Across the state of Florida, various industries are struggling with the ever-increasing costs of insurance, including the cost of workers’ compensation coverage. One such industry is long-term care for the elderly, which includes assisted living communities.
Unfortunately, because of the currently restrictive regulatory environment in Florida, employees in assisted living communities are frequently injured while manually assisting seniors with their basic needs. This happens because residents in these facilities are often unable to use assistive devices, including devices that would help them with mobility and lessen the frequency of falls. In this industry, injuries to health care workers and residents are three times more likely to occur than in the average industry, resulting not only in safety concerns but also in burdensome costs of workers’ compensation for employers.
Senate Bill 402, sponsored by state Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and House Bill 767, sponsored by state Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, would allow residents of assisted living and memory care communities to use assistive devices to help keep them mobile and independent. These simple solutions would better protect both residents and workers, but current Florida assisted living regulations do not specifically allow them.
The costs of workers’ compensation are like an iceberg. You can see about 25 percent of it above water, but there’s another 75 percent lurking unseen. These unseen threats are the indirect costs associated with worker injuries, which typically average four times the direct costs. These can include deductibles, lost productivity, overtime required for other workers to complete tasks, employee replacement and training, costs for replacing damaged property or equipment–the list goes on.
In 2007, the National Institute of Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) and the American Nurses Association recommended that no caregiver should lift more than 35 pounds when engaged in resident care and transfers. The human spine can be significantly damaged by repetitive lifting, such as lifting someone from a chair or a bed, or after a fall. But without assistive devices, not only does the rate of injury continue to climb, so does the cost of workers’ compensation for assisted living communities.
These added costs of doing business may be passed along in part to residents or may drive companies out of business, leaving fewer choices for seniors making decisions about their long-term care. Senate Bill 402 and House Bill 767 would modernize the current regulations, providing safer environments for residents and community health care workers and making Florida a more competitive market for the costs of workers’ compensation coverage.
Gail Matillo is the president and CEO of the Florida Senior Living Association. Natalie Campaneria is a safety management consultant with MEMIC.
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