An analysis of almost 1,000 workers' compensation claims conducted by the Arlington, Va.-based Restaurant Insurance Corp. found that 26.7 percent of them had to do with slips, trips and falls, and that another 23.9 percent had to do with cuts and punctures.
The average cost to the employer of a workers' comp claim in the slips, trips and falls category came to $5,386, more than double the $1,800 cost of the average claim filed against a restaurant from a dissatisfied customer. So it's no surprise that most risk managers would rather invest in preventing slips, trips and falls from happening in the first place.
Joe Kovalcik, vice president of risk management, for Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy's International, says having the right flooring material is an important factor in preventing employees from sliding on greasy floors and falling. "We have a very favorable tile specification that works well for us," he says. "Keeping the floors clean and degreased, as well as keeping food off the floor are also important strategies.
For its part, the Calabasas, Calif.-based Cheesecake Factory has a slipresistant shoe program. "One of the core foundations of our risk management program is a slip-resistant shoe program," says Kurt Leisure, vice president of risk services. "We have 98 percent of our employees participating in the program."
And while it's important to provide the right protective equipment and materials, it's just as important to establish the right employee mindset. Eagen, Minn.-based Buffets Inc. does this by selling its workers' comp program as a benefit to hiring prospects, says Teri Burthay, senior manager of risk services. "We don't want it to be a secret."
If there is an injury, the company wants to provide the best care possible and get the employee back to work as quickly as possible. As a result, the company's workers' comp claims volume is lower than the industry average, Buffets executives claim.
Buffets plans to train specially designated supervisors and employees in the field to be workers' comp coordinators. Then, when employees have questions, they can call one of their peers for help and advice. Of course, adjusters, medical consultants and corporate benefits experts can still help them out. "However, we are finding that employees usually feel more comfortable talking with peers," says Burthay. Buffets is also initiating a workers' comp employee satisfaction survey, which will be given to all employees who have returned to work successfully after having gone through the system.
"We want to find out what was positive and what we need to work on, whether it be with our TPA, the medical facilities, not getting checks on time, difficulty getting prescriptions filled," says Burthay.
July 1, 2005
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