How Employers Can Become a Cause of Long Term Disability Claims

By Roger Foisy on January 14th, 2015

As an Ontario Long Term Disability Lawyer, I have helped many clients settle long term disability (LTD) insurance claims. Through this experience, I have observed that the majority of my LTD clients are making claims due to disabilities related to the workplace.

Long Term DisabilitiesUnfortunately, most employers do not realize that they (or the workplace environment they have created) are the cause of so many LTD claims. However, it is in their best interests to understand how they may be causing these disabilities, so that they may better prevent them in the future.

In my experience, the top two LTD claims stemming from the workplace are:

  1. Upper Extremity and Back Injuries
  2. Psychological Disabilities

I will examine each of these, discuss how employers are contributing to them, and suggest ways employers can prevent these issues moving forward.

Workplace-related Long Term Disability #1: Upper Extremity and Back Injuries

People working at sedentary jobs (desk jobs, for example) often develop upper extremity and back injuries, including back strain, neck problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sometimes, these injuries are aggravated to the point of becoming a serious problem which can then lead to chronic pain and the employee ends up on long term disability.

How Employers Are Causing It

Workplaces which encourage long periods of inactivity without a break contribute to this problem. Making matters worse, many workplaces are not ergonomically optimized for sedentary work positions to reduce the bodily strain on employees. Similarly, employees with more physically demanding positions, such as, heavy lifting, are not provided with simple and expensive workplace aids.

Over time, these workplaces can create serious health concerns, most often in the upper extremities and back.

How Employers Can Prevent It

Employers need to invest in ergonomic assessments to ensure they are addressing any potential problems before they become an issue. Workstations should be improved, whether that involves adding support mats for assembly line workers or providing ergonomic chairs for office workers. Lifting support belts, powered and non-powered truck lifts or trolleys, height turntables, lifting hooks, etc., might be a consideration for certain heavier lifting type positions.

Introducing targeted workplace exercises (morning calisthenics, for example) can also benefit both active and sedentary employees who are sitting or standing for long periods.

An Occupational Therapist can help with both of the above solutions, providing the necessary expert advice for improving workplace ergonomics and long term employee health.

Finally, employers should provide a good healthcare benefits package for employees. When employees have preventative healthcare such as physiotherapy or massage therapy available to them, they will be less likely to develop chronic upper extremity or back strain issues. Some employers even provide benefits that cover gym memberships – this is another great way to encourage ongoing employee health.

Workplace-related Long Term Disability #2: Psychological Disabilities

Although rarely considered by most employers, psychological disabilities can be caused in the workplace. Anxiety and depression are two mental health issues that commonly stem from workplace problems.

How Employers Are Causing It

A stressful, poorly managed work environment is the source of repetitive anxiety for many employees. A workplace such as this can eventually create mental health problems for the employees.

Workplaces where employees are placed under high stress, do not feel recognized for their work, and have unapproachable bosses are dangerous for the employees’ mental health.

How Employers Can Prevent It

The most important factor that employers can focus on is good communication. A healthy workplace is one in which the employer clearly communicates expectations, listens to employee questions and concerns, and gives appropriate feedback; praise, goal-setting, and constructive criticism are all important.

Long Term Disability Is Costly for Employers

An employee on LTD is a huge cost to any employer, especially for smaller businesses where the LTD policy is spread across the other employees’ premiums.

Although solutions such as ergonomic assessments, workplace aids, better employee benefits, proper workstations, and leadership training may seem expensive upfront, they far outweigh the costs of having employees on disability.

>> Roger R. Foisy is an experienced Long Term Disability Lawyer in Ontario who helps clients receive the long term disability compensation they deserve. Do not hesitate to contact Roger and his team today for immediate support and a free consultation.

Watch my Long Term Disability Video Series for answers to some common LTD questions.

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