How to Avoid Hiring your Next Workers’ Comp Claim

by Laura Pokrzywa

foundation Much like a good foundation determines the strength and longevity of a building, your hiring practices have a huge impact on the future of your company and your bottom line. Hire someone who isn’t truly fit for the job, and you open the door to multiple issues, not the least of which is costly workers’ compensation claims — claims that might have been avoided with a few simple steps before the employee was put to work.

Nobody can guarantee an incident-free workplace. Accidents happen. Even your best employee could end up with a claim one day. But a careful approach to hiring will help you avoid those applicants that are most likely to wind up at the doctor’s office. Here are a few good practices to consider:

Before you make an offer –– When reviewing resumes and screening candidates, you may not ask applicants about prior workers’ compensation claims, disabilities, or medical history. But you may ask about any gaps in his/her employment history, based on the resume.

After you have gathered your top picks, conduct thorough, in-person interviews. This stage of the process gives you the best opportunity to eliminate those candidates who pose the greatest risk of injuries and claims. During the interview, ask open-ended questions such as, “How would you perform this task?” Most importantly, have the candidate review the essential functions of the job and the physical requirements. Ask if they can perform the duties of the position with or without reasonable accommodations.interview

Which brings us to the topic of job descriptions. Accurate, well-written job descriptions are a hallmark of employers with effective injury management programs. The job descriptions need to clearly outline the physical demands, including repetitive motion analysis, of the position as well as the essential functions of the job.

You also want to be sure to ask the candidate if they would be eligible for rehire at their previous place of employment.

After the interviews are done, it’s time to complete employment verifications and reference checks. Even though most employers only verify positions and dates of employment, you can usually infer what the employer thinks of the former employee based on the tone of voice and what they don’t say. If they are willing to share more information, ask specifically about attendance and credibility.

After the offer is made: Always make job offers contingent on successful completion of the pre-employment screens that are appropriate to the position. For example, a position that involves heavy lifting or safety-sensitive work should include a pre-employment functional capacity test. These exams, conducted by medical professionals, such as occupational therapists, ensure that the candidate you have selected will be able to perform the job safely, with no undue risk to self or others. These evaluations compare the candidate’s health, body functions and body structures to the demands of the job and the work environment. Once again, that job description is used to inform the medical examiner of the physical requirements for that particular position.

You might also need to conduct other background checks, including credit, driving records and education, depending on the position. If recent fraud or theft convictions are found, you may want to proceed with caution. But be sure to consider the time that has passed since the conviction. Lots of people have done foolish things in their past, learned from them, and gone on to be good contributors and excellent employees.

Now is the time to conduct drug screening, as well. This is a useful technique to prevent onboarding drug users who can be a great liability for on-the-job injuries, to themselves and to other employees.

Businessman Wearing a Hard-Hat Looking at a Hazard SignReducing your risk of workers’ compensation claims does not stop with the hiring process. Once your new employee is onboard, it’s time for training and communication! Without a robust safety program in place, with full participation at all levels, you are sure to be putting your employees – and your bottom line – at risk. Regular safety meetings, conspicuous postings stressing good safety practices, and clear rules in your employee handbook, will not only ensure a safer workplace, it will help defend against fraudulent injury claims.

Finally, be sure to reward and recognize employees who promote safe practices, and discipline those who do not.

If you have questions about your hiring practices, or any other HR issue, contact us by email at HRHelpline@eastcoastrm.com. We will be happy to help. And don’t forget, ECRM has experienced teams of safety professionals and workers’ compensation experts ready to help with those issues too. You can reach them by calling 877-864-3311. If you’d like email notification of all blog updates, just click the follow button at the bottom of the window.

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