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Successful Strategies for Workplace Slips, Trips, and Falls? New Jersey

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  • Successful Strategies for Workplace Slips, Trips, and Falls? New Jersey

    I just had my quarterly WC claims review, and once again, our most frequent type of employee injuries are from slips, trips, and falls. This has been true for several years.
    We are a behavioral health/ human services agency that serves clients with mental health conditions. Most of our worksites are ordinary houses and apartments (maybe better-than-ordinary, since the sites have to meet all the licensing requirements, making the sites safer than the average home).

    I've been going through about 3 years of employee injury reports, just to crunch the data on falls. We have a footwear policy, and none of these falls were attributed to high heels or improper footwear.

    Also, none of these falls were attributed to a facility problem like loose carpet or uneven flooring. In the few cases where the employee reported a flooring problem had caused their fall, my dept physically went out and examined the site, and there was no actual problem. We literally cannot even tolerate a thread unraveling from a carpet, as it would violate our licensing regs!

    About 9% of the falls (over the past 3-ish years) have involved slipping outdoors on snow and ice. Not much more we can do but make sure our locations are shoveled and salted. In all of these cases, the sites were salted, except in one case where the injured party was the employee who was told to spread the rock salt at the site. She balked and said it wasn't her job, then proceeded to slip and fall (conveniently) while spreading the rock salt under protest.

    Many of the falls were trips, but the person tripped over normal flooring and not any recognized "trip hazard." Most doorways between a kitchen and dining room, or between a bathroom and hallway have a threshold in the doorway (our work sites are mostly residential--houses and apartments), but people have tripped over them. The office type sites have some type of weather floor mat at the entrance to prevent slips and falls, but we've had people trip on these (the mats were not flipped or folded). Apart from one case where someone placed a box on the floor behind an employee, and the employee stepped back and fell, there were no improper trip hazards found.

    A small number of falls involved slipping on wet floors that had just been cleaned. In most cases, warning signs were appropriately posted. But in 3 cases, no sign had yet been posted, BUT the employee who slipped was the one who had just mopped the floor!

    Less than half of the falls are when going up and down stairs. This might be indoors or outdoors, but if it involved ice/snow, I put it in the other category, not the "stairs" category. All our stairs have properly attached bannisters. None had any defects or need for repairs.

    We really just have staff tripping and falling all over the place, for no good reason. Slips, Trips, and Falls account for about 1/3 of all our WC claims, and about 2/3 of the cost of our claims. Our costs incurred for falls are in the hundreds of thousands per year.

    I've been looking at other employee factors to see if there are any trends that can be addressed. There were no trends for any one location.
    The age group with the most frequent falls are aged 20-29. The most expensive age group in terms of falls is the 40-49 age group. Almost 80% of the fallers were women (but we have a very female-slanted workforce, but not as high as 80%), and just under 90% happened to be African-American (our workforce is largely black, but only around 60%). I found no trends with regard to month of the year, or day of the week. With regard to tenure, the highest risk group have been with the company between 1-3 years. The next highest risk group is the "over 5 years" group. New hires with us less than one year have the lowest rate of falls.

    We instituted a mandatory Slip, Trip, and Fall training as part of new-hire orientation. We included items on workplace safety on the annual appraisals. We have a quality improvement suggestion system in which employees can identify problems and/or make suggestions for improvement in issues such as safety.

    I'm at a loss as to what else we can do. This is just driving me crazy. Do we just keep getting stupid and clumsy employees? How do we minimize the chance of fraud? In some cases, there have been witnesses, but in most cases, the employee was on single duty when the fall happened. It might factor in that we are in NJ, where there is a large industry in (non-workplace) slip and fall lawsuits. People around here are constantly suing cities, businesses and homeowners for alleged slips and falls. Many of our employees who fall do retain lawyers, and don't sue our company, but sue our WC carrier for partial permanent disability (even though they are working and cleared for full duty). We've had settlements for things like 4% disability of a shoulder and 10% disability of a knee. These are people who are still "able-bodied" and are still working full time. They just cash-in and get money for isuses that most of us have, but just deal with.

    We do have several "repeaters" who have had more than one slip/trip/fall in the past 3 years plus one quarter. I'm wondering if we can do anything with them, but I'm conscious of not doing anything they might label "retaliation" with anyone who has made a WC claim.

    We've been kicking around the idea of an incentive program, rewarding teams that have had zero injuries or zero falls in a period of time, but there's a concern that this could just cause people to not report incidents, thereby increasing our risk.

    Has anyone here successfully addressed employee slips, trips, and falls with some kind of effective policy that is not likely to infringe on anyone's legal rights or incur accusations of retaliation?
    Last edited by TSCompliance; 04-16-2013, 11:56 AM.

  • #2
    what is your cell phone policy? Are the employees distracted from walking because they are focused on a conversation? That would be my very first thought. Not sure what you can do about it though.

    What is your light duty policy? Are they returning to (any kind of) work as soon as possible to lower the wage loss side of the claims?

    Do your employees have health insurance with reasonable deductibles and copays? So they aren't looking for the employer to pay for something that happened outside of work claiming it happened at work (especially those who work alone)?

    I have found that unfortunately once you get into a pattern of paying out and the employees start talking that it isn't good for the employer. I hate that WC is looked at often as winning a lottery and getting a large payout for an accident that could have happened just as easily at home, etc.

    Comment


    • #3
      Staff are not allowed to be on cell phones at work. I haven't seen any walking while texting falls.

      Yes, we have an aggressive return to work/ light duty policy. As soon as anyone is cleared for modified duty, we give them office-based work to do. We don't want them sitting at home watching all the TV commercials that are on all day for slip & fall lawyers.

      We have really great health insurance, so they can't be trying to divert medical issues onto WC. Or let me rephrase, they couldn't possibly want to go through all the trouble of a WC claim (and getting a lawyer) to avoid our $15 doctor's office visit copay. Could they? Yeeesh, that would be very sad.

      Most of the permanency payouts have been pretty low, under $10,000, even less than $5,000.
      Last edited by TSCompliance; 04-17-2013, 02:34 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Ever hear of "Yak Trax"? The best anti-slip treads for shoes on the market. I have used them and they are the bees knees when it comes to removable winter treads.

        Think of it like this- 150 employees (wild guess) times $30 each for the Yak Trax = $4,500. That's a lot! But....
        One slip and fall can cost you...?
        A gift like that to your employees may show loyalty to their safety, but it's $4,500 well spent.

        Just a thought.
        Last edited by cactus jack; 04-18-2013, 03:48 AM.
        I don't believe what I write, and neither should you. Information furnished to you is for debate purposes only, be sure to verify with your own research.
        Keep in mind that the information provided may not be worth any more than either a politician's promise or what you paid for it (nothing).
        I also may not have been either sane or sober when I wrote it down.
        Don't worry, be happy.

        http://www.rcfp.org/taping/index.html is a good resource!

        Comment


        • #5
          Can I come and work for you TS? You sound like a really cool boss...wish my boss woulx of let me use my own ins instead of freaking work comp. Why don't you put up security cameras in the group homes?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rear-ended View Post
            Can I come and work for you TS? You sound like a really cool boss...wish my boss woulx of let me use my own ins instead of freaking work comp. Why don't you put up security cameras in the group homes?
            Using your own insurance for a worker comp injury would violate the contract with your insurance carrier. They could deny all claims relating to the injury. Then since you haven't reported the accident to worker's comp, it too might end up denying the claim. Then you would be out of pocket for the injuries.

            Comment

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