Different Strategies for Return to Work

 

Most Employers Have Poor Advanced Planning for Injuries
 
There are several different strategies an employer can utilize to return injured employees to work as quickly as the employee is medically able to do so.  Unfortunately, many employers wait until they have an injured employee before they think about return to work methods that can be used.  The approach of ‘we will make the injured employee a receptionist and have him/her answer the phone’ does not provide the employer with much productivity from the injured employee. This approach also comes up short if the employer has two or more injured employees at the same time.
 
There is a better approach. We strongly recommend for the employer to prepare for future injuries by having a transitional duty return to work program in place before it is needed.  A transitional duty job program will significantly reduce the lost productivity caused by a workers’ compensation injury and will decrease the work claim cost, both indemnity and medical expense. 
 
 
Transitional Duty
 
The transitional duty program provides modified duty jobs to the injured employee, modified jobs the employee can perform while the employee recovers from his/her injury.  By anticipating the future need for a transitional duty program you can prepare for when an injury occurs.
 
An established transitional duty program will expedite the employee’s return to work, especially in situations where the employee does not want to return to work. The established transitional duty program can also serve as a counterbalance to when the employee has retained an attorney, and the attorney is trying to keep the employee off work in an effort to drive up the claim’s settlement value.
 
 
Create Bank of Transitional Duty Jobs
 
The first step is to create a job bank of modified duty / transitional duty jobs.  By studying your prior history of injury claims you can identify the type of injuries that occur most often and prepare transitional duty jobs for them.  For instance, the most common injury situation is the strain/sprain back claim. Often the medical provider will allow the employee to return to work as long as they do not lift over X pounds or bend or twist.  The employer can prepare for this situation by reviewing the different jobs where back injuries might occur and studying how each job can be modified to eliminate lifting/bending/twisting.
 
A second most common injury situation is a hand/arm/shoulder injury with the medical provider restricting the use of the body part.  The employer can again review their various jobs and analyze how each job might be performed using only one hand.
 
 
Create Wish List of Projects & Tasks
 
Another way to create or establish transitional duty jobs is to have your supervisors and department managers create their wish list of work, projects and tasks they would like to accomplish, but have not completed because of lack of personnel. The injured employee can often do tasks that need to be accomplished, but get delayed because no one is available to do them.
 
If your state allows you to select the medical provider for the injured employee, your chosen medical providers should be educated that you always have modified duty jobs available for the employee.  If the employee selects the medical provider, a telephone call to the medical provider’s office should be made to advise your company has transitional duty jobs available.  A list of potential jobs, with the general physical requirements of each job, should be faxed to the employee’s medical provider for the doctor’s review, prior to the employee’s appointment.  
 
 
Success Requires Management Participation
 
When the employee arrives on the first day of the modified duty job, the employee’s supervisor or manager should meet with the employee.  This gives the supervisor or manager the opportunity to explain how important the employee is to the company, to reassure the employee that their job is not in jeopardy, to explain carefully how the transitional duty job differs from the employee’s prior responsibilities and that the transitional duty job is within all work restrictions stated by the medical provider.
 
The details of the transitional duty job assigned to the injured employee should be conveyed to the workers’ compensation adjuster and to the nurse case manager assigned to the claim, if there is one.
 
If the injured employee’s regular job cannot be modified enough to comply with the work restrictions given by the medical provider, an option is to place the employee in a different job within their regular department, or to place them in a different job in another department.  By having previously created a job bank of modified duty jobs, the placement of the employee in a position within the employee’s medical restrictions is made much easier.
 
 
Return to Work Placement Companies Can Assist
 
Return to Work placement companies can often assist a small employer who is unable to modify the work performed to accommodate the injured employee.  Return to Work placement companies normally work with non-profits or charitable organizations to place the employee in a light duty job.  This keeps the employee active and reduces the physical deconditioning injured employees often incur.
 
Through this article we have discussed the return to work strategies and discussed different approaches to transitional duty jobs.  A slightly different perspective should be taken with the employees.  Instead of referring to your transitional duty return to work program, name your transitional duty program “the remain at work program”.  This removes the assumption that an injury claim can result in time off work and emphasizes the intent of allowing all injured employees to remain on the job.
 
