Review Incident Response Procedures

Evaluate current investigation protocol to ensure the processes are still accurate. Address any lapses in injury response to better understand how to create a more efficient practice.

Identify the best strategic approach to incidents to remain consistent with any new federal agency guidelines or recommendations. Re-educate the employee population on proper notification procedures when an incident occurs. 

5. Partner with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC)

Know that the BWC is not the enemy! The agency has many resources for employers to attempt to assist with mitigating risk.  Programs are available for employers throughout the state that look to promote employee well-being and safety.

Most recently the BWC has begun the “We’ve Got You Covered” initiative that provides face masks to employers at no cost. They also have programs such as “Better You, Better Ohio,” which is a health and wellness program aimed at smaller employers to assist with promoting a healthy workforce. 

In addition, the BWC’s division of Safety and Hygiene provides a variety of services and resources to assist with creating a safer workplace.  Employers have the opportunity to participate in safety consultations. These are non-enforced, confidential consultations that can assist with identifying potential workplace hazards. The goal of these programs is to provide aid to companies that may need additional help in ensuring the identification and removal of environmental stressors that can impact the workforce.

Encourage safety representatives within your organization to research the resources available through the agency. These programs and initiatives can lead to improved safety programming and fewer employee incidents. 

Here to Help

By taking steps to reignite broad-based initiatives, companies can begin to heal from the effects of 2020. ERC is here to assist in that recovery.  As we move forward together, ERC will continue to provide resources aimed at strengthening workforce initiatives and strategy. 

To learn more about safety and workers’ compensation, please join us for our webinar, Ohio Workers' Compensation & Unemployment: Who Do I Call? Where Do I Begin?, on April 14, 2021 at 9 a.m.

An Overview of Workers' Compensation

While most employers take numerous steps to keep the workplace safe and healthy, injuries and accidents happen occasionally. Workers' compensation provides pay and benefits for workers injured while working, and also saves employers' liability and medical expenses. 

Read this article...

Workers Compensation and FMLA - Are You Confused?

FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides job protection benefits to eligible employees who need time away from work for their own serious health condition or to care for covered family members with a serious health condition. The law applies to employers with 50 or more employees and allows an eligible employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period of time.

WORKERS COMPENSATION

Almost every state has a workers compensation law which guarantees income or wage replacement to an employee who is injured on the job.  In Ohio lost wages can come from a self insured employer, or the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.  Ohio is monopolistic state fund which provides the injured worker who has lost eight or more days of work to be compensated for their lost wages as a percentage of their actual wages with limitations.

The Relationship between the Two… 

So how does workers compensation interact with FMLA, since workers’ compensation is not necessarily considered a leave law?    For FMLA purposes employers must remember injuries occurring on the job or which are considered ‘workers compensation claims’ are not precluded as being serious health conditions under FMLA.  On the job injuries requiring inpatient or ongoing treatment and/or determined to be a “serious health condition” under the DOL FMLA regulations should be considered as FMLA.   The circumstances and medical information for each case must be carefully reviewed to determine if the definition of serious health condition is met under the DOL guidelines. 

If the definition of serious health condition is met, it is imperative the employer check the employee’s eligibility for FMLA.  To be eligible for FMLA, the employee must have worked 1250 hours in the 12 months from the date preceding the leave; AND worked at least 12 months with the employer in past 7 years; AND have available FMLA hours.  If the employee meets the eligibility criteria the employer is required to notify the employee in writing the leave will be designated as FMLA and will be counted toward the employee’s 12 week FMLA entitlement.

One of the most common mistakes employers make is failing to run the workers’ compensation and FMLA concurrently. 

Visit http://www.careworksabsence.com/ for questions or additional information.

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