There are around 8.5 million non-fatal workplace injuries in the U.S. every year. This breaks down to about 23,000 injuries per day. In addition to injuries, hundreds of thousands of workers develop illnesses on the job each year, costing around $58 billion annually.
When you’re injured at work, there are often direct (expected) and indirect (hidden) costs to both you and your employer. For example, a worker may have to pay for some of his or her medical treatment and other costs himself, depending on the workers’ compensation insurance involved. He or she may also have to take some time off work, which may or may not be covered by the employer. Workers also must report their injury properly, visit the right medical provider, and make sure the medical records about the injury are thorough and accurately reported.
Failure to do these things may result in having to pay hidden costs. In fact, the hidden costs are often greater than the direct costs; some experts estimate that for every $1 of direct costs, there are at least $3 of hidden costs when a worker is injured on the job. Here are some of the most common mistakes that lead to hidden costs.
Incorrectly or inadequately reporting an injury
Workers should always report an injury or illness to the employer, provided doctor agrees that the injury is/was due to the job. It’s not enough to just tell a co-worker, for example. Employees should always report the injury or illness to a supervisor or Human Resources in writing. If the injury isn’t reported properly, the worker may end up paying for some or all of the medical treatment. This is why it’s important for workers to get familiar with their employer’s workers compensation policies, and to know how to report injuries properly. From an employer standpoint making sure everybody understands the policies will help keep those hidden injury costs to a minimum.
Visiting the wrong medical provider
In an emergency, employees don’t have to worry about which medical facility to visit. They’ll be taken to the nearest appropriate ER as determined by paramedics. When the situation is not an emergency, however, visiting the wrong facilities (out of network urgent care clinics, doctors or hospitals) can lead to serious unexpected costs. It’s important to know which medical providers are within the employer’s workers compensation policy.
Inaccurate medical records
What happens if a work-related injury is not properly reported, or if certain aspects of the injury were not included in the medical records? The injured employee may be responsible for treatment costs. This is a direct cost to them, and an indirect cost to employers (for example, it can affect both productivity and morale). Employees should make sure that all aspects of their injury are documented in the medical records. That way, when it comes time for the insurance company to pay for treatment, there will be no doubt about coverage.
Don’t be caught off guard by hidden costs
Correct and accurate reporting is one of the most important ways to reduce hidden costs, both to injured workers and to the employers they work for. Employers in particular should take special care when it comes to educating their employees about their workers compensation policy and how to deal with on-site injuries or work-related illnesses. By taking the time to understand the system first, everybody involved will have a much better chance of minimizing those hidden costs!