By having a transitional duty program in place, all injured employees will know prior to an injury ever occurring that the employer expects them to return to work as soon as they are medically able to do so.  The employee will benefit by remaining active and achieving a higher level of income, and the employer benefits by reduced workers’ compensation claims cost and higher employee productivity.
 
 
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com
 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com
 
©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. 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 about workers comp issues.

How to Measure Your Return to Work Program Success

 

For every day an injured employee is out of work, the cost of the workers’ compensation claim increases. Therefore, it is of critical importance to actively manage your claims using techniques designed to return injured workers to active work status as quickly as medically possible. This is true whether they return to active or modified duty. At the same time, you must be able to track and know exactly how well the return to work process is proceeding.
 
Return to Work (RTW) Ratio

How do you calculate whether injured employees are returning to work within an appropriate time frame or if they are out on comp for weeks at a time? The Return to Work Ratio (RTW) measures the effectiveness of your transitional duty program. The ratio calculates how long it takes employees suffering a lost time injury to return to work in either a transitional duty assignment or full duty. The RTW Ratio calculates total lost days and total claims to show the percentage of employees that have returned to work within the first few days after the injury. The RTW Ratio helps you categorize lost work days to ensure that employees aren’t off work too long.
The RTW Ratio accurately assesses how well your company manages the return to work process. The RTW Ratio allows you to calculate lost days quickly and see at a glance how well you are doing. The graphic visualization is helpful and motivational. Add new injuries to constantly update the ratio calculation to see how well you meet the goal of having 95% of employees returning to work within the first four days after an injury. Then you can take appropriate action as needed to improve your company’s rate of returning workers. You should also tell your broker when your RTW Ratio improves, as insurance carriers will want to know that you have made operational changes that will result in reduced workers’ comp losses.
For more about bringing employees back to work sooner see: http://reduceyourworkerscomp.com//employees-back-to-work-sooner.php
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.
©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. 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 about workers comp issues.

5 Workers Comp Cost Containment Techniques for 2013

 

Throughout the year we have discussed several ways to try and cut costs and exposure.  There is no better time to implement these cost savings techniques than at the start of a new year.  People almost expect change when early January arrives, starting off with the often-failed New Year’s resolutions.  In case you didn’t heed to our advice throughout the year, here is yet another reminder of some ways you can make a difference in attempting to reduce your work comp costs:
 
1.    Healthy employees are less likely to get hurt
Employers are taking a vested interest in the overall health of their employees. Discounts on insurance can be applied for employees that undergo a yearly physical, which can provide early detection of a potential medical issue that may have gone unnoticed without the proper testing. Employers also implement wellness programs, exercise facilities, discounts for local gym memberships, good-natured weight loss competitions, and so on.  Anything can make a difference, so give it a shot.
 
2.    Review your loss runs to review for injury trends
Companies with several locations may overlook the fact that 60-70% of their claims may come from one of their larger locations.  The same could be said about a particular class of employees that are doing the same type of job are the ones mainly getting injured.  So review your loss runs and see if you can pick up on some injury trends, then implement ways to reduce exposure within that particular job class.
 
3.    Happy employees like working
There is a correlation between work comp injuries and work environments where there is a lot of labor-management tension.  If this can be diffused, you could see a decrease in claims.  Although risk is present at all times, it seems to be less prevalent in locations where the employees are satisfied, rewarded for good work, and locations that promote overall job safety as a whole. 
 
4.    Promote early claim reporting
Since you cannot avoid risk of injury all the time, at least try and promote early claim reporting.  The earlier a claim is sent to the carrier, the sooner they can get involved.  Oftentimes employees wait until the pain is unbearable before reporting a claim.  It is at this stage that conservative treatment is no longer effective, depending on the injury.  Early intervention can cut down on time away from work due to injury because conservative, non-invasive treatment will be successful.
 
5.    Establish a return to work program
One of the biggest ways to cut down on wage loss exposure is to keep employees working, even if they have medical restrictions.  The more flexible you are with accommodating work, the more employees know that even though they are injured they will still be reporting to work, and if they fail to report for light duty work then they should know that they will not be getting paid at all.
 
