By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor
Change is coming, plenty of change is coming, and workers' compensation managers better be getting ready for it.
For one, in case you hadn't noticed, we had an election recently, and there is a good chance that the next administration is going to be strengthening and seriously enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's regulations.
That's according to Cynthia Roth, one of the presenters in an afternoon session on managing workers' compensation claims at the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo at the Las Vegas Hilton on Thursday.
"OSHA for the past eight years has not had any teeth," said Roth, CEO of the Ergonomics Technologies Corp., based in Syosset, N.Y.
Roth, who, as the name of her company implies, specializes in improving ergonomic working conditions with the goal of decreasing injuries and lowering workers' compensation costs, was watching in glee back in 1999 when the Clinton administration asked for and received legislation that would have toughened ergonomic standards for employers under the supervision of OSHA.
Roth, as she readily admits, could have saved herself the trouble. Under the administration of George W. Bush, those ergonomic standards were scrapped.
But Roth is asking us to consider the fact that the U.S. government, like many entities these days, is woefully short on cash. Roth said be on the lookout for OSHA, under a Barack Obama administration, to start paying much more attention to workplace safety, including attention to proper ergonomic setups, and to be very ready to start levying fines against employers who aren't doing their best to create safer working conditions.
Add to that the fact that the current challenging economic conditions are looking like they could linger on for a couple more years. Companies are going to be doing more and more with less.
"We are going to be working with budget deficits like we have never seen for the next couple of years, so we've got to get smart," said Roth.
There are going to be layoffs of junior workers. That means older workers--who when they get injured tend to get more seriously injured--may be left doing a lot of the work.
And we're not done yet. According to Roth, the industry trend in challenging economic times is that workers' compensation claims tend to increase. Workers who are worried about losing their jobs tend to file more workers' compensation claims.
So what's the good news? Workers' comp administrators can often make productive changes to workplaces by just using common sense. Many injury-causing work habits can be identified and resolved using methods that shouldn't have to "cost you a dime," Roth said.
November 20, 2008
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