Workers' Compensation essay

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The purpose of this thesis is to examine the relationship between employees who suffered work-related injuries to the extent of total incapacitation and their job performance.  I am interested in this topic because I am the workers’ compensation administrator for my employer and have first-hand knowledge of the number of employees who get injured each year, the types of injuries that are befalling these employees, and the reasons given for the injuries.  Many claims of injuries are legitimate but there are situations where employees suffer injuries under suspicious circumstances.  The following question is to be researched:  In 2011, did the majority of employees of the East Orange School District who suffered work-related injuries also have negative performance evaluations?

Over the past three decades, occupational injuries and illnesses in the U.S. have declined by 42 percent (42%), even though employment has more than doubled. Nevertheless, every year, nearly five million workers experience an occupational injury or illness on the job. More than half of these injuries and illnesses are severe enough to cause the worker to spend time away from work (OSHA).  Each year, employers spend millions of dollars to pay for medical treatment, surgeries, medications, and long-term care of injured employees.  Recent estimates indicate that workplace injuries and illnesses cost our nation’s businesses $170 billion per year in wasteful and often preventable expenses (OSHA).  Employers also lose money by loss of productivity.  When an employee is absent for an extended time period, his or her work is not getting done or, on the contrary, a co-worker is doing the work.  The co-worker who is performing the duties of the absent colleague may be entitled to extra-compensation for doing so while the injured employee is still being paid while at home convalescing. If the claim for workers’ compensation benefits is counterfeit or if certain individuals seem to constantly get hurt on the job, this can lead to decreased employee morale (Geller 311). 

The best way to control these costs is to attempt to prevent them from occurring.  One way to prevent them is to provide proper training to employees indicative of the functions contained within the scope of his or her job description.  For example, it is not a teacher’s responsibility to physically break up a fight between students.  Educational institutions hire security guards for that purpose. Yes, a teacher has the responsibility to try to defray confrontations amongst students; however, security guards receive specialized training on how to physically intervene during an altercation without injuring the students or themselves.

Effective Safety and Health Management Systems have proven to be a decisive factor in reducing the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses. SHMS will result in reduced injury-related costs.  These savings, when properly administered, will exceed the cost of a workplace SHMS (OSHA). The critical elements of an effective SHMS are: “management commitment and employee involvement; worksite analysis; hazard prevention and control; training for employees, supervisors and managers” (OSHA).  One of the hallmarks of an effective safety and health management system is a commitment to investigate every incident that results in a worker injury or illness—and near misses as well. By immediately following up, employers can identify root causes and take corrective steps to prevent future problems (OSHA).

The consensus among safety professionals is that upwards of ninety percent (90%) of all accidents occurring in the workplace may be attributed to behavioral factors. The importance of understanding how behavior influences safety performance cannot be underestimated (Kim, McInerney, and Alexander 63). A more important notion is that by “increasing concentration and effort placed on the influence of human behavior, accidents and injuries can be significantly reduced” in the workplace (Kim, McInerney, and Alexander 63).

Prior to the induction of a workers’ compensation system, injured workers had to prove “negligence of the employer to recover” benefits (Compilation 3). The injured employee also had to contend with fellow workers who would be willing to offer “testimony” contrary to what he or she claimed to have occurred.  He or she would also have to prove that they did not contribute to their own injury by engaging in reckless activities at work, thereby putting him or herself at risk of an injury.  This whole process proved to be a time-consuming and costly one, thus the advent of a workers’ compensation system.

Workers' compensation laws are designed to ensure that employees who are injured or disabled on the job are provided with fixed monetary awards, eliminating the need for litigation (Compilation). These laws also provide benefits for dependents of those workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses. Some laws also protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by eliminating the liability of co-workers in most accidents. State statutes establish this framework for most employment (Free Advice). Federal statutes are limited to federal employees or those workers employed in some significant aspect of interstate commerce (Free Advice). In essence, “workers’ compensation is a compromise between employer and employee in which each party surrenders certain advantages in order to gain others that are of greater importance to the parties and to society” (Compilation 3).

Another term related to workers’ compensation is compensation bargain. Compensation bargaining occurs when an employee gives up his or her right to sue in the event that he or she gets hurt at work.  In exchange for the litigious option, he or she will receive a “modest” award to “compensate” for being unable to work (The Workers’ Compensation Bargain).  There are numerous provisions for this type of settlement and they differ from payments in place of wages and economic loss. These payments are generally unavailable in the workers’ compensation plans; thus negligence is not a major issue in the case.

The performance of the employee and workers’ compensation are issues that are directly related and this is the major function of writing this thesis. It is evident that the working conditions to which workers are subjected may be a major factor in determining the way that he or she will perform his or her duties. While reviewing literature for this thesis, it became clear that there is a relationship between the ways in which the workers perform and the issues from which compensation arise. Therefore, the variables in this thesis are workers’ compensation and the performance of the employees. One fact that remains apparent is that there is always a relationship between the performance of the employee and the risk of injuries that they encounter in the course of working (Geller 76). The main purpose of carrying out this research is to concretely assert that the two variables are interlinked and consequently serve as a clear validation of the research question. In order to justify this matter, the research will be carried out in East Orange School District.    

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