How Clear And Understood Is Your Return To Work Program?

return to workWhen an adjuster reserves a file, they focus on probable outcomes. The medical side of the file is usually pretty straightforward. An adjuster can tell based on risk drivers if a person will need surgery, extended rehab, or other procedures based on their medical history.

 

 

Return To Work Becomes Complicated When It’s Unclear

 

What is more difficult is whether or not this worker will return to work should light duty become available. What complicates the process is when the employer is just not sure if light duty work will open, when it will be available, or if they even want the worker to return at all.

 

Let me explain by using an example. Let’s say a worker needs a back surgery. The employer has light duty positions open, and tells the adjuster that once the worker has restrictions they will place them in work. So, the adjuster will plan to reserve for when the worker is off work post-operatively, and then target a range of when restrictions should be in place and the worker can get back to work.

 

What will complicate the file is a delay on the employer’s side in getting the worker into light duty. I have reviewed countless files where the employer has stated early on that work is open, but then delayed placing the worker into the light duty work program for weeks or months after restrictions were placed. This not only affects the indemnity costs on the file, but can inhibit the workers overall physical recovery.

 

Especially with a back surgery, the sooner you get the injured worker off the couch and back to work doing anything the quicker and easier their recovery will be. The last thing you want is the worker sitting around for weeks waiting for the phone to ring. Even worse is when the worker knows light duty in there, and cannot figure out why they can’t return to work.

 

 

Claimant Suspicion Can Lead to Higher Claim Dollars

 

Then the wheels start to turn in the head of the injured party. Maybe they are going to fire me? Why can’t I go back to light duty when I know other workers that returned to work after they had surgeries? Is my employer mad at me because I needed a surgery? Should I get an attorney just in case I get fired because of all of this?

 

Then when they talk to the adjuster, most adjusters will have no answers for them as to why they can’t return to work as well. After all, the employer told the adjuster that light duty work would be available. Why is this not happening for this claimant? Is the employer not being honest about something in regards to the employment future of said worker? Should I be reserving this file for vocational rehab and start posturing for a potential settlement?

 

 

Failure To Communicate

 

The culprit here, as in many work comp problems, is a failure to communicate. In this example, the employer laid the groundwork for a simple return to work post-op in the light duty work program they have up and running. If there were some political aspects as to why this worker should not or cannot return to work, the adjuster needs to know. Not only for reserve forecasting, but for general return to work forecasting.

 

Should light duty work not be open for the employee for whatever reason, the adjuster has options to get the worker off the couch and working. The main option is to use an employment vendor that can find transitional light duty work in their own community. This way the worker is still working in some capacity, until they are released to perform full duty work for their own employer. Other options could include work hardening programs, which can be intensive therapy that can help the worker aggressively rehab and get to full duty status faster than traditional therapy methods.

 

The result of failure to communicate a return to work will result in under-reserving the file. In the end this helps nobody, and the carrier/TPA in general hates to under-reserve anything. It also will make the carrier question the validity of a light duty program in general, and many questions will start to be asked about why this claimant was not able to work light duty when it was promised early-on in the file. Certain carriers will provide discounted premiums based on the existence and use of light duty return to work programs, and if the employer is not delivering on their end of the deal, expect premiums to increase.

 

It will also create a rift between the worker and their employer. Why was this person singled out to sit at home when others were allowed to return to light duty and make their normal wage? It is almost as if you are penalizing this worker, for whatever reason.

 

 

Implement Your Return to Work Program Consistently and Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

 

At the end of the day, the employer has the option to do what they want with each worker. But the program has to be clear, and applicable to all employees regardless of the injury or surgery that was performed. If you have a light duty program, use it for all of your injured workers fairly. If for whatever reason any particular worker will not be able to return to light duty, make sure the adjuster knows way ahead of time so they can plan other work options accordingly.

 

Per usual, it all comes down to communication.

 

 

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/

 

©2019 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 Steps to Building Better Work Habits and Employee Cooperation

Better work habitsNow that summer is over; it is time to reevaluate how your company operates.  It is a time to set goals, benchmarks, implement new techniques, and purchase new materials.  It is also an occasion to focus on being a better team and focus on your company’s most important capital – its employees.

 

There are many ways interested stakeholders can improve their program and increase workplace morale.  Here are some steps that can be taken:

 

 

  1. Provide the best tools so employees can perform efficiently.

 

If you drive cars, this does not mean that all drive a top of the line Cadillac.  This is meant more to show how to provide the best output for employees.  Ways to do this include making workstations adjustable so employees can perform at the levels they need to.  This will increase output and performance, as well as reduce the chance of injury.  Extra lighting can provide clarity and precision.