 
Summary
Feel free to take this list in to your peers and see what they have to say.  Even if you choose to only implement a few of the above listed items, it is better than implementing none of them.  Change will take time–this is not a process that can take place overnight.  But stick with it, track your progress, and see what can happen.  Chances are you will see some success at some point down the road.
 
 
 
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com
 
©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. 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 about workers comp issues.

6 Strategies To Ensure Your Employees Return to Work

 

The Link between Worker’s Comp and the ADA
 
In 2009, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a record-setting consent decree settling a class action lawsuit against Sears, Roebuck and Co. under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for $6.2 million. The EEOC’s suit alleged that Sears maintained an inflexible workers’ compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees instead of providing them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, in violation of the ADA. http://www.eeoc.gov/press/9-29-09.html.
This case highlights the importance of having a proactive return to work program that addresses the ADA accommodation requirements. When employees are injured on the job, employers must have a plan that addresses return to work options and ADA accommodations.
 
 
Return to Work Strategies
 
Normally, when employees are released to work following a worker’s comp injury, they will return to their previous position. However, employees may have an occupational injury or illness where they are released to work but can’t perform all of the essential functions of their regular job or need an accommodation.  
When creating return to work opportunities consider several strategies. Think “out of the box” in your approach to getting employees back to the workforce. There are many tasks to keep workers productive and involved in the workforce.
 
 
1-Prepare a physical binder
 
Create a binder full of alternative job descriptions within the company or sister companies that employees can easily access. Have Human Resources regularly update the binder with all job openings, full and part time, temporary and permanent. Make sure the supervisor and the employee are aware of the binder and regularly check it for openings.
 
 
2-Promote internal online job listing resources

As with the physical binder, make sure there is an on-line job listing resource that the employee can access. Email all job openings to the employee in addition to what is available in the physical binder.
 
 
3-Create a return-to-work resource center

Have your Human Resources Department encourage the injured employee that they are wanted back at work. Make sure that HR is a resource to support the employee in creatively finding a way to return to work, even if it is in another position more compatible with the employee’s limitations. Have HR consult with the employee about any reasonable accommodations that would make it possible for the employee to return to work in any available positions.  Have a written Return to Work Policy so that all management and supervisors understand the goals and methods of having employees successfully return to work.
 
 
4-Consider outside resources to accommodate transitional duty workers

Vocational rehabilitation (voc rehab). Voc rehab is a federally funded agency in every state that offers vocational rehabilitation, employment opportunities and independent living services for disabled people. The programs vary by state but may include medical, psychological and vocational assessments, counseling services, therapy, training, job placement and rehabilitation.
 
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides free consulting services to employers. Services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations, including the accommodation process, accommodation ideas, product vendors, referral to other resources, and ADA compliance assistance. https://askjan.org/empl/index.htm. JAN has several on-line tools and publications to help employers accommodate employees with a disability.
 
Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates safety compliance in the workplace.  In some instances, OSHA safety regulations may prevent certain accommodation for an injured employee.  OSHA has a website that employers can consult for guidance.  Sometimes OSHA will publish bulletins with innovative safety accommodation ideas, e.g. how to safely accommodate employees with hearing loss injuries. http://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib072205.html.
 
 
5-Encourage volunteerism and partner with local employment agencies or volunteer groups to enhance workers’ options.

Often employers want to offer modified duty but do not have appropriate positions available.  Some states have Workers Compensation Funds that have partnered with charitable organizations to offer a return-to-work plan that provides modified duty for injured employees. These plans can lower claims costs, decrease workers’ compensation insurance costs and increase morale.
In addition, employers who do not have appropriate position available may want to partner with local employment agencies that may have appropriate temporary or permanent positions available for the employee.
 
 
6-Consider home-based employment
 
Telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA for an injured or ill worker. Have HR consult with the supervisor and the employee to see if there are any tasks that the employee can perform from home on a temporary or permanent basis.
 
 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com

 


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©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Reduce Workers Comp Costs by Offering Light Duty: Recent NY Decision about Return to Light Duty Offers

A just-published NY decision,  Browne v. Medford Multicare (2011 NY Slip Op 07764), gives employers greater than ever incentives for return to work offers in NY comp claims.

