Developing and designing any risk management program begins with insight provided through claims data. This data can provide the “who, what, why, where and how” to the source of your most common workplace injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). And while this information can be beneficial, it is only as good as how it is interpreted.
“Claims data is very objective, but what you infer from it can be very subjective,” said Tanya Parker, Senior Claims Manager at Safety National. “It can help you pinpoint your data gaps so that you can look at your intake process or incident reporting for data improvement opportunities. Investigate the data you’re capturing, and identify if it’s providing answers to the areas in whicht you really want to focus.”
After collecting the data points you need to develop your prevention program, these methods can help you approach your strategy in the right direction.
Analyzing Your Claims Data
Once you have gathered your claims data, start by asking a few simple questions. What types of claims do you see most often? What body parts are most involved in these claims? What cause of the claims are most prevalent? These questions can serve as a starting point since the answers are typically provided in the data from any third-party administrator (TPA) stewardship report or captured in any risk management information system, if you are using your own plan.
Combining the data from reports that include the severity by nature of the injury, body part and cause of injury can target what injury you see the most and why. For example, data from Safety National’s workers’ compensation claims shows that most claims are back injuries resulting in ruptured discs due to repetitive motion. Further narrowing the data can provide insight into the job type and age group most affected by MSDs. Age-related reports can help determine if your hiring practices or employee training programs need revisions and whether your workforce’s age contributes to MSDs.
Soliciting Employee Expertise
Once you have an understanding of which groups are suffering the most injuries, go to the source. If one particular department is incurring the most injuries, discuss the data with the department leaders. They may be able to provide reasoning for the causation of the injuries and may have already started developing a strategy to resolve the issue.
They can help you determine if the difficulty of a specific position is a contributing factor and what other challenges they are seeing. Can incremental changes be made to remedy the injury source? Are the injuries occurring on certain shifts or at specific times of the day? Department leaders can ask for input from within their department, providing a fresh perspective on potentially overlooked causes. Actively involving all stakeholders also demonstrates the employer’s commitment to safety and employee wellbeing.
Targeting the Right Risk Factors
Developing strategies, like engineering and administrative controls, can help mitigate the causes of workplace injuries. However, based on claims data, you will notice two major contributing types of risk factors that will determine how the injuries should be addressed.
Ergonomic – These are risk factors related to the movement or activity of a worker and how the task is being accomplished. Is there routine lifting of heavy items? Are workers lifting outside of their abilities? Is there a repetitive motion of a particular body part involved? Analyzing the risk factors of each industry involves breaking down their particular job functions. Office workers often face injuries from awkward postures and repetitive keyboard and mouse usage. Hospital and healthcare workers suffer from lifting patients, so safe patient handling measures are critical to prevention. Industries that involve assembly line work, like food processing, deal with repetitive, focused and highly-delicate tasks in fixed positions, often in cold environments. Specific fields that do not operate in controlled environments, like municipal workers, police officers and firefighters, have various duties and managing their risk factors relies on body mechanics training.
Individual – These risk factors are more focused on who is performing the task and typically play an underappreciated role in contributing to workplace injuries. Physical fitness, weight, arthritis and poor work practices can all contribute to increased frequency of injuries. How can an employer manage these risks when it involves an employee’s lifestyle choices? While this can be difficult, workplace wellness programs can assist in promoting better individual decisions. Wellness programs, often provided through healthcare networks, can incentivize activities like exercise and give discounts to gyms to encourage weight management.