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Injury Prevention:Time to put a stop to increased injuries -english
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Time to put a stop to increased injuries

OAN member performance in OAN/SAIF workers' compensation program has slipped

By: Christy Witzke

"Severe fall from elevation fractures nursery worker's leg, leaving the worker unable to work for over a year." "Worker's hand gets caught in conveyor chain feeding hand into roller, resulting in nearly $30,000 in medical and time-loss payments."

Do these potential headlines seem farfetched? These are just two of the many injuries that OAN Safety Committee members have reviewed over the past year. It has been a hard reality for this committee to see the direction of the OAN/SAIF group members' performance over the past few quarters. What's going on? For many years the Safety Committee reviewed the group performance on a quarterly basis and saw declining claims frequency (number of claims per $100,000 in payroll), increased participation in the workers' compensation program and decreasing loss ratios. All of these were very positive trends for group members. However, this has not been the case since December 2002.

The Safety Committee began seeing the deteriorating group performance when reviewing the report for the quarter ending December 2002. In the report, the group noted that claims frequency jumped from 3.71 to 3.93. Although only a 6 percent increase, it was the first significant increase in more than three years. During this same time period, the loss ratio (incurred losses divided by standard premium) increased from 30.86 percent to 36.87 percent -- a 19 percent increase. To top it off, the average number of time-loss days per claim increased from 29 to 33 -- a 14 percent increase. All of these figures indicated that group members needed to seriously look at what they were doing to prevent losses and control the cost of claims that occur for the future viability of the group.

Since reviewing the December 2002 report, the Safety Committee also has reviewed the reports for the quarters ending March 2003 and June 2003 (reports are valued and made available 90 days after the end of the quarter). In these subsequent quarters, the frequency dropped slightly to 3.85 and 3.80, respectively, but the loss ratio remained more than 60 percent higher than it had been for several years (49.98 percent in March 2003 and 48.62 percent in June 2003). Average time-loss days per claim continue to remain above 30 days, with an average of 31 in March 2003 and 32 in June 2003.

Now this might seem like just a lot of numbers, but they mean a lot to the nursery industry and the OAN workers' compensation group in particular. The data clearly show that more employees are suffering work-related injuries than in the past. They also indicate that nursery employees are being more severely injured, or they are not being offered modified or transitional work in order to get them back into productive work (which increases the amount of incurred losses because of increased time-loss payments). If this trend continues, it could also mean a lower group discount, because the industry isn't performing as well as it has in the past.

What can we do? The obvious key is to prevent injuries from occurring. Having an effective hiring, training and employee-orientation procedure -- along with ongoing communication of company safety policies and practices, accountability and discipline -- will go a long way toward accomplishing this. Taking the time upfront to ensure that the proper person is hired and properly trained can save time, money and injury down the road. If an injury does occur, it is essential to be proactive about returning the injured employee to productive, meaningful work. Developing modified or transitional jobs with the help of SAIF's return-to-work consultants can greatly reduce or even eliminate time-loss payments.

Now is the time to look at how safety is integrated into your business process. Instead of safety being a priority, how about making it a value, something that is as integral to your processes as planting and digging. Remember, there are a variety of resources waiting to help you, including OAN Safety Committee members, your workers' compensation carrier and OR-OSHA consultative services.

Feel free to contact the SAIF Corporation closest to you:

Portland (800) 285-8570
Salem (800) 285-8525
Eugene (800) 285-8560
Bend (800) 285-8530
Medford (800) 285-8550
Pendleton (800) 285-8590

OR-OSHA consultation services also have regional representatives:

Bend (541) 388-6068
Eugene (541) 686-7913
Pendleton (541) 276-2353
Portland (503) 229-6193
Salem (503) 373-7819.

Christy Witzke is a loss-control consultant with the SAIF Corporation, the OAN's workers' compensation insurance carrier. If you would like to receive additional information on return-to-work programs, including a sample policy, you can download the information from SAIF's Web site at or contact Witzke directly at (503) 373-8377 or by e-mail at

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