 
The Board conceded that the worker had a partial disability. However, the employer had made an offer of lighter work, which at least one medical exam said was within her limits. The worker turned down the offer for lighter work. (WCxKit)
 
 
Even though the treating doctor advised that she not take the offer, the Board said that the evidence supported her ability to do lighter work and halted further payments of compensation.
 
 
The decision demonstrates the value of offers of modified work by the employer. Settlement awards for ongoing partial disability can be reduced to a fraction with offers of lighter, modified work.
 
 
The offer, and meetings leading to an offer, are part of the employer-employee relationship, not the comp claim, and are not controlled by the Board, carrier/TPA or the attorneys. Such meetings, often with spouse present, permit flexibility and an atmosphere of trust, as the parties have already been in contact many times before.
 
 
A little recognized feature of RTW meetings is that they can be part of ADA compliance. It is a fallacy that ADA applies only to hiring. Retention is covered as well.
 
 
The NY decision, coupled with expanded ADA compliance, can substantially reduce comp costs. A 20% reduction is quite feasible. It should be remembered that family members generally support all efforts to return a member to work as soon as possible.
 

Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca
is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100. medsearch7@optonline.net

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact

Americans with Disabilities Act and Workers Comp Coordination

The Americans with Disabilities Act extends the ability of workers with disabilities to be employed with reasonable accommodation. Medical examinations and review of prior medical records are frequently necessary for a vocational expert to comment on what jobs can be done by an individual with a disability and what the earning capacity would be. The vast number of ADA examinations are for pre-employment purposes. The use of ADA for examinations of workers in serious comp claims has received little attention.

 

 

In serious workers comp claims, precisely the same issues relevant to a pre-employment ADA exam appear about a year after date of accident, a time at which a permanent rate of disability and amount of wage loss in NY claims will be considered. Settlements will also be discussed. (WCxKit)

 

 

Using New York as an example (settlement procedures vary widely from state to state), an ADA examination and conference can be an effective RTW strategy and greatly reduce post-injury loss of earnings. In addition, ADA compliance is not subject to oversight and regulation by state workers comp agencies. Nor does an ADA medical exam count as a workers comp IME.

 

 

The ADA compliance exam must be done by the employer as part of a good faith effort to return a worker to employment. The worker, however, must indicate an interest in return to work for the employer; the exam cannot be forced.

 

 

A typical procedure might be as follows, subject to many modifications under collective bargaining agreements.

 

 

  1. After a reasonable period, the employer may ask the worker if there is interest in returning to work, on a trial basis and with reasonable accommodations.

 

  1. 2. A face-to-face conference may be scheduled, with spouse present, to discuss the possibilities and the wages which would be paid.

 

  1. A medical exam may be necessary to determine what accommodations might be necessary.

 

  1. A vocational expert should compose a report and comment on wage earning capacity.

 

  1. An effort to place the worker into a suitable job must be made.

 

 

In NY, settlement figures for comp PPD claims cluster at 50% disability, resulting in many claims with over $400/wk. rates. With a proper ADA program, many of these can be held to $100/wk., less, or even no wage loss.

 

 

A fact known to nearly every Social Security disability attorney is that the spouse is usually highly supportive of RTW, not extended disability. Involving the spouse in RTW  discussions will produce far better results. (WCxKit)

 

 

The ADA exam and conference are part of the employer/employee relationship, not the workers comp claim, and are therefore outside the control of a comp board.

 

Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100. medsearch7@optonline.net

 

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact

 

The Role of Chronic Soft Tissue Overload Syndrome and Lower Workers Comp Costs

We are very fortunate to be associated with some very fine, knowledgeable persons who provide excellent insight into the various topics we constantly highlight in bringing our readers and clients cost effective ways of reducing workers compensation costs.
 
 
On such person is Alice M Martinson, M.D., a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and former Naval Medical Officer. I recently interviewed “Dr. Alice” on the topic of chronic soft tissue and its effects on workers compensation.
 
What is Chronic Soft Tissue Overload Syndrome?
This is a cluster of conditions that can develop in upper extremities which are used for rapidly-repetitive and/or forceful gripping activities.
 
