At a recent gathering of employers, I heard a representative of a large company tell the assembled that, after a particularly expensive year of workers’ compensation costs, he decided to “get involved” and work to get better legislation for “controlling costs.” While I understood his end objective I could not help but think that the underlying assumption was just a bit absurd. 

Certainly, some legislation can help employers control costs. Often that effort, in my view, is rather inefficient. It often adds complexity to the process resulting in slower service to injured workers or trimming employee benefits. Depending on legislative efforts to control your workers’ comp costs is a bit like driving with your eyes closed and hoping the police keep anyone from hitting you.

Wouldn’t it be easier to open your eyes and prevent those accidents in the first place?

We all know that the cheapest workplace injury is one that never happens. While accidents and injuries will occur despite the best of intentions and efforts, a workplace culture focused on safety awareness and intolerant of neglectful behavior will do more to lower your costs than any legislated solution. 

Don’t get me wrong. Some states are notoriously difficult for employers, and the jurisdiction where this statement occurred happened to be one of those states. I fully understand employers engaging in activity to create a better legal environment; I just think that concentrating solely in that area is a mistake. The man who prompted this discussion may have very well also been engaged in internal activities to lower their incident rates; I do not know. He did not mention it, instead focusing his discussion on the importance of cost control through legislative activity.

It is good for employers to be engaged in organizations that work to improve the comp system. Still, if your desire is to keep your workers’ compensation costs low, I think you will find that actually practicing safety provides much more immediate results than trying to legislate it after the fact.

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