 

 

  1. Do not run your company like a prison.

 

The workplace does not have to run hard-nosed and rigid.  Employers should consider flex work hours, rotating job tasks, and allowing hourly breaks to best utilize employees time at work for production.  Allowing for job rotation can provide breaks for those that do heavy-duty work day in and day out.  It will also reduce injury from heavy, repetitive movements.

 

 

  1. Keep an open mind.

 

This requires an employer to listen and see if suggestions from employees can drive change.  Discuss alternative job tasks and how things could be done quicker and easier.  If someone knows that you will take the time to listen to them, you may get an idea that you can implement.  Not everyone will hit the ball out of the park every time, but you could stumble upon something that can make a difference.

 

 

  1. Encourage healthy lifestyles and reward those that make a change.

 

A healthy body is one that comes ready and able to work.  Healthier employees have less sick time away from work and fewer injuries.  Companies now offer discounts to local gyms, reduced medical premiums for wellness exams, and smoking cessation programs for free.  Be sure to provide incentives for the employees who participate.

 

 

  1. Launch a return to work program.

 

The longer a person is out of work, the harder it is to get them back to productive employment.  Older employees also take longer to heal than younger ones, so consider home-based employment.  If you provide some light-duty work, employees know that even though they have an injury, they can still work and make a difference.  This will help them transition back into full-time work once they are released from medical care.

 

 

  1. Establish a mentoring program.

 

Mentoring programs allow less-experienced employees in gaining valuable skills and knowledge of how a company operates.  It also develops relationships that increase company morale and increase productivity.  A successful mentorship program should also include on-the-job “shadowing.”

 

 

  1. Do not be afraid to hire experienced employees.

 

There are many benefits to hiring experienced employees. These employees already have sound work habits, years of experience in the field, and the skills the company needs to take you to the next level of competition.  These employees also have less out of work distractions, such as needing more time off for childcare or more time off for school commitments.  Experienced employees will also add some diversity in workforce, contributing their ideas and experience to the team projects and ideas.  If you utilize their assets, the workplace will benefit.

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

Now is the time to reflect and focus on what you can do better before the end of the year.  This requires interested stakeholders to bring veteran employees to the table and generate ideas.  Experienced employees are a great untapped resource, and their ideas and work ethics can be beneficial in many ways.  Listen to their ideas, and make the management team approachable when someone has an idea about how something may be able to be done better.  If you make this one of several things to focus on, accomplishing the rest of the goals could be that much easier.

 

 

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/

 

©2019 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.

Use High-Tech Tools to Reduce Injury Risk, Drastically Cut WC Costs

high tech tools to reduce workers compIf you knew the specific physical demands of every job in your organization and which employee could best handle each, you could significantly reduce injury risks. But the information available to most employers is nowhere near capable of providing this degree of insight. The good news is the technology is available, and an increasing number of companies are tapping into it and seeing positive outcomes.

 

 

21st Century Job Descriptions Using Artificial Intelligence

 

Automated, detailed functional job descriptions are possible through artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies. Unlike the simplistic, hand-written, one-page job descriptions seen in many organizations, these allow the user to quickly determine which jobs might have the highest risks and the degree to which they can be made safer through various ergonomic and other changes.

 

Among the more prominent organizations having success with this approach is MyAbilities. The company provided the following example to demonstrate the value of a highly sophisticated functional job description.

 

The job at hand was that of a landscaper. The question was whether a certain worker – we’ll call him Joe – was capable of performing the tasks and, if necessary, whether changes could improve his ability to do the job.

 

A database of job descriptions was accessed to determine the basic physical requirements, with several additional tasks to determine their job demands. Transporting mulch, trimming hedges and raking yard debris were added to the description.

 

Two job profiles were produced;

 

  • One included ergonomic modifications for each added task
  • One with no ergonomic enhancements

 

The task of trimming hedges was viewed in one profile using hand-held trimmers and the other using a hedge trimmer on a telescoping handle. Transporting mulch was profiled with the worker carrying the mulch vs. using a push cart. A yard waste vacuum was one way to rake yard debris, while a hand-held rake was also considered.

 

Comparing the two job profiles showed several differences, such as:

 

  • Gripping – 6 hours per shift, vs. less than 5 when ergonomic modifications were used
  • Lifting – 3 hours rather than under 2 hours

 

Employee Joe was videotaped doing each of the three tasks with and without the ergonomic modifications. The videos were run through an analytic tool to produce a report that outlined the range of motion used for each job, along with an overall physical demand score for each.