Is there an abbreviation for Chronic Tissue Overload? Are there other names for this injury?
If you want to abbreviate it, it's most accurate to call it “chronic soft tissue overload syndrome" (CSTOS). Some people term it "repetitive stress syndrome,” but that seems a little vague to me. Repetitive stress of what? (WCxKit)
 
CSTOS is characterized by a group of separately-identifiable conditions, all of which have names and all of which are related to each other by the presence of tenosynovial irritation from rapid fingering activities. The commonest of the conditions are:
 
1.     Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
2.     De Quervain's "disease”
3.     Trigger Fingers
4.     Extensor Tenosynovitis on the dorsum of the wrist and forearm.
 
 
Conditions in the more proximal parts of the arms can appear in some employees as well. They are not related to tenosynovitis, but rather represent the consequences of prolonged periods of unrelieved fixed posture. The most common of these are:
 
1.     Lateral Epicondylitis
2.     Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (ulnar nerve compression at the elbow)
3.     Postural Upper Backaches are the commonest examples of proximal problems.
 
In elbow problems, prolonged elbow flexion allows the extensor muscles to tighten and makes them more susceptible to strain ("lateral epicondylitis"). Prolonged elbow flexion keeps the ulnar nerve on stretch as it passes around the flexed elbow within the confines of the cubital tunnel. Sitting for a long time with shoulders hunched places the upper back muscles on stretch so that when there is concentration or tension, burning pain develops adjacent to the shoulder blades. Think accountants in the couple of months before tax time.
 
 
What industries does it typically occur in? Do federal agencies and private industry get this injury?
For many years it was the forceful-grip industries experiencing the condition the most – meat/ poultry processing and automobile or airplane assembly. When the objects gripped were vibrating tools, the problems arose faster than in other pure grip activities. Now that computer keyboarding and mouse use are so widespread, most of the problems seem to be arising in those jobs requiring constant activities of that sort in both Federal employment and private industry.
 
 
In Federal service I've seen it most in IRS customer service representatives, who spend their entire workday on the computer. Certain kinds of postal work can be highly repetitive as well. Customer service representatives in telecommunications and other similar private industries seem to be quite commonly affected. The common denominator is rapidly-repetitive use of the hands for extended periods, and/or in fixed postures. That means the condition is also very common in professional musicians as well – particularly violinists and woodwind players.
 
 
Chronic illnesses also can have a major impact on these conditions. Diabetes, thyroid disease, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis are good examples. The fluid accumulation during pregnancy is well-known to precipitate carpal tunnel syndrome, even in non-repetitive situations. These non-work related conditions do NOT cause CSTOS, but they do influence the progression and severity or the conditions once they develop.
 
 
In your years in the Navy were there some departments in which it was most common?
My active duty career ended just as computers were starting to become ubiquitous. My recollection is that the heavy-duty specialties such as machinists' mate, boiler tender, and other similar ratings were the ones most commonly affected most commonly. Now, in the computer era, I would expect any of the ratings using computers extensively will see it. Fortunately the individuals in highly-stressful jobs such as radar, sonar, and fire-control technicians typically serve for only several hours at a time. That protects the soft tissues as well as ensuring fatigue doesn't degrade critical performance.
 
 
What type of specialist treats this type of injury? What type of treatment do they receive? Is it permanently disabling or can an employee recover 100%?
Orthopaedic surgeons primarily treat these conditions, although plastic surgeons specializing in hand surgery treat them as well. Ideally early appreciation and insightful intervention will allow these conditions to be treated non-surgically. Carpal or cubital tunnel problems, triggering fingers, and tenosynovitis of the thumb abductors can sometimes be settled down with corticosteroid injections, but if they cannot, there are simple and safe surgical procedures available to treat these conditions.
 
 
What should employers know about prevention?
Repetitive hand use jobs can't really be changed that much. Employers can, however, ensure that their employees have proper ergonomic environments. In the meat packing industries, this means keeping knives and scissors very sharp so that the force of grip can be diminished.
 
In keyboarding jobs, it means keyboards and screens are at proper height to allow proper employee posture. Taking frequent "mini-breaks" is a strategy used by musicians with great success, and one that can be used successfully by keyboarders as well. Those breaks are built into most compositions but musicians get into trouble during intense unrelieved periods of hard practice.
 
