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June 2017: Workers’ Compensation
Where does your company stand when it comes to transparency in sharing your individual ergonomic assessment reports with employees? Are you transparent in your process or are you keeping the results to yourself? If you aren’t sharing the results of your ergonomic assessments with your employees, what are your concerns? You just might be missing a golden opportunity and here’s why!
Transparency in ReportingTransparency in reporting is more common than ever before in government and private industry. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. It has been defined simply as "the perceived quality of intentionally shared information from a sender" (Wikipedia.com).
From what I have seen and observed over the last 20 years, there is very little transparency when it comes to sharing ergonomics information with employees, especially those who participate in an ergonomic evaluation. This applies to whether it is for a preventive evaluation or a workers’ compensation claim or even when used for an ADAAA reasonable accommodation.
Most employees, even those with workers’ compensation injuries, have very little awareness or knowledge about their medical condition because of a lack of sharing of information or transparency in the workers’ compensation process. Knowing one’s health condition and understanding it is the first step in managing and resolving it.
The Benefits of Sharing Ergonomic ReportsWhen it comes to ergonomic analysis reports, why not share this information with your employees? After all, it is about them, done for them, paid for by you. The information an ergonomic assessment report provides, when written properly, identifies the following issues:
Employee’s primary concerns with the work and workstation
Discomfort or pain associated with a certain task or tool
Ergonomic risk factor exposures
Unsafe work practices demonstrated by employee
Methods to correct the exposures contributing to the discomfort:
safe work practices,
administrative actions and
engineering changes or purchases
As long as I have been performing ergonomic analysis (preventive, workers’ comp and ADAAA), I have encouraged my clients to review the final report with the employee and have both (Supervisor/Employee) sign off on the report. The benefits are numerous:
1. It shows the employer is concerned about the employee enough to disclose the findings and recommendations.
2. It encourages engagement and interaction between the employer and employee.
3. It establishes accountability between the parties as to what to expect will happen next and what strategies each is responsible for implementing.
4. The report serves as a learning tool to better understand ergonomic exposures, how to manage them better by recognizing unsafe work practices and how to change these.
5. The report serves as a plan of action for purchasing, facility management and IT actions along with the anticipated time it might take to full implementation.
When the employer (supervisor) sits with the employee to review and discuss the findings and recommendations of the ergonomic analysis, it establishes trust and rapport between the two participants, one of the most important factors necessary in minimizing workers’ compensation claim filing and managing existing claims more effectively. It says to the employee, “I’m important and my employer cares about me!”. This part is also essential for a successful interactive process as part of ADAAA compliance. Furthermore, encouraging a signature by both the supervisor and employee establishes commitment to the ergonomics process along with accountability to assure the recommended actions and changes have been reviewed and will be implemented in a timely manner.
Obtaining Supervisor and Employee SignaturesA simple statement at the end of the ergonomic analysis can go a long way to guarantee transparency and accountability in the process. An example is provided:
“This report has been reviewed with the employee. It is understood the employee is responsible for using their equipment in a safe manner and practicing safe work practices as described in this evaluation. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment and to implement the most appropriate recommendations known to reduce the ergonomic risk identified.”
By signing a statement like this in the ergonomic assessment, it says a lot about the integrity and seriousness of the employer’s commitment to employee health and safety while identifying the employee’s responsibility in the process. From a compliance standpoint, it is even more important as it shows a “good faith effort” is in process by the employer.
By comparison, OSHA’s General Duty Clause states:
(a) Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees’ employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
Essentially, sharing the ergonomic analysis report with the employee confirms the employer’s commitment to safety and health in the workplace and gives the employee an opportunity to learn what their respective actions and conduct should be going forward. Sounds like a “win-win” to me!