2016 Workplace Safety Predictions: An Outlook On Managing Risks

There continues to be a growing demand for identifying new and creative ways to mitigate hazards in the workplace. In fact, workplace health and safety risks not only have a tremendous impact on the livelihood and well-being of employees across a variety of industries, but also they are very costly to companies needing to address on-the-job injuries once they occur. Some industry stats even show that 1 million Americans suffer from a slip, trip, or fall injury every year, costing employers up to $40,000 for each incident.

It's also important to consider the fact that the landscape of issues impacting workplace safety is constantly changing year to year. For example, earlier this year, new regulations launched requiring companies to now assume work comp risks for their contract/temp employees. In addition, with the ongoing labor shortage crisis and the legalization of certain drugs, it's no wonder that companies need to equip themselves now for what lies ahead in 2016.

To assist companies with addressing some of the most prevalent workplace concerns that will impact safety in the New Year, below are four key trends that organizations need to be aware of.

1. Psycho-social, depression, and obesity issues
The ongoing and emerging trend of psycho-social, depression, and obesity issues will continue to impact safety in 2016. And while many organizations typically address psycho-social issues after an employee is depressed about being injured, in 2016 it will be even more vital for employers to identify employees who bring depression and other social issues to the job day to day -- before an incident occurs.

It's no surprise that if an employee is dealing with depression, experiencing marital issues, or just lost a loved one, this will affect his or her mental capability of performing a job. In fact, studies show that in a given year, 18.8 million American adults (9.5 percent of the adult population) will suffer from a depressive illness. In addition, studies show that depression is a major cause of disability, absenteeism, lack of presenteeism, and productivity loss among working-age adults. That's why it's critical for managers to identify these issues early on and to offer solutions that will help employees to cope with their issues so that they don't impact the workplace or escalate into a claim.

In addition, because obesity is now covered under workers' compensation, if employees are challenged with obesity and their obesity is impacting their job performance, it's important for employers to offer fitness and wellness solutions to help the employees on their journey to recovery.

2. Opioid addiction
In 2016, drug abuse and addictions will continue to be a growing concern in the United States. There are 1.9 million Americans now living with prescription opioid abuse or dependence. Moreover, CDC researchers this month reported that 28,647 Americans died of opioid-related drug overdoses in 2014. And a growing concern is how pain killer addiction is being driven by the tremendous amount of workers' compensation injury claims hitting the system each year. This is why it's essential for organizations to take on even more prevention programs in 2016 to stop the addiction cycle by preventing the injury from occurring in the first place.

Simple prevention solutions such as work site evaluations, on-the-job fitness solutions, functional job analysis, and on-site ergonomics training can significantly reduce workplace injuries and break the addiction cycle from starting. Moreover, it's important to remember that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This is especially significant if you consider that doing a $165 pre-work screen on a candidate is a small prevention investment, as compared to having to pay a $50,000 medical bill for an injured worker or even paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in ongoing disability costs if the worker never returns to the workplace.

3. Predictive analytics and Big Data
In 2016, we will start to see even more of a shift toward organizations using Big Data and predictive analytics to help injured workers return to work more efficiently. Predictive analytics uses technology and statistical methods to search through massive amounts of information, analyzing it to predict outcomes for individual patients. That information can include data from past treatment outcomes, information on pre-injury conditions, and insights on an individual's anticipated reaction to prescription drugs based on his or her bio makeup and even determining the likelihood of diseases, helping physicians to predict future wellness.

4. Temp and contractor liabilities
In 2016, it's imperative for companies to start investing in workplace safety and prevention solutions for their temporary and contract employees. Some companies may not be aware of the fact that they now need to be prepared to take on workers' compensation costs for their independent contractors in addition to their permanent employees since the National Labor Relations Board now views temporary workers to be essentially the same as regular employees. With this in mind, it's critical that organizations take more time on the front end to ensure they are hiring the right contractors to fill positions and to train them on the right way to perform job duties.

Instead of rushing to hire temp workers, it's important that organizations take their time and not skip over some key steps, such as doing background checks or pre-work screenings on potential candidates. A pre-work screen allows companies to identify an applicant's ability to perform the physical demands of a specific job. If the test shows that a temp employee cannot perform the physical requirements of the job, the hiring manager may want to consider him for another position or explore other options.

By factoring in these latest trends into workplace safety strategies for 2016, companies will be better equipped at mitigating business liabilities and other risks. The good news is, there will be new and innovative solutions launching that will help organizations to address these pressing concerns in the new year and in the years ahead.

Liz Griggs is the CEO of Canterbury Healthcare. To learn more, visit www.canterburyhc.com.

Posted by Liz Griggs on Dec 30, 2015