Properly Designing and Implementing Transitional Duty Program Ensures Success

return to workThe biggest mistake employers make with a transitional duty program is having a “sorta” light duty program.  The employer recognizes a transitional duty program is an important way to reduce workers’ compensation cost and realize the importance of providing modified duty/light-duty work for an injured employee but does nothing about it until an injured employee is placed on light-duty work restrictions by the medical provider.

 

 

Big Mistake is Designing Program After Employee is Injured

 

For a transitional duty program to be effective, it needs to be properly established.  This does not mean identifying a light-duty job for the employee once an employee has been injured.  It means having a written policy on light duty work that is known to everyone in the company.  When there is a written policy of providing transitional duty work, every employee will know that a light-duty or modified duty job will be available and required of them, if they are ever injured on the job.  The supervisors and managers within the company should be educated on the details of the transitional duty program so they can properly explain it to any employee who is injured.

 

A transitional duty position should be designed for every current job within the company.  The transitional duty job does not have to be in the same department as the injured employee’s original job.  It can be anywhere in the company.  The placement of the employee in a transitional duty position outside of the employee’s regular department is beneficial to the employee by broadening the employee’s skill base and knowledge of the company.  Any training the employee needs to accomplish the transitional duty job should be provided during the first days on the temporary job assignment.

 

 

Transitional Program Should be Understood Throughout Company

 

All employees should understand that transitional duty jobs are temporary and are not a new permanent assignment for the employee.  If the transitional duty is going to last more than 30 days, the employee should be moved to a second transitional duty job that allows for increased physical assertion, but still within the work restrictions set by the medical provider.  The employee should be clearly told that as soon as the medical provider clears them to return to their regular duty job, they will be required to do so.

 

The business partners who are involved in the handling of the workers’ compensation claim need to understand that transitional duty is required of all injured employees who are able to work in some capacity. The nurse case manager and the designated adjuster or dedicated adjuster(s) assigned to your work comp claims should understand that your company will return all injured employees to work as soon as the medical provider states what work restrictions are necessary.

 

The medical provider, whether employer selected or employee selected, should be advised there is a transitional duty job available to the injured employee. The medical provider should be given both a copy of the physical requirements of the employee’s regular job and a copy of the physical requirements of the transitional duty job that will be available to the employee. If it is a non-emergency situation, the physical requirements or the regular job and of the transitional duty job should be given to the medical provider prior to the first medical visit.  When this is not possible due to the need for immediate medical care, the physical requirements of both the regular duty job and the transitional duty job should be provided to the medical provider prior to the employee’s second medical appointment.

 

The employer should never allow the transitional duty job to interfere with the employee’s medical appointments, physical therapy appointments or other medical treatment.  The supervisor in charge of the transitional duty job position should be provided the date of the next medical appointment immediately following the most recently completed medical appointment to minimize the interruption in productivity of the department where the injured employee is working.

 

 

Properly Designed & Implemented Program Ensures Success

 

The work comp coordinator within your company should coordinate the transitional duty position with the employee, with the supervisor of the transitional duty position and with the medical provider to be sure everyone is on board.  Any issue that arises with the employee working in the transitional duty position can be addressed timely by the work comp coordinator.  The work comp coordinator should also verify that the transitional duty job meets the work restrictions set by the medical provider.

 

The establishment and implementation of the transitional duty program before it is needed is the key to a successful program.  By designing your transitional duty program to accommodate the needs of the injured employees, you will ensure the success of your transitional duty 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 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.

Medcor Announces the Purchase of Proactive Occupational Medicine

Chicago-based Medcor, Inc., a leading health navigation firm, announces the expansion of its services through the purchase of clinic operations and other assets from Proactive Occupational Medicine, Inc., an Ohio-based health services company. Medcor already operates over 240 onsite and nearsite clinics providing both occupational and general healthcare across North America.

 

Medcor Chief Operating Officer Ben Petersen said, “This acquisition complements and strengthens Medcor’s onsite clinical and safety staffing relationships. I’m excited to welcome Proactive’s talented staff into our team and to equip them with Medcor’s state-of-the-art systems.”

 

With this horizontal acquisition, Medcor expands its Construction Health and Safety business in the power and general construction industries. It also enters the steel industry, bringing to that sector Medcor’s evidence-based medicine and proprietary clinical systems.

 

Medcor Chief Financial Officer Mark Smolenski said, “This purchase demonstrates Medcor’s commitment to continue growing our construction practice and to deliver health navigation to new customers and new industries.”

