Workers Compensation – The Small Picture: Does workplace culture impact health and safety costs?

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Courtesy of Intelex Technologies Inc.

This is the first in a three-part blog series on the relationship between workplace culture and the costs associated with occupational injury and illness.

When I started to write this series of posts on workers compensation, I thought what new information I could provide readers – information that isn’t easily accessible on innumerable website, blogs and other publications. I wanted to emphasize the real costs of workplace injuries and illnesses (both direct and indirect costs) as well as how employers can effectively manage their claims. 

I also reviewed the available statistics from various jurisdictions to identify key areas to focus on. Then it occurred to me that Workers’ Compensation is usually presented as the Big Picture when really it is a Small Picture – one injury, one person at a time. Yes, to effectively manage workers’ compensation an organized process is a necessity, with appropriate reporting mechanisms, structured procedures and accountability.  There also needs to be the ability to evaluate and question information relevant to any claim.

What frustrates employers, as well as others in the claims process, is the inconsistent healing times for individuals. Of course there are many variables including general health, age, gender, treatment accessed. But there is something more.  The relationship the employee has with the employer is a key indicator in any absence. 


A friend of me sent me this quote from Angela Borges, a health and absence manager with Standard Life: “From my perspective as a carrier, what influences a lot of absenteeism is poorly documented performance management, lack of attendance management programs, poor training for managers and poor hiring practices,” she noted. “Some employees come in the door having the wrong impression of the organization, and they are not going to be engaged. So if they don’t like their job or their boss, they go on sick leave.”

The many publications on employee engagement often cite better health, safety and injury results where there is positive employee engagement: Authors David Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization lay out the dramatic effects of a positive culture with the right hires, including:

  • Fear and stress go down as the 'interpersonal friction' of working together decreases.
  • People seek employment in the company and stay, taking the company a long way toward winning the war for talent.
  • Organizational learning becomes effortless, with the tribe actively teaching its members the latest thinking and practices.
  • Employees' overall health statistics improve and injury rates and sick days go down.

Most exciting of all is the fact that people report feeling more alive and having more fun, according to the authors.

Check back next week when we’ll take a look at a workers’ comp horror story.

Robert Smith is an injury management, human resource and disability management expert with decades of experience in the field, including years within the WSIB.

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