In an effort to combat rising business costs, Michigan employers should take five steps to improve their workplace safety programs - and reduce their workers' compensation costs, according to an attorney with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.
Attorney Gerardyne Drozdowski, who concentrates her practice on workers' compensation issues, notes that workers' comp costs are a major source of frustration for many employers.
"With health insurance, employers can always reduce the coverage they offer or pass premium costs along to employees," Drozdowski explained. "That's not the case with workers' compensation, though. Still, there are a number of steps that employers should consider taking if they want to improve workplace safety and better control their workers' comp costs."
Specifically, Drozdowski recommends:
- Implementing a transitional duty program. If your company does not already have a transitional return-to-work program, Drozdowski suggests developing one that will return injured workers to duty as quickly as possible. Start by identifying light-duty office jobs and other sedentary positions that individuals with work restrictions can perform on a short-term basis. Tailor these, as needed, to the individual medical situation. "Bringing an injured employee back to work as quickly as possible offers a long list of advantages for both the worker and the employer, with very few drawbacks," she said.
- Developing a relationship with your health care provider. In Michigan, an employer controls medical treatment for the first 10 days following a workplace injury. Drozdowski recommends identifying an occupational medicine provider who understands your industry and who shares your philosophy of managing workplace injuries. Invite the doctor to tour your facility and watch your employees at work. Such direct contact, Drozdowski noted, will help eliminate misunderstandings when treating or returning an employee to restricted work. "Providing high-quality medical care is not only the right thing to do, it makes financial sense," Drozdowski said.
- Encouraging prompt reporting. Drozdowski notes that prompt reporting of a workplace injury allows employers to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and implement changes that will prevent future accidents. She suggests publishing and enforcing a policy of prompt reporting - and avoiding tying workplace bonuses to "no reported accidents," which may result in delays or failures to report.
- Comparing prices. Michigan allows for competitive pricing of workers' compensation coverage. Drozdowski recommends obtaining bids from several insurance companies and evaluating them with an eye to cost, services offered by the carrier and the carrier's familiarity with Michigan law. It's also worthwhile, she notes, to consider options such as a high deductible.
- Leading by example. Drozdowski notes that the best safety program is an active one. She recommends involving workers in designing, implementing and improving safety policies on an ongoing basis. "Demonstrate that safety starts at the top," she said. "Design a team approach for your safety programs that will involve supervisors, upper management and all employees working on the shop floor."
"Employers who follow these suggestions and develop these programs should find that they deliver real rewards for their organizations," Drozdowski said. "Not only will employers save money, they will increase productivity, improve morale and provide a more safety-conscious workplace for everyone.* * *
About Warner Norcross & Judd:
Warner Norcross & Judd LLP is one of Michigan's leading providers of legal services with more than 170 attorneys in four Michigan offices located in Grand Rapids, Metro Detroit, Holland and Muskegon. For the third consecutive year, Warner Norcross was named the best corporate law firm in West Michigan by Corporate Board Member magazine. More than 40 percent of the Firm's partners are listed in the 2005-2006 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, a greater percentage than any other large law firm in Michigan. Warner Norcross has been recognized as a national leader in client service among law firms by BTI Consulting, as one of West Michigan's 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For and as the best law firm in Grand Rapids by a Grand Rapids Magazine reader survey. The Firm represents local, statewide, regional, national and international clients in all areas of business and civil law.