The lesson of social distancing has been driven home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But are workers hiding injuries because they fear going into medical offices?
Employees have all sorts of reasons to hide workplace injuries: They want to tough it out, they can’t afford time away from work, they fear retribution, etc.
Here’s a new potential reason: An injured worker doesn’t want to visit a medical facility during COVID-19 for fear of catching the virus.
That’s a problem that potentially hurts both the employee and the employer.
Research conducted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. shows delayed injury reporting can increase workers’ comp costs by up to 51%.
And a lag in injury reporting also can have a negative impact on the employee’s ability to heal properly.
Take a two-prong approach to prevent employees from hiding injuries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, assure them that medical facilities have taken steps to ensure safety during in-person visits.
Here’s what medical facilities are doing, according to Ann Nguyen, assistant research professor at Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy:
- Medical facilities are limiting contact as much as possible. Intake forms are completed online or over the phone, for example.
- Some offices are setting aside certain hours for high-risk patients. Always make an appointment first.
- Patients wait outside or in their car until the doctor is ready to see them.
- Medical offices take all visitors’ temperatures before allowing them inside.
- Equipment and exam rooms are regularly sanitized, and hand sanitizer is readily available.
- Medical personnel are wearing PPE, including masks.
The second thing to do is to reinforce your company’s policy that employees won’t face retribution for reporting injuries.
It’s part of a good safety culture to support internal injury investigations that emphasize preventing future injuries, not finding a source of blame.
Since they’re the people who employees have contact with most often, ask supervisors to reinforce this message on a regular basis.
Get executive support for this also, and ask C-suite-level managers to state that injured workers won’t face retribution.
Let employees know about the results of injury investigations, with the results geared toward injury prevention.