 

The report clearly showed that when done with the ergonomic modifications, Joe spent much less time with his hands above his shoulders – greatly reducing his risk of injury. Also, his upper arms were in a neutral posture far longer in the ‘good’ ergonomics situation than without the modifications, and he was not reaching as far.

 

 

Ergonomic Modifications Significantly Decrease Demands of Job

 

Using the ergonomic modifications reduced the amount of carrying Joe had to do and replaced it with pushing; lessened the amount of handling of mulch and clippers; reduced the grip force by using the telescoping hedge trimmer; and cut down on the reaching distance by using the debris vacuum instead of a rake. The result was a significant decrease in the demands of the job.

 

The report that was generated included specific details about the effects on different body parts. Overall there was a greatly reduced impact on Joe’s arms and shoulders when the ergonomic modifications were employed.

 

This high-level approach to evaluating job tasks and matching them to an employee’s abilities is extremely effective when hiring and returning an injured employee to work. If Joe were returning from a work injury and had sustained an elbow injury, for example, he would be capable of performing the job – if the ergonomic modifications were in place.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Preventing injuries is the one surefire way to reduce workers’ compensation costs. While you may not be able to prevent every workplace injury, using tools based on advanced technologies can dramatically reduce them among new hires and prevent reinjuries from those returning after an injury.

 

 

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/

 

©2019 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.

Easy Way To Avoid Attorney Involvement In Your Work Comp Claims

avoid attorney involvementA major mistake made by employers in handling workers’ compensation claims is the failure of the employer to build and maintain rapport with the injured employee. Wikipedia defines rapport as “when two or more people feel that they are in sync or on the same wavelength because they feel similar or relate well to each other”.

 

 

Employer Should Contact Injured Worker To Begin Caring & Trusting Relationship

 

The employer’s workers’ compensation coordinator should be in contact with the injured employee the day of the injury to begin to establish a caring and trusting relationship with the employee. By answering all of the employee’s questions about the workers’ compensation process and by showing the employee that the employee is important to the employer, the employee is much less like to develop animosity toward the employer over the accident.

 

Few employees will openly admit to themselves or to anyone else that it was their own carelessness that caused their injury. When there is no rapport between the employee and the employer, it is much easier for an employee to blame the employer for the injury, rather than to say ‘it was my inattention to what I was doing that caused me to get hurt’. When proper rapport with the claimant is established, the injured employee is much more objective about the cause of their injury.

 

When the workers’ compensation coordinator actively works with the injured employee to schedule medical care, to arrange light duty work, to answer any questions the employee has about the workers’ compensation claim process, and to reassure the employee that the employer has the employee’s best interest at heart, the course of the workers’ compensation claim is much smoother.

 

 

Fear Is Primary Reason An Employee Hires Attorney

 

Fear is the primary reason an employee hires an attorney following an injury. The employee can be fearful of one or more of the following concerns:

 

  • The inability to support or provide for their family during the recovery time of the injury
  • The inability to support or provide for their family in the future
  • Losing their job due to their inability to work
  • Being ostracize for causing the accident and the resulting injury
  • Having a permanent impairment
  • Having to pay the cost of the medical treatment
  • Not knowing what to expect

 

It is often said the easiest way to lose control of the claim is to ignore the injured employee after the injury occurs. When the employer does not maintain rapport with the employee following an accident, the employee will find someone to answer his or her questions about the workers’ compensation claim process. If the person providing the answers to the employee is an overzealous attorney whose primary concern is maximizing the attorney’s income, the answers provided to the employee will be designed to drive a wedge between the employee and the employer. The attorney knows the employee may have some sense of loyalty to the employer, and it is important to the attorney to diminish that sense of loyalty, and to encourage the employee to try to get the maximum amount possible for the injury.

 

 

 

Communication Needs To Be Ongoing

 

Immediately following an injury, most employers reassure the employee that everything will be alright, that every problem will be taken care of. Unfortunately, most employers return to the daily activities of their business the day following a workers’ compensation injury, while the employee continues to deal with the injury aftermath for weeks or even months following the injury occurrence.

 

Rapport is maintained by regular, on-going contact with the injured employee. One of the Best Practice used by professional workers’ compensation coordinators is to request the injured employee to call in after each doctor’s appointment with a status update. This accomplishes several things:

 

  • It keeps the employee in touch with the employer during the medical recovery process.
  • It keeps the employer informed as to the exact medical status of the employee.
  • It reassures the employee that the employer is concerned about the employee’s well-being.
  • It allows the employer to coordinate the modified duty work with the limitations imposed by the medical provider.
  • It keeps a high level of rapport between the employee and the workers’ compensation coordinator
  • It allows the workers’ compensation coordinator to address any issues or concerns of the employee that develop during the course of the claim

 

When the employee has a high level of rapport with the employer’s workers’ compensation coordinator, there is a much lower chance that the claim will be contested. By establishing and maintaining rapport throughout the claim, the employer will experience a better overall outcome of the work comp claim.

