Wouldn’t It Be Great If Return To Work Was A Law?

 

For more ADA and Return to Work posts, check out:

 

 

Hey there, Michael Stack here, CEO of AMAXX. So, one of the things we hear a lot about in Workers’ Compensation is state law reforms. Now, you may be wondering yourself, or you may have wondered to yourself, or at least at some point, wouldn’t it be great if there was a law, if there was legislation that required the one thing that we know makes the most impact on Workers’ Compensation claim outcomes. Drives down Workers’ Compensation costs, improves the outcome for the injured worker, and drastically reduces injury durations, which is Return-to-Work.

 

 

Americans with Disabilities Act Has Significant Workers’ Comp Implications

 

Well, I’m here to tell you today, I’m here to open up your eyes if you weren’t aware of it, that there is a law, and it’s called the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA. It was created by Congress in 1990. What it is, is a civil rights law. It protects what is covered or technically termed a qualified individual with a disability from discrimination in the workplace. But, what you might not be aware of is that most of your employees who are injured at work fall under the umbrella of a qualified individual with a disability and are covered by the ADA. I’m gonna say that again. Most of your employees who are injured at work fall under the umbrella of a qualified individual with a disability, and they’re covered by the ADA.

 

Now, if you weren’t aware of that to this point, you need to be aware of it. As an employer, it’s something you need to be educated on. But the best practices, and the good news is that the best practices of Workers’ Compensation, Return-to-Work best practices, and ADA compliance are very much parallel to each other. So, if you’re following one, you’re likely following the other.

 

 

ADA & Return to Work Best Practices

 

What I want to do today is cover some of these very basic ADA and Return-to-Work best practices terms, and have you now start to recognize how you can tie and marry these two together to create better compliance with the ADA and create better Return-to-Work outcomes.

 

So, let’s talk about what these terms mean. You’ve got the Interactive Process, Reasonable Accommodation, and then Light Duty and how it applies. So, under the ADA law, a qualified individual with a disability, you’re required to engage in what is called the Interactive Process. Now, that kind of sound like a very legal and sort of overwhelming and complicated term, but all it really means is you’re having a conversation. You’re having a conversation, interacting with that employee and talking about what it is that they have going on, and how you could potentially accommodate their job to have them do the essential functions of that job. Now, essential functions, again, another legal sounding term, but when you break it down it’s just really the things that are most important in that job. You’re a forklift driver, can you drive the forklift or not? And can we accommodate your job in order for you to be able to do that? It’s very basic level, that’s all it means. So, you’re having this conversation in order for you to create together as an employer and as an employee this accommodation for them to do their essential functions of the job.

 

Now, let’s talk about Light-Duty and how it relates to this and how this Workers’ Comp process relates to this. In the ADA and how this sort of differs but how it sort of parallels each other, is that there’s a requirement under the law that they could do the essential functions. There’s no expectation. There is no law requiring them to do a lower amount of job or sort of a reduced output. Now, this is the biggest difference between Return-to-Work, Best Practices, and Light-Duty, is that the ADA requires by law for them to do the essential functions of that job. In Light-Duty, in Return-to-Work best practices often that output is slightly reduced. Or can be slightly reduced, and you’re giving and taking that improved injury duration, that improved cost, that improved outcome for that injured worker. You’re able to give up some of those essential functions and certain occasions in a Return-to-Work process, but in the ADA you’re not.

 

 

ADA & Workers’ Comp Best Practice Require a Conversation

 

But let’s take a look at this. Let’s take a look at these best practices and let’s take a look at how you’re creating these jobs under federal law and now how this can all sort of start to tie together and make some sense. In the ADA law, you’re required to have a conversation. Best practices in Workers’ Compensation management require you or recommend that you have a conversation, but it all comes down to this idea of working together with your employees to get them back to work. It’s required under federal law. It’s Workers’ Compensation best practices. So, if you could put this perspective around this idea of following these best practices, following ADA law, you will be significantly better off in both your Work Comp program as well as your ADA compliance.

 

Again, I’m Michael Stack, CEO of AMAXX. Remember, your work today in Workers’ Compensation can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. But it will have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. So, be great.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Reducing Work Comp Costs through Creative Return-To-Work

Reducing Work Comp Costs through Creative Return-To-WorkThere is a benefit to every workers’ compensation program when an employee returns to work following a work injury.  This is true even in instances where the employee returns to work in a “light duty” capacity.

 

Creating an effective return to work takes an investment by all interested stakeholders.  It also requires creativity and a willingness to keep employees within the workplace.  In the long run, it also reduces program costs and promotes a better work environment.