Frequent stretching of the tendons of the forearm and hand is very useful, as is the practice of postural stretching exercises for the shoulder girdles. It doesn't have to be for long periods; typical minibreaks will be useful if they are no longer than about 30 seconds and are repeated every 15 minutes or so.
 
 
Carpal tunnel syndrome seems very common. What treatment do you recommend for CTS?
Splinting for carpal tunnel syndrome – particularly at night is very useful. It's next to impossible to work in a splint, however, if you ever need to try, go to the bowling alley, and get a bowler's brace. It's cut differently since it must be used to hold the ball hold, the beer, and the pencil for scoring. What splints do is keep the wrist out of prolonged flexion. That's the position that pulls the maximum volume of tissue into the carpal canal, and it's the position we all tend to assume during sleep. That's why waking up at night with burning paresthesias in the fingers is a very common – almost diagnostic – part of the patient's history in carpal tunnel syndrome.
 
Once an employee has CSTOS, will they be able to return to work?
Every individual's soft tissues have different tolerance for highly repetitious activities. This appears to be an inborn biologic characteristic. Some employees will tolerate rapidly repetitive jobs for a number of years, while others will develop progressive symptoms is as short a time as two weeks. Once one of the soft tissue overload conditions appears, it can be successfully treated; but if the individual returns to the same job with the same poor ergonomics, another of the constellation of conditions will develop – and in less time than it took for the first one to appear. The employer can make the necessary ergonomic and scheduling modifications, but motivation plays a major role in individuals’ ability to resume their repetitive jobs successfully.
 
 
What is the typical length of time an employee is out of work with CSTOS?
That's a hard question to answer, since it varies depending on the syndrome being treated and its severity. The diagnosis itself is NOT a good reason to take an individual off work. Minimizing time off keeps employees engaged with their employment and doesn't allow the secondary gain of "illness" to take root.
 
When surgery is involved, most employees should be able to return to some sort of modified work within three to four weeks of the procedure. Frankly, the lost time from work has a great deal to do with an employer's response to the employee's complaints. In highly repetitive and unskilled jobs, employers are much less motivated to make the necessary adjustments or modifications, since the position can be filled by a new hire without sacrificing any investment in employee training. (WCxKit)
 
 
Doctor, do you have any final thoughts for employers (federal or private) about CSTOS?
Much as employers would like not to believe it, the condition is real. It can be managed, but ignoring it will not make it go away. There is a lot of partial or misinformation circulating among employees in industry where the conditions are frequently seen.
 
 
The three most important things for prevention and control of the decreased productivity resulting from these conditions are: (1) A proactive program of employee and supervisor education; (2) attention to the ergonomics of the workspace; and (3) fostering a corporate environment where employees do not feel threatened when reporting a condition.
 
 
Author: Alice M Martinson, MD has practiced for 40 years as a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, 25 of which were as a Naval Medical Officer. Relying on her extensive military experience with injury evaluation, she performs IMEs and consults on loss control issues. Contact: 870-480-7475 or docalice@aol.com. To read more about "Doc Alice,” go to:

 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

5 Steps to Launching a Workers Compensation Management Communications Plan

Launching a Workers Compensation Management Communications Plan

Your workers’
 compensation policy is drafted, you have stated your workers’ comp management problems and solutions and ultimate goals. But, you’re not done yet.

Now you require
 concrete communication instruments to bring your employee population into the fold. Your mantra becomes COMMUNICATE!    

You must communicate
 to attain your work comp goals. The best time to design and launch a communications plan is just before the company’s annual budget review. At budget review policy goals are being updated and now is the time to determine the financial resources needed to put the plan into action.

Refine the goals
 set out in your policy, to ensure they are measurable, observable goals. Characterize your target audience(s) and identify the kinds of communication tools best fitting those audiences. Keep an eye on budgetary concerns and begin to plot a timetable for actual implementation. 

If your plan
 is being developed outside the annual fiscal calendar, you can call it an interim plan, and design it to flow into the annual review.