 

 

 

Rebecca ShaferAuthor 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 co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.

Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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

 

©2019 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.

 

Don’t Sabotage Your Return To Work Program!

Sabatoge Return to WorkGetting an injured employee back to work is an important way to reduce workers’ compensation costs and promote employee morale.  This is accomplished by an effective return to work program and promoting a safe work environment.  Notwithstanding these efforts by an engaged employer, policies are sometimes implemented that create perverse financial disincentives.  These can sabotage a post-injury return to work program, and encourage an employee to stay off work.

 

 

It All Starts with Effective Coordination

 

It is important for an employer to ensure their return to work program does not have a negative impact on disability pay programs.  To ensure this does not take place, it is important to take a step back and make sure there is proper coordination with the workers’ compensation program and one’s employee benefits and compensation program.

 

Common examples of this include instances where a benefits program provides a financial disincentive for an employee to return to work.  When designing your integrated disability management programs, keep this in mind the following factors:

 

  • Identify workers’ compensation savings that have yet to materialize even though your company has implemented a corporate return-to-work program. This should include a review of the long-term (LTD), and short-term disability (STD) benefits an employee can receive, and if they care to receive these benefits while being paid associated workers’ compensation wage loss benefits such as temporary total disability benefits.  In some instances, employees will receive more money if they were working when receiving both LTD/STD and workers’ compensation benefits.

 

  • Review and analyze credit disability insurance programs. This allows the injured employee to exclude payments on a mortgage, car payments, and other lines of credit when they are unable to work.  There are also reductions for things such as childcare, and other commuting expenses that can be taken into consideration.  This provides the employee with an “incentive” to not accept transitional work.

 

  • Examine how collateral resources impact your workers’ compensation program. Some of these include:

 

  1. Salary and Wage Continuation: Employers sometimes pay 100% of an employee’s salary instead of the employee collecting workers’ compensation wage loss benefits. A review of these programs should include a determination if they comply with the workers’ compensation law as only insurers should be making wage loss payments in some instances.

 

  1. Occupational Injury Pay Supplements: Other policies will pay supplemental benefits to “make up the difference” between workers’ compensation benefits and regular earnings. This has an impact on the payment of Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits.

 

  1. Open-Ended Job Return: Job offers should never be open-ended. Allowing this encourages employees to remain off work, and can limit defenses available to wage loss claims.

 

  1. Vacation and Sick Time: Companies frequently allow vacation and sick time to accrue for employees on workers’ compensation, even if not required under state law. In other instances, employees can “borrow” sick time.

 

  1. Perk Continuation: Employers often maintain ancillary benefits and privileges such as car allowances, club, professional dues, and periodical subscriptions for employees off work due to a workplace injury.

 

  1. Loan Protection Policies: Individual insurance policies are available to pay mortgages and consumer loans. This often includes car loans, and credit card debts.

 

  1. Unemployment Compensation: In some jurisdictions, employees can receive workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits at the same time. Make sure you know the law on this issue.

 

  1. Pension and Retirement Plans: If these plans do not allow for offset of workers’ compensation benefits, an employee can receive workers’ compensation benefits and a full pension. This is a common pitfall for employers when an employee has a potential claim for Permanent Total Disability, or open-ended Temporary Total Disability claim.

 

  1. Product Liability Actions: Employees injured due to defective equipment and machinery can file product liability actions. Mindful employers should examine these issues, preserve evidence, and pursue subrogation actions when able.  This is based on payments made to the employee receiving workers’ compensation benefits or settlements.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Employers should be commended for doing the right thing.  These actions sometimes create a disincentive for an employee to return to work.  When this occurs, the insured ends up paying higher workers’ compensation premiums.  Proactive employers need to strike the right balance between protecting their employees, while at the same time being mindful of their bottom line ethically and honestly.

 

 

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 the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

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

 

©2019 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.

 

Use Collaboration, Technology for ADA Compliance and Positive Return to Work Outcomes

collaboration and return to workReturning an injured worker to the job before he’s physically ready can be a nightmare. The last thing an employer wants to do is put the employee at risk of reinjury.

