“We’re just trying to keep you safe. We want you home for the night.”
By Desmond Devoy
This article was produced in partnership with AmTrust Financial Services.
Desmond Devoe, of Insurance Business America, sat down with Jeff Corder, vice president of loss control at AmTrust Financial Services, to discuss emerging trends in job vulnerability detection, before workers scrutinized the clock.
There is more to an impairment in the job than just drugs and drink.
“We’ve always understood that vulnerability is a problem,” said Geoff Corder (pictured).
And while employees appearing drunk or stoned is a serious problem, disability can come in many different forms.
“It’s pressure,” said Corder, vice president of loss control, loss control at AmTrust Financial Service. He gives the example of a worker who comes to work in an agitated state, having just had an argument with his wife.
“They will get distracted,” he said. Just as some companies administer drug tests to employees before they start their shift, he said, some companies now have “the ability to assess your cognitive ability with a non-invasive test.” Testing could be as simple as an employee looking at photos on a tablet or an employee having a “wearable device” that can track their physical condition on the job.
Tablet-based tests create a basis for information that can then emerge when that employee deviates severely from his normal range. The manager can look at the high numbers and make a call: “Okay now, something is wrong here.”
More than just drugs, alcohol plays a role in distraction
He has seen, in his own line of work, various factors, other than alcohol and drugs, at play in the distraction allegations.
“I’ve seen allegations where the person gets distracted,” he said. “We find out that his wife left him on the weekend, or that his child was kicked out of school.”
With these outside forces in a worker’s personal life affecting his working life, Corder stressed that it is important to know that “we’re not out to play with anyone. We’re out to help you.”
The remedy for this can be simple. Instead of sending a worker home, or facing a reprimand, they could be reassigned to another department for a day, such as working in the parts department instead of driving a forklift.
He said, “And you still get paid, you still save face.” “You can help them get help.”
For an employee who appears quarantined or high, directing them to substance abuse counseling, offered through an employee assistance program, is a good way to protect both the worker and the employer. Counseling and social worker contacts can also help.
Another issue that Corder is concerned with, however, is overtime.
“People are volunteering to work overtime,” he said. “But if you go seven days in a row without breaks, you must be weak.”
The company can work with the employee. They may not be able to work a full shift, but they can be allowed to work four hours.
Labor statistics indicate disability problems
He pointed to statistics from the National Safety Council, released just before the pandemic, that found that 90% of employers surveyed were concerned about workplace distractions and their impact on safety. 67% of people with some type of substance abuse problem work in the workplace. Add to this that 20% of American workers suffer from some form of mental illness, and 43% of employees are sleep deprived.
Getting support from employees can build trust that can be beneficial for them and the employer.
“You have to start talking about it and selling it to your employees, that’s a plus to help you. We’re just trying to keep you safe. We want you to come home at night because you’re a valued employee,” he said. There are legal aspects that you must write down in the company’s procedures manual. You will have to speak to the appropriate parties, such as unions, human resources, or legal counsel. You have to follow the rules of legality or human resources. It’s like any other security software.”
This type of testing is expected to become more widespread. During the pandemic, remote COVID screening questions, which had to be completed online or via your personal device before starting a shift, are becoming more common. The test can be taken throughout the day as well.
Wearables can also send a warning to managers about how an employee is at risk for repetitive motion problems. A wearable can show a manager that an employee is “not bending their right leg enough” while on the job, which can help prevent injury for weeks or months. Some workplace problems can be found with simple solutions, such as a table that is not high enough and could cause injury.
“We moved the table up a couple of inches,” he said, “and all of a sudden, the problem goes away and prevents a $100,000 claim thanks to a $10 repair.” “We’re trying to keep you safe. But we’re not going to fire you. That’s what your employer will say.”
An ounce of prevention can prevent a claim
With real-time, objective, and private monitoring, “you’re preventing something” before it becomes a problem, he says. He called it a good return on investment: “If we do something to prevent a large claim, these tests pay for it 10 times.” Best of all, the cost of the test “isn’t that expensive. And I think a lot of insurance companies down the road will look one way or another at subsidizing the test.”
He noted that most of these testing systems have been or are being tested by third parties, and that universities are conducting research on these matters as well.
“My feeling is that it will be the wave of the future,” he said. Now far from the good old days of urine and blood tests, he likes what he’s seeing being tested in workplaces across the country.
“It seems to be working,” he said.
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