Financial incentives, injury prevention and return to work in the unionized electrical construction sector

Agnieszka Kosny, Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract

Objective: The electrical sector, a part of the construction industry, employs approximately 29,000 workers in Ontario. While the number of workers’ compensation claims has decreased in the construction sector and the electrical rate group, the construction total claim rate is still the fourth highest among all sectors. The focus of this presentation is to examine some of the ways that financial incentives affect injury prevention in the sector and the return-to-work (RTW) experiences of injured workers and their co-workers.

Methods: Based on Gary Majesky’s experience as a workers’ compensation specialist at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and a study involving focus groups and interviews with electrical workers about the role of co-workers in the RTW process, this presentation highlights some of the ways that financial incentives may be affecting primary injury prevention and RTW in the sector.

Results: A fear of fines has led to documentation of “due diligence” and provision of training and safety information, but not necessarily to the operationalization of safe work practices when these conflict with production demands. When an injury occurs, lost-time claims are avoided, and even those with severe injuries are pressured to RTW. This can be problematic for injured workers and co-workers since meaningful modified work is scarce. Injured workers can be viewed as a liability if their injury results in higher premiums and interferes with the production process. This view can undermine the support and recovery of injured electricians.

Conclusion: Financial incentives can lead to superficial changes in safety and have some unintended consequences for injured workers and their colleagues in the electrical sector.

Authors: Agnieszka Kosny and Gary Majesky

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