 

Medcor Divisional Vice President of Construction Health and Safety Kevin Kelley said, “The addition of Proactive Occupational Medicine also enhances our service offerings by expanding our mobile audiometric and X-ray capabilities.”

 

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

 

About Medcor

 

Medcor provides health navigation through integrated services that include onsite and mobile clinics, injury triage, telemedicine, and safety staffing and training. Medcor serves clients throughout the United States and Canada across a wide range of industries. Medcor helps employers and their employees navigate the complexities of healthcare to achieve better clinical and financial outcomes. Learn more at www.medcor.com.

 

About Proactive Occupational Medicine

 

Proactive Occupational Medicine is an occupational health services company that has served clients in the power, construction, pipeline, steel, coal, automotive, manufacturing, chemical and lumber industries. Learn more at www.pominc.com.

Ergonomic Self-Assessments Reduce Injuries Among Office Workers

Ergonomic Self-Assessments Keeping workers comfortable can reduce costs for employers/payers. The more a worker experiences discomfort, the more likely she is to develop musculoskeletal pain and injuries.

 

Low back pain, one of the most common reasons for lost workdays, may be due to an improperly adjusted workstation. Improper chair heights, constantly reaching for the mouse, and holding a phone handset between the head and shoulder takes a toll on the body after long periods of time.

 

Making a few simple adjustments can have a tremendous impact on improving employees’ health and wellbeing and reducing workplace injuries. But many employers and even the workers themselves don’t realize the long-term effects of improper workstation ergonomics. However, easy-to-use tools are available that can have a significant positive impact.

 

 

Common Ergonomic Problems

 

Sitting in the same position for long periods of time, especially with awkward postures of the head, neck, and upper limb can cause pain and injury. One study showed that workers often use poor positioning that can lead to discomfort and musculoskeletal disorders. For example,

 

  • Armrests were used improperly or not at all. Instead, many workers rested their arms on the desk, which can lead to elevation of the shoulders and increased tensions in the neck, shoulders, and trapezius muscles. They also sit forward in their chairs, instead of getting lumbar support, which can cause pain, especially if workers are in this position for more than four hours at a time.

 

  • Monitors are often placed too low, forcing a flexion of the cervical spine.

 

  • A mouse that is not aligned with the shoulder, as is often the case, forces the shoulder in abduction, which has been associated with musculoskeletal symptoms of the neck and upper limbs. Long use of the mouse can cause musculoskeletal disorders in the neck and wrist.

 

  • Workers who use desktop phones typically did not have headsets available, forcing them to hold the phone between their heads and shoulders, causing strain on the spine and shoulder. Workers who text may develop hand and wrist discomfort if the forearm is not properly supported.

 

 

Self-Assessment Ergonomic Fix

 

Office workstations come in a variety of styles and typically allow for multiple adjustments. Proper ergonomics ensure the worker is comfortable and not putting himself at risk of pain or injury.

 

One tool increasingly being used allows the worker to see how well he is or is not ensconced in his workstation; in terms of his posture, the height of the equipment, the reachability and other factors.

 

Called Rapid Office Strain Assessment (ROSA), provided by MyAbilities, it enables the worker to conduct a reliable self-assessment and provides self-guided training to make sustainable office ergonomics changes, based on the latest in ergonomics research.

 

ROSA consists of a video and diagram-based checklist that can quickly quantify the exposure of workers to risk factors in office workplaces, and provide users with immediate risk levels and intervention strategies. Each ‘page’ of the checklist corresponds to a particular risk factor. The worker clicks on the most appropriate box for each. Based on the responses, a score is calculated that identifies whether the worker is at high or low risk for injury.

 

  1. Chair.
    • The ideal is such that the worker’s knees are at 90° and reach the floor. The worker checks the most appropriate box, such as:
      • Knees at 90°
      • Chair too low — knee angle < 90°
      • Chair too high — knee angle > 90°
      • Chair too high — feet don’t touch the ground
    • Insufficient space under the desk for worker to cross his legs
    • Chair height is not adjustable
    • There should be 2-3” (one fist) between the edge of the chair and the knee. The boxes question if the seat pan is too short, too long, or not adjustable.
    • The elbows should be at 90°, and the shoulders relaxed. The boxes question the armrests’ height, width apart, and adjustability.
    • There should be adequate lumbar support so the recline is between 95 – 110 degrees. Questions in the boxes pertaining to the angle of the backrest, and whether there is adequate – or any – lumbar support.

 

  1. Monitor
    • The monitor should be positioned so the top is slightly below eye level, and the head is in a neutral position. Questions related to the height level as well as glare and the presence or lack of documents holders.

