» The workplace injury that cost employer $135K

The workplace injury that cost employer $135K

August 22, 2011 by Jennifer Azara
Posted in: Facility Management, Human Resources, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views

This employer was set back $135,000 by something many of your employees are doing right this instant. 

You don’t need to be a manufacturing plant or construction site to suffer an on-the-job injury.

Take a scan around your office for a minute. Odds are some of your staffers are on the telephone at this very moment. More likely than not, they’re probably also doing something else, like keying invoices, rummaging through files, etc.

And that’s where the trouble starts.

Illinois prison finance clerk Angela Grott frequently typed on her keyboard as she used the phone. That awkward position ultimately caused her severe neck and shoulder pain. Grott raised the issue with her supervisors and even requested the organization buy her a headset to free her hands – a request that was denied.

Eventually the pain became so severe, Grott went out on disability. The cringe-worthy totals thus far:

  • $128,424 in workers’ comp claims and medical bills, and
  • $7,304 for temporary disability pay.

Not only that, but there’s legal action pending. All over a $9.96 headset!

Avoiding a similar fate

Of course, if one of your staffers came to you with concerns about the safety of his or her workspace, you’d do what was necessary to accommodate that person. A headset is a simple enough fix. (The prison has since ordered headsets for all employees who’ve requested them.)

But there are plenty of things that can cause similar painful and expensive problems. And sometimes employees may not realize it’s happening until the damage is done.

It’s more than worth a scan of every workstation by all supervisors. This particular incident happened in the finance department but could just as easily transpire in any other department where employees type and talk.

  1. Leave no stone unturned. The employee in this case raised issues with everything from how high her keyboard was positioned to how difficult her chair was to move. Even overstuffed filing cabinets are considered to have contributed to this employees’ costly condition.
  2. Document every action you take. Whether ordering headsets or repositioning staffers’ monitors, have supervisors keep a written record of all your company does to keep people healthy. You might not be able to prevent an injury or ailment, but you can at least prove your company was taking steps to avoid them. And that could help your company’s case with everything from OSHA fines to a staffer lawsuit.

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