In an ideal world, nobody would get hurt on the job. But the world is not ideal and injuries happen despite preventive efforts—sometimes with significant economic and human costs. In fact, workplace injury costs have risen steadily in BC’s accommodation sector, leading to hefty increases in WorkSafeBC premiums for all operators. But there is good news. Injury duration is driving those costs and managing claims by incorporating a few basic principles and tactics into your health and safety program can make a big difference from a financial and human perspective.
So what does an effective injury management program look like? We went to people on the frontlines of injury management inside and outside the hotel sector for answers. And we learned that whether a restaurant, big hotel or full-scale ski area, sound injury management practices can help reduce overall time loss, lower insurance premiums, improve morale and retain staff.
Michael King is manager, safety and loss prevention, at Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront hotel. He stresses the importance of early reporting and intervention.
“Our staff is trained to report injuries no matter how small,” says King. “We can avoid complications later on that way. And all injuries are dealt with right away, whether that means first aid or a doctor’s visit in the case of more serious injuries. Our goal is to get injured employees safely back to work as soon as possible.”
Research over the past two decades supports that goal. It demonstrates that the longer injured employees are off work, the longer it takes to fully recover and the less likely they are to return to the job.
“Delays are your enemy,” says Rhonda Lindsay, director of health and safety for restaurants Moxie’s, Shark Club, Chop, Rockford and Boulevard. “Streamline the process, particularly at the medical aid stage when it’s essential that doctors understand job tasks.”
Lindsay and her team developed ready-made Return-to-Work (RTW) packages labeled by function. These are given to injured employees before they see a physician.
Every package includes a letter explaining the company’s RTW policy and a job-specific Physical Demands Analysis. “With that Analysis,” Lindsay says, “the doctor can provide a list of the injured worker’s abilities rather than simply sending a note back saying the employee needs two weeks off. We use that information to create a modified or gradual RTW plan. Without that paperwork, we’d have to play catch up.”
Of course, doctors might still recommend time off. But those recommendations are not carved in stone, says Ryan Stimming, risk manager for Panorama Mountain Village. “There’s nothing better than a direct conversation with an employee. We offer limitless alternate duties, allowing employees to continue to work and get a paycheque. We’ve found that most of the time, they don’t want to sit at home.”
There is something else too, says Stimming. While nobody wants to see injuries happen, they can be an opportunity to train employees on other tasks. “Sometimes,” Stimming says, “they surprise you with skills you never knew they had. Sometimes you find a silver lining.”
For more on best practices, King recommends talking to others in the industry. “We’re not at all protective or shy about sharing documents and ideas,” he says. And go2HR has developed free, customizable injury-management guides and resource kit for BC’s accommodation, ski area and food & beverage operators. Download your copy from go2HR’s resource library.