 

 

Understanding the Benefits of Light Duty Work

 

Engaging injured workers in light duty work creates a win-win situation for all interested stakeholders.  This includes the following:

 

  • Employees: A person staying at home following a work injury incurs many psychological barriers.  It not only takes the employee out of their natural schedule, but it creates isolation and boredom.  Countless studies show that employees working in a modified capacity following an injury have better outcomes and a quicker recovery.

 

  • Employers: Interested stakeholders who own and operate a company can create a positive work environment by offering light duty work options.  It allows the employer to demonstrate a willingness to keep employees working and increases workplace morale.  It also allows them to complete necessary tasks that might otherwise not get resolved promptly.

 

 

Light Duty Work:  Finding Creative Solutions to Keep Employee Working

 

There are numerous light-duty positions available for employers willing to keep employees working.  This applies to companies of any size.  All it takes is interested stakeholders willing to invest in their workforce:

 

**When reviewing this list, keep in mind the best light duty position is to modify the employee’s current position. If this is not an option, be creative to make transitional work meaningful for both employee and employer.***

 

Sedentary Work Opportunities:

 

  • Sort incoming and outgoing mail. This can also include the delivery of intra-office mail using a cart or other assistive devices;
  • Security guard positions;
  • Inventory parts, supplies, and tools;
  • Answering telephones and other clerical work;
  • Ordering of office supplies. This can also include making sure safety, and first-aid cabinets are fully stocked;
  • The labeling of packages and parcels;
  • Driving a work vehicle to make deliveries. In other instances, employees can be trained to operate equipment such as a forklift;
  • Train new employees and complete necessary training; and
  • Update MSDS manuals.

 

Lighter Duty Positions with Weight Restrictions:

 

  • Picking up trash around the office, work area and on the premise. Other forms of work can include sweeping and light cleaning to ensure a safe workplace;
  • Inspecting fire extinguishers, eye-wash machines, and other safety equipment;
  • Light housekeeping and dusting in office spaces;
  • Engage in workplace quality control and other necessary inspections;
  • Shredding of company documents that are confidential; and
  • Maintain the company premises using snow removal equipment and lawns during the summer months.

 

Light Duty Positions with Greater Weight/Mobility Restrictions:

 

  • Perform assembly work using machines;
  • Working in a shipping department that requires light lifting and use of assistive devices;
  • Washing company vehicles;
  • Work a normal job, but at a slower pace; and
  • Working normal position within specific limitations.

 

 

Other Creative Solutions to Light Duty Work

 

In some instances, an employer might not be able to offer an employee a light duty position within their workplace.  If this is the case, employers should seek other opportunities to help in the recovery process by keeping an employee working in another capacity.  Creative solutions can include:

 

  • “Work on Loan” programs: Under this type of program, the employer will collaborate with another employer or non-profit organization.  The employee will remain an employee of the date of injury employer, but perform work duties for the other organization; or

 

  • Paid volunteer work: In some instances, a charity might have volunteer work for people to perform, which matches an employee’s work restrictions.  The date of injury employer will pay the employee to perform work duties as assigned by the charity.

 

Conclusions

 

An effective return to work program requires all interested stakeholders to be engaged and seek to keep injured workers active and in the workplace.  By keeping an injured worker engaged, they can reduce costs through better injury recovery and reduced exposure for various wage loss, medical or vocational rehabilitation benefits.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

You Can Find Workers’ Comp Gold in 8,000 Hours

Hey, there. Michael Stack here, CEO of Amaxx. I’m generally fairly handy. I worked in a wood shop in college for four years and I’ve always enjoyed sort of doing little projects. So will have a lot of fun doing projects around the house or working with the kids, teaching them some things, et cetera. There’s a lot of things that I can do, but there’s also a lot of things that I can’t do.

 

We’ve been working on expanding our bathroom for the last several months. It’s sort of a different story for why it’s taken so long. But about two weeks ago, my wife’s cousin is a licensed plumber, and he came out to help us install the new plumbing. We’re expanding our bathroom into some new closets and putting a new shower in, et cetera.

 

He comes out for the weekend, stays with us and brings a friend of his. And so we have a nice time. We get the project done, and all goes great. And while they were here, the plumbers were here, I was talking with my wife’s cousin’s friend, and he’s been in training to become a licensed plumber. And I asked him, well, how long does it take to become a licensed plumber? How many hours that you need.

