Muscle strains are the leading cause of workplace injuries in Texas, according to a new study by Travelers Insurance. The company’s workers’ compensation data show that muscle strains accounted for a quarter of on-the-job injuries in the state in 2013. In fact, there were more muscle strains than the next two factors combined, which were sprains (12 percent) and fractures (11 percent).
According to Stacey Johnson, the risk control director at Traverlers’ Houston office, strains often occur because of repetitive motion over a long period of time. For example, a person could suffer a muscle stain from regularly reaching up or lifting.
Workers’ compensation insurance can be expensive, especially for small businesses. However, Johnson said that without any insurance, employers could face lawsuits and the potential for bankruptcy.
“While Texas may not have a standardized procedure for workers’ compensation claims,” Johnson added, “muscle strain injuries could be costly for companies in this state. Such injuries may not seem severe but can have a big effect on an employee and an employer’s business operations.”
Keeping Workers Safe
Travelers offers advice to employers to reduce the chances of injuries among their staffs:
- Hire the right people – Make sure to have the most appropriate people in the right positions. Take the time to interview, ask proper questions to determine an applicant’s experience and find employees who can be trusted to do the job correctly.
- Define responsibilities – Every employee should have a clear, well-defined list of responsibilities.
- Follow safety practices –Supervisors should lead by example and show other employees the importance of safe behavior.
- Provide proper training – Employees who must use tools and machinery should get proper training and regular reviews so that safety practices are always in place. Workstations, tools, and machines should be examined to make sure they are in working order. Each employee who works with potentially dangerous machinery needs to have personal protective equipment and understand how to use it.
- Get employees involved in safety – Enabling employees to provide feedback and voice concerns about safety issues can help employers refine and improve the work environment.
- Procedures in case of injury – When an accident takes place, it is crucial to have a clear procedure in place. This includes recognizing when an injury occurs, properly documenting it, contacting the appropriate people, and working to remedy the situation to prevent future injuries.
Texas Opts Out
At this time, Texas is the only state that permits private sector companies to opt out of purchasing workers’ compensation insurance. The state has a privatized structure for workers’ compensation claims.
The Texas Labor Code provides two alternatives for businesses concerning workers’ compensation insurance:
- The self-insured option – An employer can follow the rules and regulations of workers’ compensation laws yet act as a self-insurer.
- The non-subscriber option – An employer can do business without any workers’ compensation insurance whatsoever.
Because Texas gives its businesses the freedom to choose how they address on-the-job injuries, they also may take on risk. In addition, companies that determine their own insurance plans may actually have better benefits for their employees than those that participate in a state-run set-up for workers’ compensation claims.
Of the businesses that have opted out of workers’ compensation insurance altogether, some report that they are able to control the possibility of fraudulent claims and avoid government interference. However, without workers’ compensation insurance, these same companies are vulnerable to costly lawsuits from injured workers, which could lead to bankruptcy, depending on the business’s resources.