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Key Workers’ Compensation Issues in the Healthcare Sector

Key Workers’ Compensation Issues in the Healthcare SectorWorkers’ Compensation insurance risks remain a concern for organizations in all industries, but some risks are exclusive to certain sectors; such as the health care sector. At the beginning of 2018, the health care sector became the number one employer in the United States, surpassing both retail and manufacturing to take the top spot. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, five of the ten jobs that will see the fastest growth in the next decade are in healthcare and elderly assistance, and the health care sector as a whole is projected to account for a third of all new employment by 2026.

With more health care workers employed in the U.S. than ever before, health care employers are facing the inevitable issue of securing adequate workers’ compensation for their employees. Workers in the health care sector face a wide range of occupational hazards. According to the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), on-the-job hazards for health care workers include sharps injuries, harmful exposures to chemicals and hazardous drugs, back injuries, latex allergy, violence, and stress.

While on-the-job risks are many for health care workers, being proactive in identifying and mitigating the most prominent ones can have a positive impact on the number of workers’ compensation claims seen by health care employers. The most recent Health Care Workers’ Compensation Barometer report from Aon Global Risk Consulting found that while the severity of workers’ compensation claims has been increasing at a rate of two percent annually, the frequency of claims is expected to decrease one percent annually. The report also identified three emerging risks that health care employers and healthcare workers’ compensation insurance agents should pay close attention to.

The Aging Workforce

The report found that workers’ compensation claim costs can increase significantly as the workers age, with the bulk of workers’ comp claims resulting from back, neck and/or shoulder injuries. Nurses, for example are one of the most frequently injured demographics due to the physical demands of their position, and more than half of working nurses are currently over the age of 50. The average age at which working nurses can be expected to retire has been steadily rising as well. Recent studies have shown that three-quarters of working nurses were still employed at 62, and almost one in four were still working at 69 years old.

Older workers, on average, require a longer recovery period from injuries compared to their younger counterparts, which can be costly for employers. The challenge for employers when trying to manage their workers’ comp costs is to create policies and programs that allow older workers to continue working until they’re expected to retire, while reducing their chances of being injured at work.

Lack of Safe Patient Handling

Safe patient handling policies are crucial to minimizing the risk of injury to health care workers, especially those in elder care, who are tasked with moving and lifting patients multiple times per day. By implementing safe patient handling initiatives and mobility standards, employers can help reduce the incidence of workers’ compensation claims related to patient handling. While mechanical lifting products may be a costly investment, utilizing them in conjunction with safe handling practices can lower claim costs and reduce worker injuries significantly.

Violence in the Workplace

One very alarming discovery in the above-mentioned report is that 91 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced workplace violence within the past three years. However, of those respondents, approximately half noted that they were prepared for such an incident, and another 27% said that they were “very prepared.” Having a formal Workplace Violence Prevention Policy in place can help prepare health care workers for potential workplace violence incidents, increasing their awareness of hazards and reduce their likelihood of serious injury.

About ASIA Workers’ Compensation

Associated Specialty Insurance Agency, Inc. has been “The Workers’ Compensation Specialist for Brokers and Agents” for the past two decades and is committed to providing brokers and insurance agents across the East Coast with expertise and services to develop a Workers’ Compensation policy. For more information about how we can assist you with claims management, anti-fraud measures, and more call (610) 543-5510 to speak with one of our professionals.

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