Why Workers’ Comp Claims Spike in the Summer

Construction Site

Workplace injury rates rise during the summer months. When summer rolls around, companies in many sectors, including agriculture and construction, significantly increase production.

Increased road construction raises risks for workers and drivers. Many of the newly hired workers are young and inexperienced, creating a high potential for workplace injuries.

Toiling in the sun is also a leading cause of weather-related injuries, including heatstroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Heat illnesses occur when the body overheats to the point it cannot cool off, even with profuse sweating.

Young workers

Too often, young workers enter the workforce with little or no on-the-job safety training, heightening safety risks.

Recently, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries released a report showing that teens are twice as likely to be hurt on the job as adults.

In Washington state, a total of 547 youths aged 17 and under were injured in the workplace in 2014, up nearly 14.7% over the previous year. Of the total, 173 were in the food and hospitality industries. The next largest total, 80, was reported in both the retail trades and agriculture.

Falls to the floor increased 77%, to 55 cases, as the chief cause of injury.

Young workers, aged 14 to 24, have more accidents because they lack the knowledge, training, and experience to prevent them. Some common issues employers encounter with young workers are:

  • They do not understand what can go wrong.
  • They do not always follow the rules.
  • They fail to use personal protective equipment (PPE) or use it incorrectly.
  • They horse around on the equipment.
  • They do not ask questions.
  • They think they are infallible.

It’s also important for supervisors to recognize the physical, cognitive and emotional developmental differences between young and adult workers. It takes extra effort to train and supervise seasonal employees on working safely.

Here are some training suggestions:

  • Repeatedly demonstrate job procedures and safety precautions. Don’t overlook the basics, such as starting and stopping equipment.
  • The step-by-step instructions for any task must include the task’s hazards and how to avoid them. Take the time to clearly explain the risks of not following the proper steps. Use examples.
  • Explain when and how to use PPE, as well as where to get it, how to inspect it, and how to remove and store it properly.
  • Train one-to-one with young workers and observe them performing tasks.
  • Encourage them to report problems and to ask questions.
  • Assign specific clean-up tasks and emphasize the importance of a clean, clutter-free worksite.
  • Control the hours worked. Many popular summer jobs, such as construction workers, landscapers, and jobs in hospitality and food industries, require long hours of work in the heat that can lead to fatigue, inattention, and stress, increasing the likelihood of injury.
  • Provide a mentor.
  • Demonstrate that safety is a priority at your facility. Words aren’t enough. New workers also need to see actions that reinforce the message: clean worksite, properly labeled hazardous substances and readily accessible safety data sheets, workers wearing required PPE and who are concerned about workplace safety and show it, and so on.

Heat illness dangers

While there are many excellent resources on dealing with heat, it’s important for employers to recognize that there are individual differences among workers and those who are struggling may be hesitant to complain.

The American Society of Safety Engineers calls heat the “unseen danger” at construction sites because the symptoms of heat illness can be subtle and misinterpreted as mere annoyances rather than signs of a serious health issue.

Workers new to outdoor jobs are particularly vulnerable. Implementing an acclimatization program, providing adequate water and frequent breaks are all critical, but the best way for employers to prevent heat illnesses is to consistently interact with workers to gauge how they’re feeling and provide current information on weather conditions.

Also, using apps, such as OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool, is a good way for workers to monitor their risk levels.

New Rule Simplifies X-Mod Calculation, Encourages Reporting First Aid Claims

A new method for calculating workers’ compensation experience modifications (X-Mods) took effect in California on Jan. 1.

The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California has created a new simplified formula for calculating X-Mods as part of its efforts to add more transparency to the process. The new formula excludes the first $250 of every claim for the X-Mod computation, no matter how large or small the claim is.

This also means that if an employer pays, say, $200 for first aid on a minor workplace injury, they are required to report it as a claim. Doing so will not affect their X-Mod in any way, no matter how many first aid claims they have.

The goal is to encourage employers to report all claims, even those that may require minimal medical treatment or first aid.

Examples:

  • If you have a $10,000 primary threshold and you have a claim that ends up costing $6,000, the amount used to compute your X-Mod would be $5,750.
  • If you have a $10,000 primary threshold and you have a claim that ends up costing $17,000, the amount used for calculating your X-Mod would be $9,750.
  • If you have a claim that’s valued at $250 or less, the claim will still show on your experience rating worksheet, but it will not be used at all when calculating your X-Mod.

Does this affect your current X-Mod?

Yes. Any claim incurred against policies incepting during the experience period for your 2019 experience modification, which includes 2015, 2016 and 2017 policy years, will be used in the X-Mod computation at $250 less than its reported value.

Claims costing $250 or less will be shown on worksheets, but will not be used in X-Mod calculation.

Reporting first aid claims is required

Workers’ comp regulations require that all claims that cost some amount of money to treat must be reported to your workers’ comp carrier, which in turn must report to the Rating Bureau so that it can accurately keep workers’ comp records on employers that are experience rated.

The rules have already been on the books for years, but the problem of non-reporting became too great, so the Rating Bureau has stepped up to encourage employers to follow the rules. And in this case, it can’t work against you.