February 1, 2019
By Rebecca Batisto
Construction work can be dangerous. In fact, it’s ranked amongst the top ten most dangerous jobs in America by Time magazine. There are enough reported legitimate accidents each year without having to add fake claims to the already-high number. No industry is exempt from bogus workers’ compensation claims, but in construction, the phony claims may seem more plausible given the number of things that could go wrong in this type of environment.
With that in mind, here are a few hints for avoiding fake workers’ compensation claims:
If you don’t already have one, create a strong safety program that demands immediate reporting of all incidents and near-misses. Your safety management program should cover all the necessary components, and confirm employees have the required training and competence. In addition, frontline supervisors should feel empowered to reprimand workers who do not follow safety procedures. Often in construction, this level of management turns a blind eye to what seem like harmless offenses so long as no one gets hurt. But a successful safety program should not tolerate any violations. At a construction site of one of our clients, a worker who was attempting to change a lightbulb used a chair as a stool. The chair slipped out from under him, and he fell and broke his arm. This OSHA-recordable incident happened in front of his supervisor, who never encouraged the worker to get a real stool, nor did he suggest the worker wait until he had the proper equipment to perform the task. When frontline management isn’t enforcing safety procedures, workers get in the habit of not following them. This practice can open an employer up to fake workers’ comp claims.
Think back to high school when you studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow believed people moved through different stages of five needs that motivate behavior: physiological, safety, love and belonging (social), esteem, and self-actualization. People like to be recognized for a job well done, and they like to feel needed. They want to fit in and be a part of the group. As an employer, you can use this to recognize and reward safe behaviors on the job. For instance, you may give some type of reward to a person who reports an injury right away or who is caught tying down a trash can lid in a windstorm. Some construction companies offer peer-to-peer recognition, monetary awards, prizes, dedicated parking, and special jackets or ball caps. Many hold special safety celebrations when they have worked a certain number of safe hours, providing food, entertainment, and awards for the workers on the project.
There are comprehensive tests available to employers that include an extensive questionnaire for the employee to complete, a musculoskeletal assessment, drug screen, and medical surveillance. Some job analyses call out the frequency, height, and positions a worker must be able to tolerate. It measures everything an employee will be required to do, measuring what gets lifted, pushed, pulled, carried, and positional demands. This robust job screening could eliminate workers who might not be able to safely perform the job. Some employment agencies recommend thinking twice before hiring a person who has a sketchy job history, a child support lien, or an extensive criminal record. These are the types of situations where a person may be looking for a way to get cash quickly and may be more likely to file a false workers’ compensation claim.
Some construction companies are asking workers to complete personality profiles. Information gleaned from these tests may help employers realize ahead of time which employees may be more prone to taking risks. Risk-taking may be suitable if you’re a stuntman or a day trader, but not so appropriate for construction workers. If you decide to hire a company to come in and do this for you, be sure to choose one that has experience and success in administering this type of test.
Sometimes rumors are just that: rumors. But once in a while, there may be something to them. Pay attention to any rumors circulating after an employee claims to have been hurt on-the-job. Your employees are your best asset. If you foster a good relationship with them and keep an open line to complaints, they will be more likely to come to you when there’s something suspicious going on. Providing a good working environment and showing you care is more likely to produce a loyal and productive workforce.
Uncovering fraud, when it happens, is not easy and is best left to the experts. At Normandy Insurance Company, we’re experts in cost-effective, professional workers’ compensation claims management. We look at all options thoroughly and customize plans to fit every unique situation. Contact us today to find out more.