 

  1. Mouse
    • The mouse should be in line with the shoulder, and the wrist kept straight. The assessment questions whether the mouse is positioned too far away from the body, the pinch grip, and whether it is located on the same or a different surface from the keyboard.

 

  1. Keyboard
    • The wrists should be straight while typing. The questions pertain to the height and positioning of the keyboard.

 

  1. Phone
    • This should be accommodated via a headset or held in one hand. Questions ask about hands-free options and how far away it is located.

 

A score for each element is tabulated depending on the worker’s answers, and a final, overall score calculated. On the scoring of 1-10, anything over a 5 is considered a high-risk factor for MSDs and suggested for tweaking.

 

The final report includes assessments and recommendations for adjustments to reduce the risk. These reports, and the recommendations contained within them, have proven to reduce discomfort in office workers. All of this is possible without the use of new office equipment – just adjusting the existing furniture.

 

 

Conclusion

 

ROSA is one of the simpler and less expensive tools to enhance ergonomic appropriateness for office workers. One of its advantages is that the worker himself can experience how a simple adjustment increases his comfort, thus increasing the likelihood he will adhere to the change.

 

 

 

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.

Stop Making Excuses – Focus on Return to Work

return to workThe claim handler’s main role is to get an injured employee back to work.  The timeline on how this can happen depends on a multitude of factors, including the severity of injury, age of the patient, prior injuries to the same area, the diagnosis, and their occupation.  Employers and other interested stakeholders are sometimes afraid of returning an injured employee into their workplace.  This drives workers’ compensation costs and increases workplace anxiety among other employees.  Now is the time to focus on return-to-work efforts to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation, and increase morale.

 

 

It All Starts with the Employer

 

Employers need to take responsibility for return-to-work and make it a central part of their workers’ compensation program.  This is because the employer controls a lot of the future for the injured worker.  It is time for employers to stop making common excuses and get their injured workforce back into the work environment – even within their own organization.

 

 

Make Light Duty Work Available

 

This is always the easiest excuse to make.  Countless studies have shown that injured employees are willing to work and would prefer it to staying at home, watching TV, and doing other stereotypical things that come to mind when someone is off work.  The short-term impact is that individual lose confidence and self-worth, and becomes deconditioned.  Proactive employers can be creative when it comes to light-duty work.  This can include creating a job, which can include maintenance projects or other activities that advance the interests of the employer and keep the individual engaged.

 

 

Do Not Fear Work-Related Aggravations

 

Employers are often afraid of offering light-duty work to an injured employee given the possibility of an aggravation of the underlying work injury.  The argument is, “I am afraid my injured employee will aggravate the injury when returning to work.”  This is a valid concern.  However, these same aggravations could also occur when the employee is convulsing at home. Yes, the risk is there, but not if you as the employer plan accordingly, and be smart about putting the worker back on light duty.

 

 

Do Not Fear A New Work Injury

 

“What if the employee slips or falls?”  This is another common concern of employers.  Again, injuries can happen anywhere.  It all comes down to common sense.  Have the employee do something safe.  The point is not to have them riding the edge of risk every day until full duty resumes.

 

 

Don’t Be Afraid the Injured Employee Will Hurt Someone Else

 

President Franklin Roosevelt once proclaimed, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”  The modern workplace is filled with risk.  However, using common sense when it comes to post-injury employment pays dividends.  Return-to-work minimizes the exposure of wage loss being paid on a claim and also reduces medical care and treatment an injured employee may receive.

 

 

Injured Employees Are Productive

 

The productivity of an injured employee is subject to many urban myths and legends.  If the employee has a hand injury, it does not make sense to have them packing boxes, taping them, and carrying them out to the loading dock.  Everyone can be productive if the circumstances are favorable to their strong points.  Be creative!

 

 

No Job Description – No Problem

 

No job description provides an easy out for a claim handler not to seek return-to-work.  On the other hand, it is an opportunity for an employer to review all the positions in the company, and create them before injuries occur.  It all comes down to the employer’s commitment to saving money.

 

 

Don’t Ignore the Value Add

 

Employers generally have the option of paying an injured employee their full wage for doing something other than their pre-injury position.  While the employer does not receive the “full value” of the employee’s work, they do receive the benefit of lower workers’ compensation costs.

 

 

Conclusions

 

There are many excuses when it comes to returning an injured employee to work.  At the end of the day, it is your job as the employer to set the tone for being proactive.  Team up with your HR department and make those job descriptions.  Be creative about light-duty work and what a person can do.  It is still better than letting the injured worker control the claim since the only job would be to check the mail for a compensation check.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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