Keep Injured Workers in the Loop to Reduce Claims Costs

One perennial topic in workplace safety is how to get injured workers back on the job as quickly as possible, and when it is safe to do so.

The key, experts say, is to help the injured employee better engage in the workers’ comp system, so they have a better understanding of the claims process and what they can expect from it.

Employers that have the best success actually advocate for the injured worker, instead of just giving them the standard booklets on what to expect and then leave them until they are healed up enough to go back to work.

That won’t cut it. For many people the workers’ comp system is daunting and when they don’t hear from their claims adjuster or anybody at work about their case for extended periods of time, they get nervous. And if that happens, and they feel adrift, they may seek out legal counsel for their claim, at which point it can spiral out of control for the employer.

The trend among forward-thinking employers is to use a few techniques for improving satisfaction among their injured workers, which in turn usually leads to less missed time from work and lower claims costs.

 

Early treatment

Studies by Rand Corp. back up what industrial medicine doctors have known for some time: Getting an early and accurate diagnosis and putting the injured worker on a treatment plan greatly helps them recover faster – and it prevents the misuse of medicines.

This fast-track – or sports medicine – approach has the added effect of letting the employee know they are valued and that the employer cares about their swift recovery.

One of the most important parts of this early treatment is to get the right diagnosis early, so the doctor can plan a course of treatment.

 

Speak openly

Once an employee is off work for a workers’ comp claim, they can easily start feeling disaffected and lost, particularly if they are left out of the loop about their claim. This is where the employer can step up to show they really care about the worker’s rehabilitation.

If you are at any point planning to discuss the claim, the injured worker should be in on the conversation. This is important because some injured workers mistakenly believe their job is at risk after filing a claim, and they may be feeling disaffected with their workplace.

Unfortunately too, their treating physician and the claims adjusters will often not have the time to sit down and put the injured worker’s concerns to rest.

Your H.R. manager can keep them engaged through education and explaining the processes.

 

Advocacy

Besides advice and someone to listen to for the injured worker, some employers have also taken steps to advocate for their injured employees through the workers’ comp process and representing their interests before the claims adjuster.

Employers who have had the best success sit down with the injured worker as early as possible to lay out the entire process for them, from the first doctor’s visit (which they likely have had already at that point) to what to expect when dealing with the claims adjuster. Companies that explain the process can greatly reduce the potential for litigation.

The main reason injured workers hire attorneys is that they don’t understand what’s going to happen and they don’t understand the workers’ compensation process. Acting as an advocate for the injured worker, and holding their hand through the process, will go a long way to easing their fears.

Third party administrator Sedgwick makes a point of working with injured workers before they undergo surgeries or other medical procedures, in a process they call “prehabilitation.”

They talk to them about what to expect during the recovery process, including the type of pain they may experience and what to do about it.

 

Monitor and explain treatment

The proactive employer will stay in touch during treatment and help the worker monitor their process. If the employer is engaged, the injured worker is more likely to stay on track with the treatment regimens prescribed by the doctor.

This may involve coordination with the treating physician so that any physical rehabilitation is done with their job responsibilities in mind. A good therapist can also explain why certain exercises are necessary for the injured worker.

Also, urge the rehab center and the claims adjuster to ensure that the injured worker sees the same therapist every time.

 

Stay engaged

One way to speed the recovery process along, reduce litigation and lower the chances of the injured worker becoming disaffected is to stay engaged with them. You can communicate with the treating physician, claims adjuster and injured worker about the possibility of the individual coming back to limited or restricted duty.

Just remember, your engagement with the injured worker must be done in a way that best meets the person’s needs.

Also, if there is friction between the worker and a superior, make sure it’s not their superior that’s engaging with them during this process. You don’t want any undue stress on the injured employee during this sensitive and critical period.

Knowing the employer is concerned about their well-being, and is looking forward to their return, can aid recovery.

 

How to Prevent Violence in the Workplace

Workplace violence is a major problem in the United States. People are hurt or killed every month by co-workers or patrons.

While it is not as common a problem as sexual harassment or discrimination, workplace violence is preventable if certain measures are taken to keep employees safe. Follow these tips:

Create a harassment prevention policy – Each level of worker should be represented. Employees, managers and executives must all be informed about the policy. Be sure that complaints can be filed and will be addressed privately but quickly.

Create open lines of communication – Perpetrators are able to carry out their plans if they think that victims will be silent. If there are regular meetings of teams or the entire workforce, people have a chance to voice their concerns and relieve tensions.  Encourage employees to talk to one another and managers about issues, and develop a strong resolution plan with clear steps.

Promote workplace violence awareness – One of the best ways to prevent violence is to train people what to do if there is an intruder or a disgruntled employee. Establish an emergency management team and levels of communication that will facilitate help arriving quickly if there is a major issue.

Set and communicate consequences of threatening behavior – Employees should clearly understand how to identify threatening behavior. They should also understand what constitutes unacceptable behavior and the consequences of it.

Implement a zero-tolerance policy for improper conduct – Be sure that every worker knows about the code of conduct. If workers display signs of violence toward each other, their employment should be terminated. Also, put on display signs that let intruders or disgruntled patrons know that the company has a zero-tolerance policy for violence or threatening behavior.

Promote inclusiveness, acceptance in the workplace – Employees can benefit from diversity workshops that help them learn about differences in religion, ethnicity, age and other factors. Set up activities that help teams get acquainted and embrace their differences.

Keep conflicts from escalating into violence – Watch teams closely to see how they work together. In some instances, tensions can arise but are not relieved properly. This means that the tensions only grow and may lead to violence. Conflict resolution should be encouraged and should be an effective process.

Recognize each worker’s individual value – Every worker should understand why his or her role is vital to the success of the company. Clearly portray this, and thank workers when they contribute. Many workers who become disgruntled and carry out violence do so because they are not appreciated or properly acknowledged for their contributions. Try to notice when workers go above and beyond.  Also, be sure to treat workers equally and fairly at all times.

Encourage workers to report threatening or violent incidents – Reporting should be kept confidential to ensure that employees feel safe. Also, ensure that there is a zero-tolerance policy in place for retribution after a report.

Reduce asset theft risks – Robbery is often a factor in workplace violence. Keep the amount of assets in the workplace to a minimum. To reduce the amount of available monetary assets, use electronic pay systems. Also, keep a locked safe on the premises for any amounts of cash or other important assets.

The takeaway
When employers have a solid plan in place to prevent workplace violence, employees are able to avoid becoming disgruntled and behaving unacceptably.

Take all the steps necessary to reduce the chances of a violent confrontation at your company. Encourage your staff to voice concerns about any problems they may be having outside the workplace that they fear could spill over into the workplace, such as a stalker or an ex who has threatened them with bodily harm.

They should also know that there are channels for communicating openly and voicing concerns.