 

 

8,000 Hours to Become Licensed Plumber

 

And he told me. It takes 8,000 hours of training to become a licensed plumber. 8,000 hours of training to become a licensed plumber. I want that number to sink in with you. I want that concept to sink in with you. And I want you to think about what it takes for your, particularly your skilled labor at your organization, of why you hired them. The training that they have to go through in order to get up to be a valued employee and the experience that they’ve had in working for you.

 

One of the biggest challenges that companies often face, particularly with skilled labor, is that they say, well, we just don’t have any transitional duty for these guys. They’re not that good at office work and we just can’t really find anything for them to do. And maybe that’s true. Maybe they’re not that very good at office work.

 

 

Think Creatively Regarding Transitional Duty

 

But ask yourself this question. Over the course of this 8,000 hours, or whatever the training looks like for your organization, do you think they learned anything? Do you think they picked up any intricacies about how to do that job better than the average guy that may come in, filling in as a replacement? Do you think that the value that they can bring to your organization can be still substantial even if they’re not at 100%?

 

I want to challenge your paradigm, challenge your thinking to put this number, or whatever it is at your organization, into some perspective. I want you to get creative in regards to your transitional duty, leverage the skills, leverage the experience, leverage the knowledge, leverage the expertise that your employees do have. Put them back to work, bringing value to your company and to themselves, as well. Dramatically improving their recovery. Dramatically driving down the cost of their claim.

 

Again, I’m Michael Stack, CEO of Amaxx, and remember your work today in worker’s compensation can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. But it will have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. So be great.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Overcoming Barriers to Effective Return-to-Work

There are many barriers the claims management team must overcome when seeking to return an employee to work following an injury and disability.  These barriers include those posed by the employee.  Taking a proactive approach to these issues can reduce workers’ compensation costs and boost workplace morale.

 

 

Importance of Return-To-Work

 

Return-to-work is an important aspect of any workers’ compensation claim.  This is based on a number of factors:

 

  • Increased spending on medical care and treatment;

 

  • Increased exposure to ongoing wage loss and other benefits, including claims for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits; and

 

  • Costly claims for retraining benefits.

 

Effective return-to-work starts at the moment an injury occurs.  Part of the process includes identifying barriers the employee may raise.

 

 

Avoiding Medical Issues and De-Conditioning

 

Employees suffering a work injury are likely to have other co-morbid conditions that prevent a successful return to work.  Common ailments include:

 

  • Obesity;

 

  • Learning disabilities;

 

  • Diabetes;

 

  • Drug/alcohol use/abuse; and

 

 

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), there has been a steady increase in the percentage of employees suffering a work-related injury who have a comorbid diagnosis.  Some insurance experts estimate nearly 10% of all claims involve this stumbling block.

 

Proactive members of the claims management team also need to take measures to keep their injured workforce active.  Keeping employees active while under restrictions can include:

 

  • Locating sedentary or other light-duty volunteer opportunities;

 

  • Seek non-profit partners in the community who will hire people recovering from work injuries. This partnership is often referred to as a “work on loan” assignment; and

 

  • Providing the employee with a health club membership.

 

Being creative is key!

 

 

Financial burdens, Day Care Challenges and Lack of Transferable Skills

 

People who suffer from a work-injury face many everyday challenges on a reduced income—even when receiving ongoing wage loss benefits.  This is due to the structure of the workers’ compensation system with average weekly wage caps and reduced wages due to statutory payment limits.  This results in a challenge for many as they are still faced with financial burdens and familial responsibilities.

 

Examples of helping injured workers’ through challenging financial times, while at the same time representing the interests of the insured do not necessarily conflict.  Claims management teams can assist by developing a database of local and nationwide social services agencies.  This can include food shelves, and local human services agencies.

 

Claims management teams can also encourage their employer clients to investigate services such as “Ticket to Work.”  Under this program, persons on SSDI can work for qualifying employers and not receive a reduction of their government benefits.  Employers benefit by developing a workforce and receive applicable tax deductions or qualify for certain government contracts.

 

 

Employee Perceived Work Restrictions

 

Another barrier that prevents employees from returning to gainful employment is malingering and self-imposed restrictions.  This is a challenge every claims handler must overcome at some point in their career.  There are many tools one can use to move the employee past this psychological barrier and into the workplace.

 

  • Effective discovery including recorded statements and depositions. It is important to obtain information from the employee about their interests outside of work and what limitations they have when performing those activities.

 

  • Use of Independent Medical Examinations and Independent Vocational Evaluations. IMEs and IVEs are a tool one can use to have the employee seen and examined by an expert.  This allows the defense interests to obtain an opinion on the employee’s limitations and physical abilities.

