How Long Will My Injured Employee Be Off Work?


… We look at the work comp industry. What are the common questions that employers will ask when an employee is injured is how long is my employee going to be out. What is my expectation for how long they should be out, and then two, how do I know when they’ve started to go off the tracks?



Evidence-Based Medicine Injury Duration Guidelines


Today I want to introduce you or possibly re-introduce you to evidence-based medicine injury duration guidelines. There are two primary providers of this information in our industry. MD Guidelines and ODG Guidelines. Both credible sources of information and data that you can reference.


I want to walk you through an example here on the board. We’re going to talk about John who works in your warehouse. John’s job or part of John’s job is to lift 50 lb boxes, and he sustained a partial rotator cuff tear injury, which is the data that you see here on the board and this is provided by MD Guidelines.


Over here you can see the physical demands or the types of jobs from sedentary to medium to very heavy and heavy jobs. This is the expectation for recovery minimum, optimum, and maximum expected recovery time based on physician consensus of required physiological healing time. This is how long the body should heal based on this type of injury.



Example: Heavy Physical Demand Warehouse Position


Let’s take a look at this. Now, John’s 50 lb box lifting job would fall into this heavy category. You can see here that the optimum recovery time is 42 days. So even if I have no medical background or any medical training and you don’t have any medical background or any training in the medical field, you can look up this information and know very quickly it’s about six weeks that I can expect optimally that John should be back to his job. And it could be up to 85 days and it could be as low as just a couple of weeks here that he could be back to work, obviously based on a number of factors.


But this now starts to set your initial expectation just like that Google Maps app going somewhere you’ve never been, dealing with an injury maybe you’ve never dealt with before.


Now you also need to know when you’re starting to go off the tracks and so you look at John’s recovery time and now it’s clicking away and now you’re getting over here and you’re like, “Hey, what’s going on over here? Why is John not even close to recovering when the expectation should be that, optimally, you know, just within a couple of six weeks, you know, three, four, five, six weeks, he could potentially be back to work.” So what’s going on here? I’m off the tracks. My ETA has now gotten much higher than it was before. So it gives you that indication of when you’re off the tracks and potentially you need to work with your adjuster, work with your claims handling team, to bring in some other interventions to get back on the track and going in the right direction. Hugely valuable information to tap into and leverage to give you that information to make those appropriate decisions.



Common Mistake Employers Make with Injury Duration Guidelines


One last quick point I want to make here because I often see employers misinterpreting these numbers. Go back to this example of John. You say he’s going to be out six weeks. I’m not even going to think about bringing him back to work or expect he’s going to be back to work until this timeframe because that’s what the injury duration guidelines say.


I want to draw your attention up to here though. This is what transitional duty is all about. This is what late duty is all about. Sedentary and light jobs you should be able to get John back to work lickety-split within a couple of days even at the maximum required is four days. So within a couple of days, John should be back to work doing sedentary or light duty in a transitional duty type capacity.


When you do that, you’re going to angle John’s recovery time this way. When you leave John out of work and you don’t bring him back up here, you’re going to angle him this way and you’re going to probably end up being even further than maximum. When you get those people back to work right away you’re going to improve their recovery times. When you don’t, you’re going to make sure that recovery time is significantly longer, which as we know, anytime you see that ETA go up significantly higher when you’re driving, it’s not something you’re looking for and particularly in Workers’ Compensation. The impact of that is much greater. It impacts an individual’s life; it adds significant cost to your claim.


Again, I’m Michael Stack, CEO of Amaxx. Remember your work today and Workers’ Compensation, 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.



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.



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