 

On the other hand, waiting to bring an employee back until he is 100 percent recovered prolongs the number of lost work days and impedes the worker’s recovery. Reinjuries, as well as extended disability durations both, add costs to the claim.

 

What’s needed is an accurate depiction of the physical requirements of a job, along with a deep understanding of exactly what the injured worker is physically able to do or not do. Armed with such information, the employer can make the best decisions for the injured worker and the organization.

 

 

ADA Considerations

 

One issue that may come into play when returning an injured worker is the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers cannot refuse to let an employee return if he can perform the essential functions of that job — even if that requires reasonable accommodations.

 

Following return to work best practices will ensure compliance with the ADA. Return to work has even been described as the “ADA on steroids.”

 

Both return to work and the ADA involve a collaborative process between the employer, employee, and possibly, the medical provider. Whether the disability is work-related or not, the first question to ask is whether the person can do his original job.

 

In many cases, the worker may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with some modification or reasonable accommodation. That may involve an ergonomic change or schedule alteration, for example. As long as it does not impose undue hardship — either financially or operationally — on the employer, accommodations should be explored, both from a return to work and ADA standpoint.

 

Return to work best practices entail resuming work as soon as possible, both to help the worker heal and to reduce claim costs. A work accommodation or transitional duty that helps the worker get to the point where he/she can fully do the job is the best course of action.

 

If the worker cannot perform the essential functions of his job even with accommodations, providing a transitional job elsewhere within the company, or a position off-site would be the next step.

 

A key to ensuring compliance with the ADA and getting the best outcome from a return to work standpoint is to engage the employee in what is formally called the interactive process. This allows for an open and honest discussion about what the employee can do and how the employer can facilitate the process.

 

 

Defensible Return to Work Solutions

 

There have been new tools developed that can accurately match a person’s physical capacity with specific jobs, allowing for a solid decision as to what the person is capable of doing, whether with reasonable accommodation or not.

 

An example is a digital job profiles integrated with automated job-matching analysis, developed by MyAbilities, combining ergonomic research with artificial intelligence-powered software that allows for ADA compliance and RTW best practices. It addresses the employee’s physical degree of fitness for the current job and runs those capabilities against all the digital profiles in a company’s job bank. If the injured worker is unable to perform his job, even with accommodation, the tool can identify other positions within the company that he might be capable of performing within his physical restrictions.

 

Digital job profiles comprehensively describe the physical requirements and features of every possible job. Each job includes graphics and video profiles, which significantly help evaluate and depict its physical requirements. The company’s automated physical assessment used in conjunction with the job-matching tools can quickly and accurately provide a picture of the worker’s physical capacity for various positions.

 

Under ADA law an employee is required, with or without accommodation, to perform the essential functions of a job achieving the same work product as other employees. However, this same stipulation does not apply under workers’ compensation RTW best practices which take ADA requirements a step further.

 

The job-matching tool allows employers to leverage the digital job profiles and interactive process to modify the employee’s original position with or without accommodation or provide an alternative transitional duty position.  Exceeding ADA compliance requirements, this RTW best practice would be true even if the worker is unable to perform all of the essential functions of the job or their work product is less than comparable to other employees.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Getting injured employees back to work is a win-win for everyone — as long as the job involved is appropriate for the worker’s level of fitness. By collaborating with the injured worker and using sophisticated tools, such as the job-matching analysis developed by MyAbilities’ will ensure the best outcomes.

 

 

 

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: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 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.

How To Make Unions An Asset To Workers Comp Cost Savings

Workers' comp with unionsMany employers may be suspicious of working with unions, thinking that they support the filing of questionable workers’ comp claims. However, in some cases working with labor unions may lead to decreases in workers’ comp costs. Unions are usually strong supporters of improved safety policies, like following OSHA guidelines, use of safety gear like hard hats and protected eyewear and improved ergonomics. Unions can track workplace accidents and make suggestions over ways to improve safety.

 

 

Workers’ Compensation Policy Planning

 

Bring labor unions into your workers’ compensation policy planning. After all, a good company cares for its employees and wants them to be treated fairly. Leaving unions out of the process creates an “us vs. them” mentality that can drive up long-term costs. Including union input builds buy-in to the company’s workers’ comp process.

 

Here are some suggestions for working with labor unions:

 

  • Talk to union representatives early in the planning process.
  • Ask for the union’s perspective on issues such as how seniority affects injury management and their policies on things such as supplemental pay for the injured worker. Does the union have “collateral source benefits” that are a disincentive to returning to work?
  • Listen to the union’s input on issues such as safety planning and how to return employees to work post-injury.