5 Basic Communication Steps
1. Obtain Management Commitment
Show management how putting a workers’ compensation management policy into practice reduces the costs of work comp and effects the company’s bottom line. Include the dollar figure you need for resources and how you expect to allocate dollars to those resources, i.e., what the resources are and how much they will cost. Keep in mind, management is not interested in the “touchy/feely” aspects of a program well planned and executed. They are, however, VERY interested in reducing costs and saving money. Do everything you can to influence them to give the green light to your WCM program. 

2. Refining Your Workers’ Compensation Management Goals
A WCM communications  plan helps to identify, classify and sequence the steps to take to get the workers’ comp management message out: safety and workers’ comp management are top management priorities; full participation by the employee is expected and required; specific procedures going to be put into place: a post-injury-response procedure and a return-to-work modified duty program.
The plan takes the goal statements to the next level and identifies how these goals are achieved. Thus, there must be measurable benchmarks about how we expect to see the goals are met. 
These are examples of measurable benchmarks. Telling how things get done.
Our return to work ratio  will increase from 10% of employees returning to work after 1-4 days of a work related injury to 90% of employees returning to work in the same time frame.
We will establish  a return-to-work program where employees will, where state law permits it, take a form to their treating physician to be faxed back to the employer within 24 hours after visits. The form will contain the diagnoses and work restrictions so t a modified duty position can be immediately identified and customized.
A modified duty job bank  will be established and each unit is required to submit job descriptions for each position within the unit. Job descriptions will be excerpted and re-written into modified duty job descriptive shells. The shells can be completed based on each injured employee’s diagnosis and specific individual work restrictions, but the modified duty job descriptions remain in a bank to be reviewed every six months or at annual review.     

3. Identify your audience. 
Who are the recipients of the communication plan? Begin by listing characteristics – i.e., median educational/reading levels, dominant language, the extent to which they are exposed to potentially hazardous work conditions. 
If you are multi-sited,  map your audiences by site, because you will implemented the plan accordingly; by the above characteristics on a per-site basis.

4. Map your strategy
  
Your communication  plan goals may be the same goals for each facility, but differ quite a bit because your audiences are different, so you need to map these differences in the design of the plan.  Let’s say, your company has three sites: primarily manufacturing, a service industry, office workers’ and sales staff. These three  sites represent three vastly different audiences and you may have to run the three branches concurrently to met communication needs.Therefore, identify:

Areas of overlap  to avoid duplication of effort. 
Activities and tools  you can use concurrently to reach the largest audience as simply as possible.
Internal and external  communication strategies. For example, given these three type of sites, internal strategies may include getting site managers to comply with new return-to- work goals and to identify modified duty jobs. You can consider chargeback and small bonuses.
Your external audience includes beneficiaries of the workers’ comp management program, namely the employees. Here you must timeline the workers’ comp management communication program, identify tools dovetailing with audience differences, and identifyas many areas of overlap as possible.   

5. Select your tools
Because workers’  comp management tools are plentiful, identify and use those tools giving the most bang for your buck.  
A universal tool  used all employees is a laminated lanyard card containing post injury response procedures. Most employees wear badges and they can wear the post injury response card right behind the identification badge. A wallet card for post injury response procedures is also useful.
Keep language  at a sixth grade reading level. Include contact information, and employee/supervisor/witness responsibilities. 
Do not just hand  employees the lanyard card and expect them to read it. Plan a toolbox meeting for the manufacturing site, breakout meetings for the service site, and a webinar for traveling employees to in-service them on the post injury response requirements so employees cannot claim they didn’t know what to do in the event of a workplace injury. (workersxzcompxzkit)
Other communication tools  can include an employee brochure, newsletters, signage, quarterly/annual progress reports, website, blogs, contests, and the like. 

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers’ Compensation costs, including airlines, health care, manufacturing, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He can be contacted at: Robert_Elliott@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.

Podcast/Webcast: How To Prevent Fraudulent Workers’ Compensation Claims Click Here http://www.workerscompkit.com/gallagher/podcast/

Fraudulent_Workers_Compensation_Claims/index.php

We accept articles about WC cost containment. Contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers’ comp issues.
©2009 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

What is the Biggest Workers Comp Mistake Employers Make with Injured Employees

The biggest mistake  employers make is letting injured employees languish at home

Make sure you keep the lines of communication open from Day One.

