Line blurred between lost-time, no lost-time claims: Study

Lost-time and no-lost time claim categories are not as valuable as they once were in evaluating how well workplaces are performing in primary prevention, according to a study from the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) in Toronto.

The distinction between lost-time and no lost-time injuries is no longer clear cut, said Peter Smith, an IWH scientist and lead author of the study, which looked at Ontario statistics.

“Our data suggest that we need to improve the way we assess safety performance by moving beyond lost-time claims as the only performance metric,” he said. “We need to include all injuries in assessing performance, and when a claim does not result in time off work, we should collect information that tells us whether no time was lost because the injury was relatively minor or because modified or alternative duties were available.”

The need to distinguish between lost-time and no-lost-time claims is imposed on Ontario employers by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). When assessing a firm’s safety performance, the WSIB weighs lost-time injuries more heavily than no-lost-time injuries, Smith said.

This is because, traditionally, lost-time claims have been viewed as more severe injuries and are therefore expected to incur greater future costs. However, more active workplace accommodations and claims management following injuries has blurred the line between time-lost and no-time-lost claims, said Smith. These tools are often used to reduce lost-time claims, Smith explained, but do not necessarily reduce injuries.

The IWH study examined about 7,000 no lost-time claims using WSIB data. Researchers matched each no lost-time claim with as many as four lost-time claims that were similar in terms of the type of injury, the event leading to the injury, the part of the body injured and the year the injury took place.

The study found factors that were expected to affect time-lost injury claims — such as age and employer size — were, in reality, inconsequential.

What the study did conclude was the employer’s workers’ compensation premium rate has just as much of an effect on whether or not time is lost after an injury as the nature of the injury itself.

“If you have a high premium rate, you have the potential to receive the largest rebates or the largest surcharges,” Smith said. “Firms with the highest premium rates have the most financial incentive to reduce the number of lost-time claims.”

Liz Foster writes for Canadian Safety Reporter, a sister publication of COS.

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of COS.