 

 

Drug Testing

 

One area where unions and employers have disagreed is over the use of drug testing. Unions may object to drug testing as infringing on its members’ privacy rights or question the science behind drug testing. If employers work with the unions to explain how drug testing protects the safety of members, everybody wins. Unions may respond to the employer’s rationale of keeping intoxicated, unsafe workers from endangering the safety of the workforce, provided that the drug testing policy promotes employee treatment rather than termination. Having a written drug testing policy that is fair and equitable can go a long way towards convincing a union that your concern is for safety, not punishment.

 

 

Union Representatives Can Guide Injured Workers through the Workers’ Compensation Process

 

Union stewards or representatives can help guide injured employees through the workers’ compensation process, starting with arranging immediate medical care. This can help reduce costs as the sooner the injured employee is treated, the higher the probability of a quicker recovery. Make sure that communication with the union remains positive and proactive so that a disgruntled union representative does not urge the employee to stay off work longer because the union has some non-related dispute with management. Also, keeping communication positive and flowing can keep the employee from hiring a lawyer out of frustration over miscommunication or unreturned phone calls.

 

 

Complying with Labor Relations’ Laws

 

Make sure that your company complies with all required federal and state labor laws. Employees have the right to join together with co-workers to address issues at work, with or without a union. Most employers are required to post notices advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). You do not want to give unions ammunition to attack your company by forgetting to do a simple thing such as hanging a poster in the workplace. You can find out more about employers’ obligations under the NLRA at http://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/whats-law/employers.

 

 

 

Rebecca ShaferAuthor 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 co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.

Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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

 

©2019 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 411 on Functional Capacity Evaluations

functional capacity evaluationA functional capacity evaluation (FCE) is a comprehensive series of test administered by an occupational therapist or a physical therapist who has had specialized training in performing a FCE.  The tests are specifically designed to measure:

 

  • stamina
  • dynamic strength
  • mobility
  • flexibility
  • body mechanics
  • cardiovascular condition
  • balance
  • coordination
  • dexterity
  • ability to tolerate functional activities

 

Used to Determine Employee’s Readiness to Return to Work

 

In workers’ compensation claims, a functional capacity evaluation is often utilized to determine the injured employee’s physical readiness to return to work and to measure any physical limitations the employee will have as a result of the work comp injury.  A FCE can also be utilized to determine the injured employee’s physical capabilities for vocational retraining when the injured employee will be permanently unable to return to his/her prior vocation.

 

A functional capacity evaluation can be one of two types, either a job-specific FCE or a general purpose FCE. In a job-specific FCE, the therapist is provided a detailed job description prior to the testing in order to tailor the FCE to the specific job of the employee.  To have a very accurate FCE, the therapist should visit the job site to have a detailed understanding of the functions of the job.  In a general-purpose functional capacity evaluation, the testing measures the employee’s strength and tolerance in completing standardized or common work task.

 

 

 

Test Can Last Several Hours to Two Days

 

After a determination of the type of FCE, the appointment date is scheduled for the injured employee.  An FCE can last from several hours to two days, depending on the nature and extent of testing.

 

At the start of the functional capacity evaluation, the therapist will perform a comprehensive interview of the injured employee.  The interview is designed to identify any factors that could impact the employee’s ability to participate in the FCE.  The therapist will want to know if the employee has any issues with asthma, COPD or other lung/breathing problems, high blood pressure, physical limitations besides the work comp injury, and obtain the employee’s own assessment of their physical condition including the employee’s perception of his/her pain level.

 

 

Measure Various Physical Tests

 

In conjunction with the interview, the therapist will complete a clinical assessment of the employee to establish a baseline for the FCE.  The therapist will measure the employee’s range of motion, balance, grip strength and coordination to establish the testing plan.

 

In a job-specific FCE the therapist will measure the employee’s ability to lift, carry and perform other tasks in comparison to the performance levels identified in the employee’s job description guidelines. In the general purpose FCE, the therapist will measure the employee’s maximum ability to lift, carry and perform routine work-related task.