 

  • Use of surveillance. This is a costly method of discovery and should be used with care.  When used, a claims handler should consider having the employee subjected to scrutiny over the period of several days and during periods when information suggests they will be outside and engaging in physical activity.

 

 

Conclusions

 

There are many barriers members of the claims management team face when it comes to returning an employee to work, and the employee imposes one of these barriers.  It requires the claims handler to be proactive in their approach to reduce future costs on the claim.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

7 Habits of a Highly Effective Worker’ Comp Program

A best-selling book published 30 years ago as of 2018 holds valuable lessons for the workers’ compensation industry. Called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®, it outlined strategies based on the principles of fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity; all of which can serve as best practices.

 

 

The Habits

 

Stephen R. Covey’s book resonated with organizations as well as individuals. The 7 habits include three related to moving from dependence to independence (or self-mastery), 3 focused on interdependence, and the 7th as striving for continuous improvement.

 

 

The Independence habits included

 

  • Be Proactive. Rather than operating in a reactive mode waiting for things to happen, the idea is to take responsibility.

 

  • Begin with the End in Mind. This called for clearly visualizing the ultimate goal then working toward it.

 

  • Put First Things First. This addresses priorities.

 

 

Interdependence habits

 

  • Think Win-win. The idea here is that there doesn’t need to be a ‘loser’ in order for there to be a ‘winner;’ instead, when one wins, everybody wins.

 

  • Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood. The goal here is active listening; truly hearing what another person is saying before you speak.

 

  • By working together with open minds, people can accomplish more and better results than they would individually.

 

Sharpen the Saw is the 7th habit. This means staying sharp and increasing effectiveness by renewing yourself mentally and physically.

 

 

The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Workers’ Comp Program

 

Whether creating a workers’ compensation program from scratch or trying to improve an existing one, the 7 habits can easily be translated for optimal outcomes.

 

  1. Be proactive. Taking responsibility means anticipating and mitigating risks to prevent injuries from occurring. A hazard identification and assessment is a must for any workers’ compensation program; it not only can prevent a workers’ compensation claim, but it also helps create a culture of safety and shows employees you care about them. all injuries and illnesses as well as near-misses, and encouraging and listening to employees’ concerns about safety..

 

  1. Begin with the end in mind. If you were to imagine the perfect workers’ compensation program for your organization, what would it look like? Would it mean fewer accidents? Quicker claims processing? Faster reporting of incidents and near misses? Better investigations into injuries? What elements would be included? In designing or refining your workers’ compensation program you need to start by clarifying the vision of what you want. Working with others — managers, supervisors, employees, the carrier, TPA — you can brainstorm and come up with a model, then create a mission statement that includes the goals that are aligned with those of the organization’s. Achieving best outcomes is possible only when you’ve defined what ‘best outcomes’ means to your company.

 

  1. Put first things first. This is a continuation of the habit #2. In that, you have visualized and defined the ideal workers’ compensation program. This step is creating that program. You need to determine what the most important elements in the program are and focus on those first; the priorities that are both important and urgent.

 

  1. Think win-win. An effective return-to-work program is an example of a win-win situation; the worker wins by recovering and getting back to work and the organization wins by saving money and reducing lost productivity. Creating a win-win culture can be difficult, as many of us believe one person must lose for another to succeed. Instead of a competitive environment, a cooperative atmosphere can benefit all involved.

 

  1. Seek to understand, then be understood. If you’ve ever had a sales person try to push you into a product in which you have no interest, you understand the need to be heard. Active listening means just that — listening to what the other person says without creating your response as they are speaking. This is especially important when talking with an injured worker. Listen to his concerns and frustrations with an open mind — there could be a simple solution. Ask what questions he has and answer them. Spend a few minutes trying to better understand what he is going through.

 

  1. Synergize. 2+2 = 5; meaning the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. This speaks to breaking down silos. Sharing information, brainstorming, and coming up with new approaches to continuing problems is invaluable. Keeping an open mind is key.

 

  1. Sharpen the saw. Now that you’ve developed a great program, you can’t rest on your laurels. A workers’ compensation program should be a work in progress, as you constantly strive to improve it. Measuring and analyzing results is critical, then you can find and implement best ways to approach challenges.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A company isn’t ‘lucky’ if it has few workers’ compensation claims in a given period. While that may happen on a rare occasion, organizations that spend time and effort developing, implementing and refining their injury management programs will see consistent

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

The Most Common Work Comp Mistake to Disincentivize Return to Work

 

Hey there. Michael Stack here, CEO of Amaxx.

