Mitigating Workers’ Comp Costs for Long-Term Care Facilities

October 21, 2019

Injury rates for workers at long-term care facilities – from nursing homes to assisted living facilities, independent facilities and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) – are materially greater than average, according to research conducted by the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI). This is backed by the Labor Department’s data on non-fatal injuries by occupation: The average rate of workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 nursing facility workers in all groupings in 2016 was 8.8, more than three times as much as the overall rate for private employers across all industries.

Back injuries that occur while lifting, repositioning and transporting patients are among the top on-the-job injuries for long-term care workers. According to one study referenced by the NCCI, a nursing assistant performs more than 20 lifts or transfers of residents during an average day shift of eight hours. Back injuries can range from strains to severe injuries involving herniated and damaged disks that result in chronic pain and require medical intervention, surgery, and long periods of recovery. Repetitive injuries are also common among long-term care workers: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that nursing home workers are twice as likely as others to suffer musculoskeletal injuries resulting from repetitive movements.

Other leading on-the-job injuries for employees at long-term care facilities are as a result of slips and falls, workplace violence, and exposures to bloodborne pathogens. 

Reducing injuries and minimizing Workers’ Compensation claims at long-term care facilities requires a comprehensive risk management plan that includes:

  • Ensuring facilities provide a safe and healthful workplace for their workers, including a program that addresses each exposure properly. For example, equipment should be installed to help nurses and other aides with lifting and moving patients. This includes the safe use of powered mechanical lifts, which can be full lifts that are either free standing or overhead and sit-stand lifts. What’s important is not just purchasing the lifts but also implementing training programs on using the equipment. In addition, ensure employees are fit for duty. 
  • Making sure management is keeping an eye on employees to ensure that they are acting safely and following the facility’s procedures.
  • Complying with OSHA enforcement policy and guidance documents that pertain to nursing and residential care facilities.
  • Encouraging employees to speak up about any potential safety risks that they notice while on the job. When concerns are brought to management, make sure they are addressed immediately. 
  • Conducting frequent inspections of the workplace to check for any safety hazards.
  • Reporting and investigating accidents promptly. The more time that passes after an accident, the more difficult it becomes for an insurer to investigate it. Prompt accident-reporting means that key pieces of evidence are better preserved, and a claims adjustor can look into the extent of the accident in more detail. It also means that an injured employee will be treated more quickly and start the road to recovery faster. It’s important for insureds to also understand that there are accident-reporting time limits imposed by each state.
  • Having effective case management by medical professionals in place, critical at the onset of a claim. The facility should identify and outline its “approved providers” in its Workers’ Compensation policies and procedures. Ensure employees know where to go for the initial medical treatment following a work injury and to expedite care, good communication, and a quicker return to work.
  • Integrating a return-to-work program as part of the long-term care facility’s business strategy. Return-to-work programs are effective in helping to reduce Workers’ Compensation costs, improve productivity and morale across an organization, save organizations time and money in hiring and training, and protect facilities from loss of talent.
  • Working with an insurance specialist that focuses on Workers’ Compensation coverage for long-term care facilities and partners with highly rated insurers that offer tools and strategies to help clients gain control over ongoing costs and rising premiums, assist employees in returning to work, and other risk management measures.

Manchester Specialty Programs provides Workers’ Compensation for long-term care facilities, and can work with insurance agents and brokers to access quality insurance carriers for this difficult class of business. For more information about how our products and services can help protect your insureds, please contact us at 855.972.9399.