Welcome to Work Comp Wednesdays! Insurance People is the industry-leader in North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance. Each week, our team takes a frequently asked question and expands on the issue for our clients, prospective clients, and community members to better understand the confusing nature of Work Comp.
Insurance People is the largest insurer of charter schools in the Carolinas and Georgia. Our agency understands the importance of the culture, experience, and quality education that charter schools provide for the community. For schools to maintain this excellence, we recommend adopting a comprehensive risk management and safety program.
Being able to effectively manage expenses and costs is a key element in running a successful school. One key expense that is extremely difficult to predict and control, due to variance, is people – direct labor costs, injuries, insurance, turnover, litigation, etc. By understanding how to mitigate these expenses through risk management and safety initiatives, charter schools can drive down costs over the long-term.
Insurance People analyzed the workers’ compensation data for 96 claims between 12 charter schools to identify potential relationships, insights, and observations. The total claims paid was $348,747 with an average injury cost of $3,632. The claims were divided into four main categories based on the cause of injury:
Slips/Falls were the leading cause of injury for charter school employees and accounted for 51% of all claims. Injuries obtained due to interactions with Students was second at 22%, Miscellaneous causes at 21% and Vehicle accidents at 6%.
Slips/Falls also lead in claim costs, accounting for $269,054 of the $348,747 (77%) total claims paid. Students was second at $49,336 followed by Vehicles ($21,217) and Miscellaneous ($9,140).
Lastly, the average injury cost for Slips/Falls was $5,490, while the next highest cause of injury was below the average claim cost of $3,632.
Slips and Falls:
For charter schools, Slips/Falls are common and expensive. By focusing time and resources on risk management and safety practices, schools should see a significant reduction in overall injuries, costs, and workers’ compensation premium.
Outside publications also point to focusing safety and risk management resources on Slips/Falls. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Slips/Falls are the leading cause of workplace accidents. Not only do Slips/Falls lead in overall cases, but the National Safety Council says they account for 25,000 fatalities each year.
Slips/Falls are the main the cause for workplace injuries but what are the causes for slips or falls? According to Philadelphia Insurance Company, there are four main categories:
- Walking Surface Condition
- Level Changes
- External Conditions
- Human Conditions
The condition of walking surfaces is crucial to employee safety. Surfaces with low friction (slippery floors) or transitions in friction level (rough to smooth surface) can lead to serious slips and falls. Uneven ground and deep cracks in walking surfaces often trip up unwary employees as well. Schools often find these conditions at building entrances and in the cafeteria.
Level changes like stairs, ramps, curbs, or other intentional changes in surface elevation is another main cause for Slips/Falls. School employees often find themselves in a position where they cannot see their feet while maneuvering down or up level changes. A common injury example includes slipping down a flight of stairs while carrying a stack of books or classroom material that’s impeding the employee’s view.
External conditions like poor visibility and adverse weather can obstruct safe walking conditions. Employees frequently injure themselves by slipping on ice or mud in the parking lots and sidewalks. Poor lighting can also cause individuals to mistake even ground and increase the chance of a slip or fall.
Lastly, human conditions are becoming a more popular cause for Slips/Falls. School faculty should be extremely conscious of their surroundings while supervising students at play in the gymnasium or athletic fields. In the case of physical disputes among students, teachers should never put their body in between those in the altercation.
The following are the most common solutions employers are implementing to reduce Slips/Falls:
- Provide walk-off mats inside and outsides every entry area
- Provide mats in areas where water or other liquids are commonly built up (kitchen sink, water fountain, bathrooms, etc.)
- Improve spill and ice response protocol
- Improve visibility while walking up and down the stairs – make sure you can see where you are going
- Don’t rush around the premises
- Install visual cues – use contrasting colors to draw attention to ramps, curbs, or stairs
- Keep surfaces flat – repair any cracks or uneven spots
- Avoid breaking up student altercations – staff should follow the school’s policies that address such situations
Although it should be a school’s priority to maintain a zero-injury workplace, it is sometimes unrealistic. Having a clear, written plan for when an employee gets injured is the most effective way to ensure claims are closed quickly and employees are returned to work in an appropriate time frame.
For assistance in creating a formal return-to-work program or a post-injury claims roadmap, please contact an Insurance People Risk Advisor. Insurance People is a proud partner of the Institute of WorkComp Professionals and have been certified since 2018. Insurance People is also a long-standing member of the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools (NCAPCS).