 

 

 

5 Categories of Physical Demands

 

The U.S. Department of Labor characterizes jobs in 5 categories depending on the physical demands of the job.  For instance, an over-the-road, or long-haul truck driver is classified as a “heavy” physical demanding job.  The 5 categories are defined as:

 

  • Sedentary:  exerting up to 10 pounds of force occasionally

 

  • Light:  exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally or up to 10 pounds of force frequently

 

  • Medium:  exerting 20 to 50 pounds of force occasionally or 10 to 25 pounds of force frequently

 

  • Heavy:  exerting 50 to 100 pounds of force occasionally or 25 to 50 pounds of force frequently

 

  • Very Heavy:  exerting in excess of 100 pounds of force occasionally or in excess of 50 pounds of force frequently or in excess of 20 pounds of force constantly

 

 

If the therapist is performing a general purpose functional capacity evaluation on a truck driver, the therapist would determine the truck driver’s job is a “heavy” physically demanding job. The general purpose FCE testing would measure the employee’s ability to meet the requirements of the “heavy” job classification.  However, some truck drivers are “drive and drop” drivers where they never touch the cargo.  The hardest part of their job is cranking the landing gear of the trailer up and down and disconnecting the fifth-wheel.  Their job requirements would fall in the “medium” job classification for physically demanding.  Therefore, when there can be different levels of physical effort needed for a job title, it is to both the employer’s and the employee’s benefit to provide a detailed job description to the therapist and to request a job-specific FCE.

 

 

 

Biggest Issue is Validity of Effort by Injured Employee

 

The biggest issue with FCE is the validity of the effort put forth by the injured employee.  If the injured employee has been advised by his/her attorney that the better they do on the FCE, the lower their permanent partial disability settlement will be, the employee is given a financial incentive to put forth less than their best effort.  If there is any concern the employee may not make a sincere effort in the FCE, the therapist should be advised prior to the FCE.  The therapist can give the employee several different tasks or activities that measure the same physical ability.  If the test results reflect a variation in the employee’s ability within a specific category when measured by two or more different methods, the therapist will be able to identify the employee who is trying to game the testing and include in their post testing report the fact that the effort put forth by the employee was inconsistent.

 

 

 

Results Compared Against Specific Job Description

 

When the FCE testing is completed, the therapist will compile the employee’s test results.  The test results will be compared against the specific job description requirements or the general physical level classification of a job to see if the employee can return to performing the job. The results of the FCE are then reported to the treating doctor and workers’ compensation adjuster and/or nurse case manager.

 

 

 

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: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 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.

Confusion and Workers’ Comp Abbreviations Can Add to Costs

Creating confusion costs you money. Creating confusion costs you and your organization or your clients organization money. Hello, my name is Michael Stack, I’m the CEO of Amaxx. And today I want to talk with you about the language we’re using to communicate with our injured workers. The language we’re using to communicate with our injured workers. Are you causing confusion? Are you causing them to be fearful of the words you’re using?

 

 

Workers’ Comp Abbreviations and Confusion

 

So let’s go over an example. Say an injured worker gets hurt and you tell them, “We’re going to pay you TTD until the time at which point you’re able to return to work. And then we’re going to work on your medical until you reach MMI. And then at that point, you may need to go see an IME in order to help us establish a permanency rating to settle your case. And depending on the severity of your injury, you may need to then apply for SSDI.” Excuse me? I’m sorry, what was that that you said? We tend to forget that the terminology and the abbreviations and the words that we’re using that are specific to our industry, just like any other industry, are not commonplace among everyone else outside of our industry.

 

 

Clear and Simple Communication

 

So I want you to establish this idea of clear and simple communication. First off, are you calling your injured workers or injured employees claimants? Does that sound very nice? Does that present a very welcoming picture that you’re going to take care of them, that there’s going to be an established level of trust? I think not. So let me challenge your communication and that verbiage that you’re using.

 

Next piece, I want to outline very simply for you this employee brochure. So when an employee gets injured, you want to establish that trust, that communication right out of the gates. I want to give you a little bit of framework, three-part framework here, or simplified three-part framework for this employee brochure. And you can download this value piece below here, The Nine Elements to Employee Brochure, that I’m going to dive into this a little bit deeper. I want to outline this very quickly.

 

 

Set Expectations with Employee Brochure

 

So first off, first piece, you want to establish when an employee gets injured, even before they’re injured, the time prior you’re going through this with them and then at the time of injury you’re running through it. Work comp 101, what it is, what they can expect from you as far as their benefits. This includes, their wages, how are they going to get paid and are you calling this an indemnity, are you calling it wages? A lot of people don’t know what the heck indemnity means. So are you calling it your wages or wage loss? Your medical and their pharmacy, how are they going to get medical treatment? How are they going to get their prescription drugs et cetera. Establish these expectations. What does it look like as far as return to work? And don’t call it RTW, call it returning to work, getting back it the workforce. Use language that makes sense to people that are not in the work comp industry.

 

And then lastly, what you expect of them. We expect you to report to work, this is an established part of our organization, we expect you to communicate with us, we expect you not to commit fraudulent acts, et cetera, et cetera. You establish this expectation right out of the front using simple words that everyone can understand and it’s going to get you off to the races as far as getting that claim going in the right direction.

