Over the last half of 2013, according to a report generated by Santa Monica city officials, City Hall spend a whopping $3.8 million on medical bills and lost wages that stemmed from workers getting injured while on the job. The city spent another $1.21 million on 48 claims that were settled during that time. Over the same period in the previous year, on 27 were settled.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the high costs. At Big Blue Bus, organizational changes might be to blame. The increase in claims began in 2011-12 when BBB instituted new work schedules, attendance policies, and job performance standards.
“Some employees have not adjusted to these changes and may have filed injury claims in response to them,” city officials said in the report. “If so, the increase in claims may persist for a time, until the organization as a whole has adjusted to the operational changes.”
In an effort to speed up that process, the organization is putting drivers through a number of different tests.
“Over time, this program should improve employee safety and save money on workers’ compensation claims,” officials said.
Another factor that may be contributing to that trend is the aging workforce. In the same way that it might just take time for employees to get used to new procedures, eventually, the expectation is that the trend will change.
“Many claims appear to be the result of an aging workforce (particularly in Police and Fire); a natural cycle over which the City has little control,” the report also said. “Reversing this trend in the short-term will be challenging, if not impossible.”
While it might be tough for Santa Monica to reverse those trends in the short-term, they are taking steps to improve.
“Despite these discouraging trends, staff’s efforts to control costs have made a positive impact,” the report said.
If natural cycles can be attributed to rising costs, then relief might be on the horizon, and the amount spent on workers’ comp could be drastically lower in the future.