“Mary is still out with a back injury and I don’t know when she will be returning. I got a note from her doctor and it said she will be out indefinitely. Frankly, I can’t believe she was hurt that bad.”
This is often a typical exchange about a work related injury and the beginning of an out of control and costly workers’ compensation claim.
When the supervisor was asked about whether he had spoken to Mary or to Mary’s doctor, the response was “No, I don’t want to seem like I’m harassing her and I don’t think I have the right to speak to the doctor.” Unfortunately, this is the farthest thing from the truth.
No matter how good an organization’s safety program is, work related injuries will still occur. Employers must, therefore, develop a positive “post-injury response” system which is designed to care for their injured employee, to help them get the employee back to work quickly, and to minimize their workers’ compensation costs.
So what should employers do when an injury occurs? What should their post-injury response system look like? An effective multi-component system should include the following steps:
Take care of the injured employee: When someone becomes injured, this is your priority. Whether it is providing first aid or escorting the person to the hospital, the tone of the case will be established in the first few minutes after the injury. Employees are most vulnerable immediately after the injury. Questions are flowing through their head: “Will I be OK?” “Will I lose my job over this? “How will I be able to pay the mortgage if I’m out of work without a paycheck?” The employer needs to step in to reassure the employee that they will be OK and that they will have a job. There will be plenty of time later to fill out those insurance forms. The priority now is taking care of the injured employee.
Establish a medical provider relationship: If an injured employee needs medical treatment, a relationship with doctors, medical specialists and a hospital or clinic are key. You want to be able to get employees immediate medical treatment. You do not want them spending hours in an emergency room. Finally, physicians should know and understand your workplace so that they can work with the employee and the organization to provide quality care and to help the employee to return to work when they are medically fit.
Establish a modified or light duty program: This is the key to reducing your workers’ compensation costs. Studies show that when employees return to work, under proper medical supervision, they heal quicker, feel better about themselves and are able to remain productive.
Analyze all accidents: The true cause of all accidents must be determined so that it can be prevented in the future. What kind of message is sent to an injured employee who returns to work and sees the same situation exists that caused his or her accident? Analysis and correction form the basis of your safety program and sends a powerful message to all employees that safety is important.
Develop a relationship with the insurer: As your partner, they can be key to the early, successful resolution of this claim. Without their help, claims can linger indefinitely.
Reducing your workers’ compensation cost requires a comprehensive program where employers partner with their employees, medical providers and the insurer. Its key, however, is simple: if you take care of your injured employee, ensure that they get the best medical treatment, and provide an atmosphere of caring and trust, you will find that your workers’ compensation costs will drop and equally important, your employees will be happier, more productive, and have less work related injuries.