As fraudulent claims become a bigger problem in California, companies and organizations must find new strategies to discourage them from ever being filed. All the emphasis today seems to be on finding ways to challenge and combat them; to deny benefits and trust the courts and the insurance companies to do the right thing. It’s a losing strategy.
The only effective way to minimize fraudulent claims is to prevent them from ever being filed in the first place. Since we have no way to impose our values, we must find ways to convince our workers to embrace those values; chief among them being honesty.
Just as we know that it’s the culture that has the greatest impact on behavior, and ultimately the number of injuries, we should also know that a strong culture can have the same impact on honesty. What we need to do is tie the two together. We can’t have a safety culture that doesn’t have honesty as part of that culture. And we can’t have a culture that values honesty that doesn’t value safe behavior. When we are investigating an injury we need candor and honesty from the person involved and any persons who witnessed the accident, so in every training and every meeting where we engage the workforce in the importance of safe behavior, we also need to reinforce the message that part of safe behavior is honesty. Our goal is to have the workforce take pride in their safety record, and since claims are part of that safety record, fraudulent claims inflict as much harm as legitimate injuries.
Every employee wants to know that the company values their safety, and they also want to know that they are working for a company that treats them with honesty and respect, and expects the same back from every worker. By making honesty a key component of the safety culture, you bring out the best in people, and enlist their support in encouraging others to be both safe and honest.
Whose responsibility is it to control the cost of workers’ compensation? The Safety Manager? The Human Resource Manager? The CFO? Or is it the responsibility of the Owner, General Manager, or CEO? It’s a missed opportunity if the leader of the organization doesn’t take advantage of his position to impact all the factors that affect the ultimate cost of workers’ compensation to his business. Nobody is in a better position to establish that safety is the highest priority in the company.
There’s another factor at play these days that makes it imperative that the Boss steps up: fraud. Fraudulent claims are particularly expensive, as they are often litigated. Whether the claim happened away from work but is being reported as if it happened at work, or is a phantom injury that never occurred, or is the exaggeration of a small injury, these claims have nothing to do with safety training and OSHA compliance. They have everything to do with the culture of the organization, and no one is in a better position to establish and reinforce the culture than the owner, GM, or CEO. While it may be an uncomfortable talk to give, when the highest ranking officer in the company addresses the issue of fraud with the current workforce, and with every new employee, it establishes that honesty is as important as safety, and when honesty is embraced as a company value, not only do fraudulent claims go down, but the entire culture is stronger. The result is always positive, because a stronger culture produces fewer claims and reduces workers’ compensation costs.
As you make plans for a safer year in 2017, remember that safety has two distinct parts. The first part serves as the foundation: comprehensive safety training for every employee, and full OSHA compliance.
The second part is the greater determinant of injuries and claims: BEHAVIOR.
A company can do everything right in making the workplace safe and ensuring that everyone is well-trained, but still suffer too many injuries. The attitude of the workforce towards safety, honesty, and integrity is what makes the difference. An acceptance of careless accidents, or occasional risk-taking, produces a different result than an attitude where the workforce takes pride in doing their job the right way and staying injury free. To create a sense of pride, find a way to get workers fully engaged in your safety program. Engaging the workforce, and turning it into their safety program creates a sense of ownership, and ownership is the ultimate key to safety.