  Employees must  know if they are injured  "return-to-work is the name of the game."  Establish your expectations BEFORE injuries occur.  A good time to communicate this message is in your employee orientation at time of hire.  Your message is, "employees are expected to meet weekly and return-to-work in modified duty" as soon as treating physicians give the go-ahead. 

In this way,  employees won't have the chance to think about turning away from work and languishing at home watching the soaps.  It simply won't be a possibility. 

5 Useful Tips to Return Your Injured Workers to Work

1.  Accompany  the injured employee to the medical treatment facility. 

2.  Make sure  the treating physician faxes the workability form back to you.

3.  Call the  employee on the first day of injury and make kindly inquiries.  Be genuinely concerned about the worker's well being.

4.  Send a  get well card – if you can, get it signed by everyone in the employee's immediate surroundings.  Have employees add notes of good will and friendliness.  This has a powerful impact – reminding injured employees, that, yes, they are cared about and a valuable asset to their workplace. This gesture definitely reinforces those ties.

5.  Schedule  weekly meetings, and to the extent possible, have them onsite so the employee remembers the feel of the workplace.  Ensure some work friends drop in to say, "Hi!"  (workersxzcompxzkit)

Remember,  if you're not taking charge of communication, someone else will.  Injured employees start thinking about attorneys and before you know it you are locked in a lawsuit.  You lose both money and a valued employee. Make sure you're the one communicating with injured employees.

"FRAUD PREVENTION" PODCAST click here: http://www.workerscompkit.com/gallagher/mp3 By: Private investigator with 25 years experience.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker about workers' comp issues.

©2009 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

Making Your Return to Work Policy Work Using Transitional Duty

The number one  goal of any injury management policy is to return injured employees to work just as soon as they are medically able; ideally in their original state of health to their regular duty job.  There is a difference between “medically necessary” and “medically unnecessary.”

 

Coordinating organized  systems to reach the goal saves the company money.  However, focus should also be on preventing and carefully managing injuries.

 

First, adopt  a corporate-wide injury management transitional duty policy describing your company will implement transitional duty in the workplace. Include in the policy:
1.  Length  of transitional duty assignments.
2.  Circumstances  under which employees will perform transitional duty.  (For example, TD is tied to continued employment.)
3.  Types  of transitional duty offered.
4.  Circumstances  under which employees will be returned to regular work.
5. When employees are eligible for ADA-compliant positions, upon their return to work after their medical or workers’ compensation leave.

 

Second, develop  a job or task bank by identifying jobs and/or tasks accommodating the injuries of employees out of work for the transitional duty program. These can be videotaped and kept online where accessible to doctors and adjusters.

 

Third, hold weekly  meetings with injured employees to monitor progress and document return-to-work obstacles.  Discuss obstacles to return to work, or in transitional duty, determine if there are other obstacles such as medical bills not being paid timely. Show possible transitional duty jobs to the employee, ask what they can/cannot do on that job. Ask for medical restrictions on the Work Ability Form from the treating doctor, so you know what restrictions apply.

 

Fourth, hold an initial meeting with managment or include them in your monthly workers’ compensation meetings. At the meeting, cover these points:
1. Present  the cost-savings benefits of returning employees to work in transitional duty to build and maintain management commitment.
2. Invite  a member of management to join the injury management team.
3. Work  with senior management and middle managers to implement a dollar-for-dollar charge-back system to the units where losses occur. (workersxzcompxzkit)
4. Design  work-arounds to facilitate a timely return to work.

 

Author: Rebecca Shafer, J.D. Rebecca designs and develops workers’ compensation cost containment programs, and is the developer or Workers’ Comp Kit®, an on-line automated tool kit with an assessment, benchmarking and improvement plan. Rebecca can be contacted at: 860-553-6604 or email: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com   http://www.ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Submit articles to: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

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NEW ARTICLE: Return to Work in Unionized Companies
http://reduceyourworkerscomp.com/Return-to-Work-Programs-Unionized-Companies.php

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your property casulaty insurance broker or agent about workers’ comp issues.


©2009 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

 

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