By Jim Flannery, owner of Flannery Safety Consulting
When it comes to being a business owner, you always want to be doing right by your staff. Part of that is making sure you do a good job at Workers Compensation Board claims management.
Here in the province of Alberta, a company’s basic WCB premium rate is based on the overall injury history of that company’s industry. For example, roofers, who have a relatively high-risk business, have higher premiums than white-collar offices, where the risk of a serious injury is fairly low. However, if your company is performing worse than the industry average, you’ll pay a higher premium—as much as a 200% premium can be applied to your rate, which can result in cripplingly high costs.
Moreover, every injury claim that WCB deals with sticks with the company for three years, so your premiums could go sky-high overnight and stay that way for an extended period of time.
What is WCB?
WCB is no-fault insurance. Companies pay premiums into the system to cover the cost of workplace injury and, in return, the company cannot be sued by an injured worker. Likewise, the company cannot fire a worker for getting hurt. WCB is a good system, but it’s far from perfect, so making sure to dot your “I”s and cross your “T”s is the best way to make sure the system works the way it’s supposed to.
In Canada and the United States, Workers Compensation is built around a set of principles developed by Ontario judge/politician Sir William Meredith in 1913. Known as the Meredith Principles they state that an effective system of Workers Compensation promotes no-fault compensation, the security of benefits, collective liability, independent administration, and exclusive jurisdiction.
Effective Workers Compensation Board Claims Management
The first, best way to keep your WCB premiums down is to avoid getting your workers injured—this is why it’s so important to have practices and procedures in place to protect your people.
If someone does get hurt, it is critical, both for the company and for the worker, that the claim is managed effectively. So again, you need to have practices and procedures in place to take care of that as well.
It is important for companies to have an incident investigation policy in place that staff have been trained on. This protects everyone from the top to the bottom.
It protects the company and management by holding staff accountable for reporting incidents when they happen, thus reducing the chance of a fraudulent claim being filed. This is the only real way to demonstrate to WCB that a worker was ignoring company protocol if they went to a doctor with an injury that wasn’t reported to the company first.
And there’s still a good chance WCB will accept the claim anyway. It is, after all, Workers Compensation, so the benefit of the doubt is typically given to the worker unless an airtight case can be made to show that the worker is lying about the incident.
If you are contemplating fighting a claim, here’s a link to the Review and Appeals page on the Alberta WCB website, to give a little direction if you want to pursue that action. Workers Compensation basically works the same way all over the world, although there are some minor differences; this page should at least give you a general sense of what needs to be done to file an appeal, regardless of where your company is located.
But policies and procedures for reporting injuries also protect the workers, because they can be confident that when an injury is reported, it will be treated appropriately and measures will then be put in place to ensure that type of incident never happens again.
Occupational Injury Services (OIS)
In my humble opinion, EVERY business in Alberta should be signed on to Occupational Injury Services (OIS). This is a free service available to companies through WCB, in conjunction with medical personnel who have been trained on how to deal with occupational injury. It helps companies control injury claims and reduce costs as well as ensuring workers get the best possible care, which benefits the business and the staff!
Here’s the link to the Occupational Injury Services (OIS) page.
In Alberta, the threshold for a claim to reflect against a company’s WCB premiums is $1500. If you can manage claims effectively enough to keep things under that dollar value (most particularly by getting workers back to work as quickly as possible), you’ll avoid having to pay higher WCB rates.
Having OIS available to you can drastically reduce claims costs by getting injured workers quick, effective treatment, and by giving them safe, meaningful light/modified duties to get them back into the workforce, which means you’re paying your worker to work rather than having WCB pay them to stay at home. And, of course, a swift recovery means your worker will be healthier and happier, which is good news for everyone!
Increased Productivity Through Safe Practices and Procedures
Contrary to what many people believe, a safe company is a productive company. You simply can’t do things safely without first developing a plan, and if your team is following a plan, they’ll do things more efficiently and make fewer mistakes than if they just wing it. That results in greater profitability for the company, a staff that takes more pride in their work, with greater job satisfaction, and less turnover. Frankly, there is no downside to having a safe business.
Flannery Safety Consulting provides services in the Lethbridge area.
If you need more help creating effective procedures, contact TMH Business Coaching and Consulting today for a confidential, free, no-obligation consultation to propel you forward. Also, please feel free to add yourself to our weekly coaching tips email!