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Financial incentive to prevent workplace injuries

Connecticut workers who make their livings at dangerous occupations may want to tell their employers about what metal workers are doing at the beginning of their shifts at a fabrication plant. Before they start welding or cutting metal, the workers put on their safety glasses and orange vests and begin a 10-minute stretching routine designed to reduce the number of injuries at work.

Managers credit the stretch exercises with a reduction in the number of repetitive strain and other injuries in an industry where this type of injury is common. But the stretches are just part of a larger emphasis on safety.

After their stretching is done, the workers engage in a daily meeting to discuss potential safety risks involved in their upcoming work. Every worker is encouraged to speak up. Mangers - including the chief executive - join in a companywide conference call once a week to discuss safety. They even ask workers to back their cars into spaces in their parking lots so as to minimize the chance of collisions at the end of a work shift. One of the company's metal fabrication plants recently boasted 3,250 days free of on-the-job injury.

Companies have a powerful financial incentive to provide for the safety of their workers. Generally, all qualifying employers must buy workers' compensation insurance to cover benefits for workers who are hurt in work-related activities. When a workplace has a lot of accidents, requiring a lot of workers' compensation benefits payments, those insurance premiums go up.

Unfortunately, many employers try to keep their premiums low by not honoring the claims of injured workers. As a result, many workers end up stuck with huge medical expenses, lost wages and other costs they just can't afford.

Connecticut workers who have been injured on the job should get help understanding their legal options. A safer workplace is in everyone's interests. And when workers get the benefits they need, that makes for a happier and healthier workplace, as well.

Source: Connecticut Post, "At Ore. Plant, workers stretch for safety," Bennett Hall, May 6, 2013

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