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The true costs of a work-related injury

Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 07:00
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The company you work for may be proactive on the safety front, and moving towards developing a workplace culture that doesn’t accept injuries as a natural outcome of the work process. However, they certainly can’t hold your hand while you work. In the end, the success of a company safety program still boils down to the buy-in on the part of its employees. It won’t matter how many rules are put in place, what equipment is purchased, or how much training the employees receive. If they don’t want to follow the rules, they won’t.

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The question is: why wouldn’t the employees want to follow the rules?

There is no simple answer to this question. In some cases, the worker believes that taking risks in the name of production makes them a better employee. This attitude could have been passed down to them by previous generations, who lived at a time where production was the only real concern. Posturing may also be a factor if the workplace culture is dominated by those wanting to show the world that real men have a high risk tolerance. What is troubling about these mindsets is the assumption that they will be the only ones affected if they get injured in a workplace incident.

In any case, those who engage in unsafe work practices are not seeing the bigger picture. You may have gotten away with dangerous shortcuts in the past, and now you’ve reached the point where they are standard practice. Getting yourself hurt isn’t a matter of if, only when. And when you do get hurt, you won’t be the only one that pays the price.

On a personal level

Just like your employer, you will incur direct and indirect costs if you get injured. However, while it will cost your company a lot of money, they will write a check and be more or less done with it. You, and your family, could potentially pay for the rest of your lives.

Your direct costs due to an injury are easy to quantify. Basically, these are expenses that leave less money in your pocket than what you would have made if you weren’t injured. First off, your income isn’t going to be anywhere near what you are making while you’re at work. You may have yourself fooled into thinking that Workers Compensation is a free lunch, but it’s time to set the record straight on that. The reality is that Workers Compensation typically pays 60-80 percent of your base pay (no overtime or bonuses included). This number would be roughly the same if you were receiving long-term disability payments. I encourage you to do this calculation, then think carefully about how your bills will be paid if this is what you’ll have to live on.

Another angle on direct costs that we should discuss is that a workplace injury could leave your employer in a compromised financial position. That being said, this could impact you directly by limiting your employer’s ability to grant pay raises and bonuses. Taken one step further, it could also lead to layoffs if the company’s business is negatively impacted.

Medical expenses of a workplace injury are often fully covered by Workers Compensation. However, if you get hurt away from work, you will be subject to deductibles and copays when you file a health insurance claim (assuming you have health insurance). It is also possible for your claim to be rejected, forcing you to engage in an appeal that may involve legal representation.

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