 

So, we all make mistakes, right? None of us does everything perfect all the time. I want to share a real quick anecdote story of a mistake that I made, and relate it to how it could work in your work comp program.

 

Set Up For Failure From the Beginning

 

So, about a year ago, my family and I moved up to Maine, and the way the housing worked out, we did a short term rental to allow us time to find and purchase our house. Everything ended up working out great, but the way that we were treated throughout that short term tenancy by the managing brokerage agency as well as the owners of the property was just inappropriate. It’s just not the way you treat people in that situation. We knew based on their behavior that collecting our security deposit, not that it was an overly huge amount of money, we’re talking about $1,000 here, not insignificant but it’s not gonna change the world. But the way that they acted, the principle, was significantly more important than the money.

 

So, there’s certain laws in the state of Maine that they didn’t follow, along with the behaviors that they demonstrated, and I knew it was going be difficult to collect. So, I had to file small claims suits against them to collect that money based primarily on the principle. Come to find out that I made a mistake in filing that claim. I filed it against the brokerage agency as agents of the owners of the property, and according to the judge, I should’ve filed it against the brokerage agency joint and several along with the owners of the property. So, that was my mistake. I was set up for failure right from the beginning of that case.

 

 

‘Grossing Up’ & Wage Continuation Common Mistake

 

Same thing happens all the time in your work comp program, and that may be happening right under your nose without you even realizing it. So, I want to give an example of one of the common mistakes that I see, and this is either grossing up an employee’s salary, an injured worker’s salary, to 100%, or just payment of 100% in lieu.

 

So, let’s see what this exactly looks like. So, let’s say it’s 66 and two thirds in your state, or whatever the specific percentage is. So, instead of that employee getting $663, you gross him up to $1,000, or you don’t even file a claim at all, and you continue to pay them their $1,000 a week salary. The concept there, and the reason that you do this type of policy, is based on a very positive ideal. The fact that you want to take care of your employees.

 

Set Your Work Comp Program Up For Unnecessary Challenges

 

But here’s what’s happening right under your nose and you’re setting yourself up, just as I did, for failure right out of the gates. This $663 is not taxed. It’s work comp indemnity payments, and so when you’re grossing up that employee, they’re making more money being out of work than they are at work. Every one of your employees isn’t gonna be impacted by this type of policy. But certain employees, with certain psychographic financial situations, various things that they have going on, the relationship with the employer, this type of policy will dramatically impact their motivation to return to work. It’s a mistake that I see very often that sets risks managers up for failure right out of the gates, making it just that much more difficult to be successful.

 

So, I encourage you to take a look at your policy. Take a look at what it says in regards to this type of financial arrangement, and if you have something similar, I would take a serious look at changing that policy to be more appropriate to get a better outcome for your injured workers, and then obviously have a much more dramatic and positive effect on your company’s bottom line.

 

Again, I’m Michael Stack, with Amaxx, and remember your work today, it can have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. But it will have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. So, be great.

 

For more detail, check out: How to Avoid 19 Workers’ Comp Mistakes & Loopholes

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

4 Key Ways to Ensure Return to Work Programs Save Money

The longer an individual is off of work, the less likely he is to return. That fact is the overarching reason companies adopt return-to-work programs for their injured workers.

 

While most in the workers’ compensation world agree with the premise, there are myriad reasons many companies either have no or ineffective Return to Work programs. Small companies may think the money, time and resources involved don’t make financial sense for the number of injuries they typically have, or may be convinced there are just no ‘light duty’ jobs to offer injured workers. Some employers are uncomfortable paying the full salary of a worker who is not at 100 percent capacity. Still others have Return to Work programs in place but can’t see the benefits and let them fall by the wayside.

 

These ‘legitimate’ sounding reasons are, unfortunately, doing employers a disservice. RTW programs don’t need to involve massive amounts of money or personnel to be effective. There are alternative positions available for injured workers, even in companies without specific light duty jobs. Paying the full salary of a worker who is still recovering can save vast amounts of money compared to the alternative.

 

 

Why Return to Work

 

The longer an injured worker is off the job, the more money it costs the employer/insurer. Long durations can even turn into creeping catastrophic claims — a seemingly simple injury that involves multiple medical procedures and medications, and long-term disability.

 

Various studies have shown that Return to Work programs save money on medical costs, lost time days — including medically unnecessary ones, and workers’ compensation costs. Good programs reduce the duration of claims and the large indemnity costs associated with them. They also cut the number and costs of lawsuits; and wage replacement costs; and productivity losses.

