How Workers' Compensation Injuries Impact the Retail & Restaurant Industries Financially

By Michael Galvan | 05/10/2016

A successful business is like well-oiled machine. All the parts have to be working and moving in-sync for everything to come together. Even the smallest malfunction can bring the machine to a grinding halt. For employers in the retail and restaurant sectors, employees are relied upon to perform many different tasks to keep the machine running smoothly – which can also increase the potential for problems.

An employee injury is one of the most common occurrences that can throw a wrench into the works. When you rely on your employees, even a small work-related injury can represent high costs and big delays in productivity. It can mean fewer customers are served and less revenue due to diminished manpower. Employers may think of an occupational injury as just a hurt employee, but it’s impact is actually much larger.

Workers' Compensation Injuries in the Service Industry

Did you know that there were almost 25,000 [1] work-related injuries among retail sales people in 2012, and over 36,000 [2] injuries for restaurant workers? This is especially concerning when you realize how much the service industry depends upon its workers.

No matter what size the business, the associated costs of a workers’ compensation injury are daunting. A study in 2010 showed that average lost-work claim in California was $65,000! [3] That sort of money can really damage your bottom line. For restaurants, an industry where 9 out of 10 fail, this type of impact can mean the ultimate success or failure of your business.

Ability to impact premiums

In most states, employers are required to carry some form of workers’ compensation insurance. The rates for these insurance plans are often based in part upon your rate of injuries compared to the industry standard.

Every single work-related injury will factor into the premiums that you pay. So if you experience a spike in injuries, you will start to see a noticeable increase in your insurance costs. This is in addition to possible legal and medical fees. And this starts to have a ripple effect to other areas of your business.

Lost productivity

One of the biggest losses for a business is missed opportunity. This is especially concerning if you are a small business. Every hour that your employee is out of commission can represent hundreds of dollars in wasted opportunity. And increase waiting can lead to a bad customer experience, leading to fewer customers, less revenue and less opportunity to win people back.


One of the most important things for any business is to have adequate liability coverage. Proper workers’ compensation insurance will cover you for most accidents and hopefully any possible litigation. However there are unique risks to employees in the retail and restaurant industries that employers should be aware of, and ensure their workers’ compensation plan addresses these.

Proper liability coverage is only part of the equation though. The other half revolves around partnering with an occupational medicine provider who can help you find preventive solutions, and then employ early intervention therapy. An experienced occupational medicine provider can work with employers to help determine the right mix of coverage plans and preventive solutions that meet the full needs for your business.

What is early intervention therapy?

Early intervention therapy means that doctors and physical therapists partner together to start immediate rehabilitation and treatment of an occupational injury. This method helps patients become engaged in their own treatment and focus on returning-to-work and remaining functional. Several studies have demonstrated the positives of starting early functional treatment.

Medical outcomes have shown this strategy to be more effective than bed rest and opioids. Opioid dependency has become an epidemic in the United States, especially among injured workers. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries ran a study that concluded that receiving more than a one week supply of opioids soon after an injury doubled a worker’s risk for going on disability a year later.[4]

Partner with Concentra 

Concentra’s one-of-a kind early intervention therapy strategy puts workers in a position to make positive steps forward in their own recovery. Our physical and occupational therapists are trained to design home rehabilitation exercise programs for patients that speed up the healing process. They can also create return-to-work programs with limited duty requirements that work well within fast-paced retail and restaurant environments.

These programs help get your employees return to the workplace and increase their function sooner. This approach allows them to maintain some productivity and avoid unnecessary disability, and is beneficial for both the employer and employee. If you are interested in learning how Concentra applies this sports medicine approach to address injuries in the restaurant and retail sectors, speak with one of our workers’ compensation specialists who can walk you through the details.


[4] Franklin, G., Stover, B., Turner, J., Fulton-Kehoe, D., & Wickizer, T. (2008). Disability Risk Identification Study Cohort. Early opioid prescription and subsequent disability among workers with back injuries: the Disability Risk Identification Study Cohort. Spine, 199- 204.