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August 1st, 2011 - Heide Brandes

Compensation station

Symposium set to address numerous workers’ compensation issues


In 2010, employers were forced by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay a staggering $6.5 million in back wages to more than 5,000 employees, a wide jump from the $2.6 million paid to 2,190 employees just a year earlier. Class-action lawsuits against employers by independent contractors also increased in 2010 by 50%.

With a bolstering job market comes new hires of employees who may be less experienced and more prone to injury, as well. Yet, simple ideas — such as implementing a wellness program in the workplace — not only could reduce injuries, but reduce workers’ compensation claims.

These issues, among others, will be the focus of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Symposium, set for Aug. 23 and 24 at the Reed Conference Center and Sheraton Midwest City.

“The big questions are, ‘How can we decrease the increased costs and tort reforms?’ and ‘How can we get injured workers back to work quicker?’ and ‘How do we avoid injuries to begin with?’” says Kevin Khoury, event coordinator.

Key topics include new changes in state workers’ compensation laws, how businesses are integrating safety and wellness programs, a look into the decrease of workers’ comp claims, and how to manage rising medical costs.

The symposium will provide current information from the federal and state sectors on workers’ compensation and tort reform issues.

“The purpose of this symposium is to educate Oklahoma business owners about proposed changes to legislation and how to reduce workers’ compensation claim frequency and costs,” says Chris Moler, symposium executive director.

Injured workers are out of work longer, says Khoury, and workers’ compensation is now funding disability benefits longer because of economic conditions and fewer open jobs.

What’s more, the NCCI reports that medical costs of lost-time workers’ comp claims continue to grow, representing 58% of claims.

However, more and more, employers are recognizing the relationship between wellness and safety due to new information, an aging workforce and emerging court cases.

According to the 2010 NCCI Research Brief, work-related injuries are more costly than other injuries, and are more likely to result in long-term disability if the employee is also obese.

The symposium also will provide tools that assess how jobs can be modified for older employees.

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