Repetitive use injuries are difficult for claims management team members to defend. They can also be costly as they are more common in older individuals in the workforce. Preventing these injuries from occurring are the first part of the process. All team members and interested stakeholders must also understand how to defend these claims.
What are “Repetitive Use” Injuries?
This type of injury does not occur from one specific incident. They occur over a period and result from minimal trauma to an employee. This period can vary in length, with no specific defined parameters. Most often, they are the result of repetitive motions or activities performed during the course of one’s employment.
The legal standards for such injuries vary in each jurisdiction. The common elements of such incidents are the following:
- The employee actually engages in activity that can be considered repetitive;
- The repetitive activity places physiological stress on a certain part(s) of the body; and
- The employment activity brings about disability or injury to would not otherwise occur outside of usual activities or in other employment.
Preventing Repetitive Use Injuries
The best defense against these type of injuries is to prevent them. This starts with members of the claim management team engaging their clients and encouraging them to be proactive in workplace ergonomics. While these assessments can be expensive, the benefits outweigh the cost in the long term.
- Ergonomics reviews include the use of experts familiar with body structure and movement. It can also include vocational experts who know how to modify workplaces to decrease movement of joints susceptible to injury.
- Employers should take the opportunity to review workplace design to remove hazards that lead to these type of injuries. Movements to avoid include lifting, bending, twisting, turning and carrying. Sometimes modifications can include rotating employees throughout the workday. This reduces the chance of stress and can increase productivity.
- Review all positions and determine if the descriptions of the activities meet position requirements. It is important to avoid asking employees about disabilities they may have as it can lead to state and federal workplace discrimination lawsuits. Employers can encourage employees to self-report workplace problems and disability.
Investigating Repetitive Use Injuries
It is important to conduct a thorough and complete investigating into any work injury. This is especially important when it involves a repetitive use injury. A typical investigation may include:
- Review with the employee’s manager regarding work activities. It is important to get as much detail as possible.
- Making a video of the employee’s work location is also important. This can be helpful to provide medical and vocational experts adequate foundation when determining issues of causation and the nature and extent. Having the employee perform their pre-injury work duties may also be helpful.
- Obtain a complete history from the employee. This will include information on their prior education, vocational and medical histories. Additional attention to their hobbies and other activities while outside of work are essential. It is also important to obtain detailed information about the culmination of their work injury and the progression of their symptomology.
Proper defense of these incidents include the use of medical and vocational experts. It is best to obtain the most amount of relevant information to assist these persons to help defend your claim.
Repetitive work injuries continue to account for a significant portion of workers’ compensation claims. Proactive claim management teams can help eliminate these injuries and be prepared to mount a proper defense.
Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.