 

Return to Work programs also help the injured worker recovery faster. Research clearly shows that, except for the most catastrophically injured, people who are at least somewhat active and engaged recover physically faster than those who are sedentary.

 

Finally, returning an injured worker in any capacity helps not only lift his spirits, but the morale of his coworkers. It shows the employer cares about them and wants to help them return to work.

 

 

Effective Return to Work Program Components

 

The first order of business in setting up a Return to Work program is to look at the specifics of the company to create a program targeted to its specific needs. See if there are patterns within the company. For example, how many injuries does the company typically have at any given time? Do some facilities have more injuries than others? Do certain jobs have more injuries? Working with managers and supervisors can help.

 

Benchmark a company’s workers’ compensation stats against others in the industry also can help. Small companies can turn to their insurer or third-party administrator for help.

 

Supervisors, managers, the insurer or TPA, physicians, and any others should be involved in putting together a Return to Work plan. It should include the following:

 

  1. Day 1. Begin the Return to Work process as soon after the injury occurs as possible. Stress that you want to help the injured worker return to work as soon as possible, and make sure others in contact with him continue the message “you are a valued employee and we want you back to work”.

 

  1. Communicate the plan. Every employee in the organization should be familiar with the Return to Work plan; whom to call with an injury, what the procedure is, and who has responsibility for different aspects of the post-injury response. Employees should understand that there is a specific, consistent plan in place following any injury, and that the goal is returning the person to work. When an injury does occur, provide additional information to the injured worker — such as what to expect, when and from whom.

 

  1. Light duty jobs. Nearly every company has tasks that are consistently put on a back burner; mundane activities that don’t necessarily directly impact the bottom line but could make things easier and more efficient. Injured workers are perfect for those types of tasks, as long as they are within medical restrictions. Engage the injured worker in the discussion, as he might have some thoughts. Working with the insurer, TPA or others within the same field might also trigger some ideas.

 

If there really is nothing available, consider sending the worker to a nonprofit organization — in states where that is allowed. Doing so will reduce indemnity costs, and help the company’s image in the community.

 

Once a light duty position is identified, set a deadline for it to end (maximum 120 days) and require regular medical reviews to see when the worker could return to his regular job on either a full- or part-time basis.

 

  1. Right providers. Medical vendors are a key part of the Return to Work process, so they must be fully aware of and engaged in it. They need a detailed, accurate job description immediately following an injury. They should focus on what the injured worker is able to do, rather than what he cannot do. And he should be committed to returning the injured worker to work.

 

In urban areas, there are likely occupational medical providers available. After vetting them, they should be included in the network and spend time learning the company’s cultural. In more rural areas, it may be necessary to find and educate nearby physicians.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A Return to Work program is a cost saver, not a cost driver and should not be considered a luxury only in good times. A well thought-out Return to Work plan can save significant dollars for an organization. They just need to be developed, implemented and maintained.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

First Step to Make Unions A Significant Asset to Return to Work

Hey there, Michael Stack here, CEO of Amaxx and founder of the Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. I run a virtual company. I write a blog. I sell our books. I do virtual training and consulting. What that allows me to do and my family to do is have some flexibility as far as our location of where we live and work. Now our home is in Kennebunkport, Maine, but for this summer and actually last summer as well, we’ve spent the summer living and working in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While it’s a little bit of a challenge uprooting and settling into a new office and settling into a condo, etc, for that time, the reason that we do it is that it gets us out of our own way. It gets us out of our own paradigms and beliefs to take a look at our routines and assess what it is that we want to keep moving forward as we start the new school year and what are those things that we just do just because we do them. Being in this different environment allows that perspective in order for us to really make those changes. It’s been incredibly valuable for us and also enjoyable to enjoy this new space.

 

 

Unions Can Be Significant Asset to Return To Work

 

In workers’ compensation, one of the most commonly held beliefs is that return to work in a union environment is difficult if not impossible to be successful. I want to challenge you today to take a look at that paradigm, that belief, from a different perspective, because a union environment, while it might not be that easy to get corrected, there are some challenges and some steps you need to go through, can be one of the biggest assets to success in worker’s compensation. The first place to start on this, you need to know where you stand initially. I want to have you review two things for you to get that understanding of where you’re starting so that you can now put those pieces in place to start to mend that relationship and work together as a partnership rather than against each other.

 

 

Review Collective Bargaining Agreement

 

First thing that I want you to have you look at is your collective bargaining agreement. What does it say in regards to return to work? Now many collective bargain agreements will address this point specifically in regards to transitional duty or temporary jobs or modifications of jobs. There are many though however that won’t address this point at all. What you need to do in that scenario is take a look at what the precedent is. What has been done? What is typically done at your organization with your union in regards to return to work? That’s step number one.

