Workers’ Compensation: Managing and Mitigating Energy Sector Claim Costs
The following blog post is published in the 2023 Saskatchewan Energy Report.
You might think the oil & gas industry would be high on the list of the most dangerous occupations in Canada, but in fact, according to Avetta’s research (which used statistics from 2017-2019), the energy sector actually comes in 10th on the list. While this might seem like good news — and speaks to the industry’s adherence to safety principles — the reality is that work-related accidents and incidents still happen, and the associated costs of workers’ compensation claims are a significant concern for employers.
For most employers, work-related injuries and illnesses are a harsh reality of doing business, and not just because of the lost productivity that is involved, but for financial reasons as well. Disruption of operations is one ramification of an on-the-job accident or incident, but the cost of every Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claim can also have a negative effect on a company’s WCB premium rate.
Workers’ compensation premiums are an unavoidable operational expense that can contribute to financial hardship for a company, or exacerbate an already precarious financial situation. However, there are steps employers can take to minimize the impact WCB premiums may have on their bottom line. One of the most effective ways to lower WCB premiums and keep them that way is by managing claims costs.
The key to managing claims costs starts long before a work-related injury ever happens, and continues long after a claim is closed. Claim costs begin accumulating the moment an accident or incident occurs, so time is of the essence, and delays can be very costly. Whether those delays are in reporting the incident, seeking medical attention, referrals for medical treatment, implementing return-to-work plans, or addressing workplace hazards, organizations need to be prepared to take action.
Here are some tips for employers that can make a difference:
Before an Accident Happens:
Make sure all company policies are in writing and up-to-date, such as:
- Health and Safety Manuals
- Drug and Alcohol Policies
- Accident Reporting Procedures
Develop Physical Demands Analysis (PDA) profiles for every position in the company and keep them current:
- Consider various ways a position could be modified.
- Apply the ‘bus factor’ to every position. Is there anyone else in the organization that can do the job? How else can we get the job done?
Establish a Modified Work Program (MWP) and/or Return to Work (RTW) plan. Identify:
- Education/training opportunities
- Work from home possibilities
- Gradual hours and duties options
Create a package with all relevant forms easily accessible, either in hard copy or online, including:
Encourage employee input and involvement in the development of PDA’s and MWP/RTW plans:
- If workers are engaged in the process then they become invested and are more likely to comply.
- Creating a positive work environment of inclusion and respect can encourage an earlier return to work.
Ensure all employees are aware of Accident Reporting procedures and expectations:
- Not only at the point of hire but regularly throughout their employment – this applies to temporary and seasonal workers as well.
Determine what will cause ‘undue hardship’ for your organization to bring an injured worker back to work:
- With the new legislation, the onus is on employers to prove hardship, so the earlier in a claim this is established the better.
After an Accident has Occurred:
Ensure accident reporting procedures are implemented immediately, including:
- When to report an accident or incident – regardless of how minor
- Who to report the accident to: supervisor, safety officer, WCB
- How to report an accident – what forms to fill out, where they should go
- Expectations of an injured employee with regards to:
- Seeking prompt medical attention and providing medical reports from appointments.
- Signing a Modified Work Offer.
- Maintaining regular contact with the employer about recovery, work restrictions and RTW opportunities.
- Employer responsibilities such as:
- Reporting all required information to the WCB promptly
- Working with the WCB to provide a safe and reasonable return to work
- Maintaining regular contact with the injured employee regarding recovery, restrictions and RTW options.
Initiate a MWP and/or RTW plan as soon as it is appropriate, while:
- Being prepared to make permanent modifications to positions or create new positions to accommodate long-term temporary or permanent work-restrictions
- Assessing each situation to determine if you are not able to accommodate a RTW for an injured worker, so alternate employment possibilities can be explored
Analyze incident/accident and near-miss details to identify:
- How did the accident happen?
- What went wrong?
- What can be learned from the incident?
- What can be done to prevent it from happening again?
Review MWP and RTW plans following accidents/injuries to determine:
- What worked, what didn’t
- What needs to be revised/updated for positions
- What could be done differently to safely get an injured worker on the job sooner and/or improve recovery time
- How to share your findings with all employees. Engage them in discussions of how to enhance the safety of their work environment, allow them to suggest improvements and incorporate their ideas.
- When to update company policies accordingly
Keeping all these balls in the air may seem overwhelming but this is where utilizing an effective Employer Representative can be invaluable.
If you have questions or concerns, if want to make sure your organization is on track or find out what more you can do, you can use our live chat feature during business hours, email us at [email protected] or at [email protected], contact us directly at 1-844-377-9545 or you can always connect with us on our Facebook page, through our Twitter account, on our LinkedIn profile.