Right Person, Wrong Situation

Loss Amount: $295,000

What Happened: Most veterinary hospitals and clinics are busy places, with employees performing a variety of tasks. The following accident is an example of what can happen if employees are not prepared, either physically or otherwise, to perform a task.

In this case, an office manager, whose normal job duties were bookkeeping, filing and assisting the front desk staff, had just arrived at work. She saw a large bag of dog food lying on the floor next to its display and went over to straighten it up. When she bent over to lift the 40 pound bag she felt a huge pain in her lower back. She was transported to the local medical provider for treatment.

For most people the recovery from a lumbar strain is not prolonged or very expensive, and it was initially thought that the employee would be able to return to work in at least a limited capacity within the near future. Unfortunately, however, this person had had prior back problems resulting from a past auto accident which dramatically affected the success of her treatment. A herniated disk made it impossible for her to sit or stand for more than a few minutes at a time without suffering from extreme pain, and she could not return to work in any capacity for over three months. Later, after conservative treatment was unsuccessful, the employee had back surgery. This was followed by over a year of post-surgical rehabilitation and therapy before the claim ultimately closed.

Lesson Learned: This case illustrates the principle that persons who are trained and physically qualified to do a task should be the ones who do it, and when lifting is involved getting help is always preferred. There are several things that can be done to minimize this loss potential.

  • Use written job descriptions detailing the physical requirements of a position to help prospective applicants determine whether they are qualified for it.
  • Consider the requirement of pre-placement physicals for any position that requires routine lifting or other increased physical activity.
  • Discuss the physical nature of the workplace with staff during training meetings. Request that they get help for any heavy lifting and encourage a work environment where doing so is routine.
  • Instruct employees to inform management if they are sore or have any temporary limitation when they arrive at work. It is better to know, and be able to make accommodations for, such limitations then it is to have the employee injure themselves trying to cope with it.
  • Install folding luggage-type lifting dollies nearby areas where supplies are maintained and encourage their use. Most lifting–related strains are caused by muscles that are already tired or sore. Actions such as this that help reduce the physical strain on staff will lessen their exposure to injury now and into the future.

For further assistance in preventing all types of losses, call VISC at 888.762.3143.