 

 

Examine Leadership Beliefs

 

Step number two then is you need to look at the beliefs of your senior leadership and the leadership of the union. What are those commonly held beliefs and paradigms that they exist in in regards to return to work with this employment and union relationship? It may be that one side believes something about the other that just isn’t true. We’ve seen that happen many times over. Once you can get that understanding of where you stand, then you can start to mend that relationship and work together towards being successful. I hope this challenge for you today comes to fruition, that you can look at your union relationship as the potential for being a significant asset to return to work rather than being difficult or impossible. Again, I’m Michael Stack with Amaxx. Remember your work today in workers’ compensation can not only save significant work comp dollars, but it will dramatically impact someone’s life, so be great.

 

Learn more: How to Execute Successful Return to Work with Unions

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Follow 8 Steps to Create Effective Workers’ Comp Pre-Loss Programs

The best way to reduce workers’ compensation costs is to ensure there are no injuries or illnesses. While that may sound implausible, all accidents and injuries are preventable.

 

Companies that take that concept to heart see significant savings on their own bottom lines. It just takes a firm commitment from management and a concerted, continuous effort to implement a successful workers’ comp pre-loss program.

 

In addition to reduced accident frequency and substantially lower workers’ compensation costs, companies that embrace a pre-loss program also benefit from better product and service quality, enhanced productivity, lower indirect-injury costs, and an overall improved image in the community.

 

 

Management’s Role

 

An effective pre-loss program starts at the top, with the recognition that management is ultimately responsible for preventing workplace accidents. Additionally, there must be a person or people designated to ensure accountability for safety decisions that have been made.

 

Managers and supervisors need to lead by example and reinforce safety policies that are implemented. That includes heading or attending safety committee meetings, participating in the investigation of any and all lost-time injuries that do occur, and integrating safety and health into overall strategic business plans.

 

Top tier leaders should establish safety performance improvement objectives and follow-up on the progress made for approved safety improvement plans. Finally, they should track and include adherence to safety objectives in employee performance reviews.

 

 

The Plan

 

Developing and implementing an effective safety policy takes time and effort. It begins with small steps.

 

  1. Set goals — Realistic improvement goals should first be established. Employers can look at their data or work with their insurer/third-party administrator for any trends in terms of accidents and injuries. For example, are there specific facilities and/or job duties that are more susceptible to workers’ compensation claims? Once trends have been identified, employers can determine ways to reduce those claims and set goals; however, the goals must be realistic, communicated to all employees and tracked.

 

  1. Training — All new employees should be required to undergo safety orientation. However, safety training and education should also be provided on a regular, ongoing basis to all employees. In large corporations, that duty falls to safety management staff. But even small companies can ensure ongoing training by managers and/or supervisors who are trained. The training should be formal and documented. Working safely should be considered a condition of employment

 

  1. Enforcement — Supervisors must enforce safety rules and regulations consistently. In fact, executing the company safety policy needs to be an integral part of the supervisor’s job description.

 

  1. Timely Investigations — All accidents should be investigated within 24 hours. The sooner the better, since the incident is still fresh in the minds of any witnesses, as well as the injured employee.

 

  1. Facility Hazard Inspections — Part of a good pre-loss program includes regular inspections of company facilities to identify and correct any hazards that may exist. Workers who might be affected by identified hazards should receive special training.

 

  1. Employee Engagement — Workers need to be encouraged to actively participate in the safety program. They should be included in safety committee meetings, facility hazard inspection teams, and training of new employees in their departments. Employees should be rewarded for reporting unsafe working conditions and behaviors.

 

  1. Companywide — The safety plan requires the cooperation of all departments, especially HR, production, engineering, and maintenance.

 

  1. Transparency — Safety as a topic should be openly discussed informally as well as in safety committee meetings. Workers should feel comfortable talking about potential hazards and possible solutions with their supervisors and one another.

 

 

Safety Culture

 

The success of a pre-loss program depends largely on the overall safety culture at the organization. All personnel should be engaged in the idea that safety and health is simply the way business is done at the company.

 

Rather than a reactive strategy where there is action taken once an accident occurs, the organization needs to have a proactive strategy to identify and address potential safety problems. Again, that starts at the top.

 

Managers and supervisors must treat workers fairly and consistently. They must believe and convey that they and the company are truly concerned about the well-being of their employees. They also need to foster an atmosphere of respect — with their workers and among employees.

