How Employers in High Risk Industries Can Reduce Recordable Injuries
Every business wants to avoid workplace injuries. But for high-risk industries like construction, manufacturing and logistics, that imperative might be a little more onerous due to OSHA’s recordkeeping rule, which requires companies to report serious injuries and keep that documentation on file for at least five years.
Companies with a high rate of recordable injuries could experience negative impacts to their operations and bottom lines.
“Employers with a larger caseload of recordable injuries often have higher workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Construction companies may also lose out on bids if project owners perceive them to be unsafe, stunting long-term earning potential. High recordable injury rates could also harm a company’s reputation internally, damaging employee morale and productivity,” said Dr. Janet Cobb, Director of Medical Operations, Concentra Occupational Health.
But what makes an incident recordable? Serious injuries resulting in loss of consciousness, loss of limb or even loss of life are, without a doubt, recordable events. Any injury requiring time away from work or transfer to a less strenuous position is also considered recordable.
For less severe injuries, though, the line between recordable and non-recordable is drawn by the type of treatment or intervention provided.
“If medical treatment is administered beyond first aid, the injury is considered recordable,” said Jim Waugh, PT, MPT, Director of Therapy Operations, Concentra Occupational Health. Fortunately, the interventions that fall under the umbrella of first aid are broader than many employers realize. Many injuries would not be considered recordable if the right care is delivered at the time of injury.
Here are some examples of first aid interventions and medical treatments for three common injury types — and how knowing the difference can help employers reduce OSHA recordable injury rates:
“Cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the surface of the skin; using wound coverage such as Band-Aids, gauze pads, butterfly bandages, or even Steri-Strips are all considered first aid,” Dr. Cobb said. Even administration of the tetanus vaccine is classified as first aid when used to prevent bacterial infection.
Use of sutures or staples, on the other hand, would be considered medical treatment and are the best options for wounds that are very deep, gaping, have ragged edges or bleed excessively. For shallower cuts, though, quickly cleaning, closing, and covering the wound can prevent an injury from becoming recordable.
2) Foreign Object Contamination
Getting dust, particulate matter or chemicals in the eyes or a splinter in the skin are two common examples of foreign body injuries.
“For minor eye injuries, flushing the object out with eyewash sinks, irrigating with a saline solution, or simply wearing an eye patch to relieve irritation are all good first aid interventions for non-severe incidents,” Dr. Cobb said.
Splinters in the surface of the skin can be removed with tweezers and the area treated with an alcohol swab.
Surgery and/or use of prescription strength eye drops would qualify as medical treatment and thus classify an injury as a recordable event.
3) Sprains and Strains
Musculoskeletal injuries resulting from overexertion or overuse are among the most common workplace injuries, especially prevalent in logistics, health care, manufacturing, and retail settings where lifting, rotating and repetitive motions are part of the job.
Hot or cold therapy, massage, kinesiology taping, non-rigid splints and temporary immobilization with slings or wraps would all qualify as first aid, even when administered by a licensed physical or occupational therapist.
“Performing those interventions do not make an injury recordable. If a clinician were, however, to prescribe reactive exercises for a specific impairment or to address a specific musculoskeletal function, then those therapeutic exercises would make it recordable, because that is considered medical treatment and not first aid,” Waugh said.
For any of the above injury types, use of a prescription medication — or an over-the-counter medication administered at prescription strength — automatically classifies an injury as recordable. When possible, opt for OTC drugs at non-prescription strength. This keeps treatment categorized as first aid and the injury as non-recordable.
Focus on Prevention
The best to way to reduce recordable injuries is to prevent them altogether. This is especially true for musculoskeletal injuries, which can be avoided or reduced in severity through the adoption of a preventive exercise program.
“Especially for those jobs that are highly repetitive, you can get very tight, sore and fatigued very quickly. Usually, we recommend that employers split up an exercise program throughout the day, beginning with a pre-shift stretching and dynamic warm-up routine, followed by stretching breaks every couple of hours,” Waugh said.
“If you get your muscles warmed up and kept loose throughout the day, you’re less likely to get injured and more likely to recover quickly if you do get injured. We have found that employers who have these programs in place tend to have fewer injuries or less severe injuries.”
Employers can also engineer out some injury risks by creating more ergonomic workspaces and workflows.
“Many manufacturing companies have made some changes to their production lines to make it easier on the employees. As an example, some are using pallet jacks with lifts that drop down as weight is added to them. So, if a worker is moving a product from the line to the pallet jack, they are always lifting at waist level, without having to bend down or lift something overhead,” Waugh said.
Post-offer, pre-employment functional testing can also help to ensure that only physically capable applicants make it into demanding roles. By evaluating potential hires based on the specific demands of a job — whether that’s lifting, pushing, or pulling a certain weight safely — employers can build a workforce that is appropriate for the essential functions of the job.
Why to Partner with Occupational Health Experts
Employers can implement effective injury prevention programs and ensure appropriate care is delivered when injuries do happen with the help of occupational health specialists.
“Our clinicians at Concentra have all been trained in OSHA recordability, it’s impact on employers, and how we can deliver quality care for our patients in those minor cases to keep an injury from becoming recordable,” Dr. Cobb said.
Concentra works together with employers to understand how their employees work and what they need from a health and safety perspective. This approach goes beyond urgent care treatment other providers and emergency departments deliver and is valuable to employers on multiple levels.
“That engagement starts before we ever see an injured worker in our center by meeting with the employer, learning what their needs are, and even having our clinicians visit the employer site to get a sense of the type of work that’s being done,” Dr. Cobb said.
“This isn’t just for our medical clinicians, but our occupational and physical therapists as well. Often even during some of those tours, our therapists and medical clinicians can just render some general good advice on safety measures, preventive measures, or ergonomic measures to help avoid injuries.”
Depending on the employer’s needs, Concentra medical clinicians, athletic trainers, PTs or OTs may be stationed on-site, working alongside employees, and reminding them to follow safety protocols, practice ergonomic movement patterns, and engage in preventive exercise. When injuries do occur, they are there to administer first aid quickly.
Physical/occupational therapists and certified athletic trainers can also conduct preemployment, post-offer testing – called human performance evaluations – to help employers select the most appropriate candidates for the job based on the unique responsibilities of the job.
“In our experience, employers who take advantage of occupational health expertise to create safer workspaces see fewer and less severe injuries. That’s good for their employees, and for their business,” Waugh said.
To learn more, visit www.concentra.com.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Concentra. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.