 

Again, my name is Michael Stack, I’m the CEO of Amaxx. And remember, your work today in workers compensation can have a dramatic impact on your companies’ 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: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 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.

How to Build Your Return to Work Program

return to work workers compensationA successful transitional duty/return to work program is much more than having an injured employee answering the telephone or sweeping the floors. Unfortunately, too many employers see a transitional duty program, also known as a return to work program as a “make work” situation for both the employer and the injured employee. This approach to a return to work program often ends in frustration for both employer and employee.

 

Employers who recognize the advantages of a formal return to work program are the employers who benefit the most from having one. A transitional duty program reduces the time the employee is off the job, and by providing physical activity for the employee, speeds up the recovery process. The employer receives a reduction in the cost of both medical benefits and indemnity benefits. Other advantages of an employee working in a modified duty position include:

 

  • The employee is able to contribute some productivity toward the company’s goals while the employee who is sitting at home contributes no productivity
  • The employee has higher morale knowing a job is waiting for him/her when they are healed as opposed to the employee being at home wondering if the company will have a job for him/her when he/she is healed
  • The employee who is physically active on the job recovers from an injury faster than an employee who is physically inactive at home
  • The employee does not develop a ‘disabled’ mindset and does not learn to expect to be paid for doing nothing
  • Employees who know that their company has a formal return to work program are much less likely to submit a fraudulent work comp claim

 

 

Develop Transitional Duty Job Description Before Injury Occurs

 

To build your own return to work program (or to improve your existing return to work program) start with examining the job requirements of each position within the company. A transitional duty work description should be developed for each type of job. By having a ready to go transitional duty job description before an injury occurs there is no delay in bringing the injured employee back to work in a modified duty position.

 

In physically demanding jobs where musculoskeletal injuries are common, some employers develop two transitional duty job descriptions for each position. The first transitional duty job description is for severe restrictions and limitations on the physical capabilities of the employee and the second job description for employees with less severe work restrictions.

 

 

Transitional Job Should Not Be Limited To Original Position

 

Too many employers make the mistake of limiting the transitional job to a variation of the injured employee’s original job. The transitional job can be anywhere in the company, it does not have to be in the same department or the same location. The transitional job that is different from what the employee was doing before the injury will broaden the employee’s skill set making the employee more valuable to your company in the future.

 

 

ALL Employees Should Participate in Transitional Duty

 

For the return to work program to be successful, the employee must cooperate and be a willing participant. The best way to ensure the employee’s cooperation and participation is for the employee to know ahead of any injury that all injured employees are automatically enrolled in the modified duty return to work program. The fastest way to destroy your return to work program is to be selective in who participates. If you pick and choose which employees will be provided transitional duty and which ones will not, you create a situation where the injured employee feels he/she is being singled out. This hurts morale and often leads to the employee hiring an attorney, which complicates the resolution of the claim.

 

As noted above, all employees should know that the company has a transitional duty program requirement for all injured employees. All supervisors and managers should be trained on how the return to work program works. The injured employee’s supervisor should be provided the work restrictions of the injured employee following each of the employee’s doctor appointments. This will allow the supervisor to verify the employee’s transitional duty work assignment meets the doctor’s restrictions.

 

The first day the injured employee is back on the job, the transitional duty work restrictions should be reviewed with the employee. It should be explained to the employee that the transitional duty job requirements will change each time the treating doctor reduces the employee’s work limitations. This prevents the employee from developing the idea that he/she is going to permanently have an easier position.

 

If the transitional duty position requires any training for the injured employee, the training should be provided during the first days the injured employee is in the temporary position.

 

 

Transitional Duty Should Be Temporary

 

The transitional duty position should be temporary. If the injured employee has not been released to full employment after 30 days, the work restrictions should be reviewed with the medical provider. Whenever possible, the employee should be given more work within the most recent work restrictions. If the work restrictions are not decreasing, the nurse case manager or the adjuster should be determining why the injured employee is not improving medically.

 

The employee’s attendance at medical appointments is of utmost importance. The transitional duty job should never be allowed to interfere with the employee’s medical appointments, even when the employee has multiple physical therapy appointments each week.

 

Be sure to share your transitional duty program with all of your business partners – especially the triage nurse, the treating doctor, the work comp adjuster, and the nurse case manager. With everyone knowing that transitional duty is a requirement at your company, you will get better buy-in from all parties.

 

By incorporating each of these recommendations into your return to work program, you will build a more successful return to work program.

 

 

 

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: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 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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