 

 

Post Injury

 

While the idea of a pre-loss program is to prevent workplace accidents and injuries, there should, nevertheless, be a specific process in place for any claims that do occur. The post-injury claims management process should include the following elements:

 

  • Formal RTW — A documented return-to-work process that is laid out and communicated to all employees should be established. Included should be restricted-duty job descriptions.

 

  • Physician Involvement — Treating physicians and other medical providers should be familiar with and engaged in the RTW process. They should have access to the restricted-duty job descriptions. Physicians should also be invited to tour the facility/facilities to better understand the job tasks.

 

  • Solid Relationships with Claims Specialists — employers should establish good working relationships with claims managers and administrators.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Spending resources at the front end of the workers’ compensation process is too often ignored by companies. But employers that fully embrace the idea of safety at every level of the organization report significant cost savings, increased productivity and better morale among their employees.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

4 Ways to Minimize Workers’ Comp Indemnity Exposure

When dealing with cost containment in workers’ compensation, focus is often given to the medical issues in claims management.  While medical expenses continue to drive costs in all programs, forgetting about the indemnity aspects of claims can lead unmanageable costs and reduce the effectiveness of overall cost containment measures.  Now is the time to examine the indemnity side of your claims practice to maximize the effectiveness of your workers’ compensation program.

 

           

Average Weekly Wage

 

As a general rule, a majority of indemnity benefits in any jurisdiction are driven by the average weekly wage (AWW).  The AWW is often described as the fair estimation of an employee’s weekly wage.  Knowing the law is the first step in correctly calculating this wage.  Other factors include:

 

  • Status of the employee—whether they are a full-time or part-time employee;

 

  • Other compensation such as bonuses tips, gratuities, employee benefits and other fringe benefits; and

 

  • The nature of one’s employment. Seasonal and construction workers often receive preferential treatment when calculating an AWW due to the fact weather impacts their ability to work.

 

 

Minimizing Your Indemnity Exposure

 

When an employee is off work or working at a reduced wage/number of hours, they are entitled to receive wage loss benefits.  While most jurisdictions limit the number of weeks benefits such as temporary total (TTD) and temporary partial disability (TPD) are paid, failing to return the employee to their same pre-injury status can have undesirable consequences.  These include:

 

  • Payment of permanent total disability (PTD) benefits; and

 

  • Retraining programs. During this time, insurance carriers are required to not only pay for educational instruction preparing the employee for a new career, but they can also be on the hook for costly miscellaneous expenses and additional periods of wage loss benefits.

 

 

Alternatives to Paying Wage Loss Benefits

 

When evaluating the indemnity aspects of your claims program, alternatives to costly benefit exposures should include:

 

  • Aggressive Return to Work: When an employee is injured on the job, the employer’s goal is to return the employee to work as soon as the worker is medically able to return. Transitional duty (TD) enables injured workers to stay in the work world while they recover from the injury.

 

  • Work Hardening: This interdisciplinary approach focuses on a number aspect of the employee.  It can include an assessment of their physical abilities, physical therapy and rehabilitation via simulated workplace activities.  The process involves taking a deconditioned employee who has been out of the workforce and redeveloping their neuromuscular and musculoskeletal functions, which includes one’s strength, power and endurance to return to work.  Professionals involved in this process can include physical therapists, other medical professionals and occupational counselors.

 

  • Vocational Rehabilitation: Employees suffering from the effects of a work injury are generally those who may be precluded from engaging in their “usual and customary” occupation.  This threshold question is typically a low standard and should encourage most defense-oriented stakeholders willing to provide these benefits versus engaging in costly litigation.  A vocational rehabilitation expert assists the injured employee with a number of issues.  This includes explaining medical procedures and options, counseling them on return to work issues, educating the employee on re-employment issues, including work restrictions, and providing guidance on job search matters.  A majority of state workers’ compensation acts preclude this expert from being an advocate or legal representative for the employee.

 

  • Independent Medical Examinations (IME) and Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE): These procedures can be used separately or together to mitigate indemnity exposure.  While the defense is able to select their experts to perform an IME or FCE, it is wise to select someone who has a sound professional reputation and able to state their findings within a reasonable degree of medical or vocational certainty.  Timing is key and many jurisdictions limit the use of these events.

 

Conclusions

 

Proactive claims management teams and stakeholders need to be proactive in their approach to program cost management.  While a focus on the medical side of claims is important, failure to do the same regarding indemnity benefits can be harmful.  When controlling the indemnity portion of a workers’ compensation claim, there are many opportunities to implement effective and cost-efficient services to accomplish one’s goal.

 

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, 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 & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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