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.

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.

Video Kinematics Produces Physical Job Demand Descriptions on Steroids

video kinematicsHow familiar are you with the physical demands of every job in your company? That may sound like a loaded question, but the more understanding you have of each job, the better you’ll be at preventing injuries, reducing workers’ compensation costs and improving your bottom line.

 

However, many companies face the challenge of lack of time or resources to do a thorough and complete job of developing a physical demands database. The development of technology and artificial intelligence now makes this easy.

 

 

Why It’s Important

 

Let’s take drivers at a trucking company as an example. We know that long hours of sitting are required. We know when the drivers reach their destinations they must unload and reload the truck. And let’s say we even know that the items being off- and on-loaded weigh approx. 50 lbs. each.

 

Based on the 5 strength categories outlined by the Department of Labor – sedentary, light, medium, heavy, very heavy — we might conclude this particular job fits in either the ‘medium’ or ‘heavy’ strength category.

 

This is good information. But is it enough to ensure job applicant Fred can handle it, or Joe the returning injured worker won’t reinjure himself? Maybe there is more information we could use.

 

For example, how many 50-lb items are lifted per day on average? What percentage of the lifting time is spent with the item held at shoulder height, between waist and shoulder, or above shoulder height? Does the worker need to bend or twist in a certain way while moving the items on and off the truck? What, if any hand movement is required; i.e., are the items in boxes with handles, or does the worker pick up each item from the bottom? What surface heights are involved?

 

If Joe, returning from a shoulder injury, is to do this job, a basic description plus the DOL strength category of ‘medium’ might indicate he is a good fit. But if the job requires him to spend 1 – 2 hours each day with his hands reaching above shoulder level to off- and on-load the truck, Joe will be at high risk for reinjuring himself. In that case, we’d put Joe in another position that would not put undue stress on his shoulder. That is the benefit of accurate, precise and detailed job descriptions.

 

 

Physical Job Demand Descriptions

 

Physical job demand descriptions should provide as much detail as possible. In addition to the basic summary of the tasks involved, it should drill down to the specifics of the impact on any affected body part. For example, it should include the precise required angles of elbows, shoulders, and trunk; hand height; and reach distance.

 

Organizations should know exactly how much stress a job will put on a worker’s body and which parts specifically. Such knowledge will help make a much better decision about what workers can do which jobs without risk of injury.

 

Ergonomists are often called upon to help provide job descriptions, and with good reason. Their training gives them more insight into the physical demands of each task. However, advanced technology may be able to generate job descriptions that are at least as good and in less time, freeing up ergonomists to focus on developing programs to prevent injuries.

 

Researchers in Canada recently conducted a study to see how job descriptions created by video kinematics compared to those produced by two groups of ergonomists; experienced and novice.

 

 

Study

 

The researchers compared video-based joint angle and reach envelope measures for 10 simulated work tasks to the physical job demand descriptions from the ergonomists.  As they pointed out, “physical job demand descriptions often lack detail and format standardization, require technical training and expertise, and are time-consuming to complete. A video-based physical job demands descriptions tool would significantly decrease the time burden on ergonomists in documenting job parameters and may aid practitioners in determining the suitability of a job for a worker returning from injury.”

 

Tasks were recorded using a fixed position smartphone camera that was synced with the motion capture. The video was analyzed by Canadian company MyAbilities Technologies, Inc., who uses digital job profiles for injury prevention, fitness for duty, as well as to facilitate timely return-to-work to the worker’s own or modified job.

 

Physical job demand descriptions identifying the same angle and distance measures were done by the ergonomists for each task. The ergonomists estimated trunk angle, shoulder angle, elbow angle, hand height, and reach distance for the posture that represented the ‘greatest amount of the work cycle.’

 

“Overall percent agreement for video kinematics compared to motion capture was 82.5 percent,” the study said. “ video-based analytics had an equal or lower (i.e., better ) posture score than [either group of] ergonomists for 85 percent of ratings and was outright lower than both groups [of ergonomists] for 50 percent of ratings.”

 

The researchers said the study suggested that “video-based job task assessment may be a viable approach to improve accuracy and standardization of field physical demands analysis and minimize error in joint posture and reach envelope estimates.”

 

 

Conclusion

 

The study results are great news for organizations trying to prevent injuries — or re-injuries. By simply taking a video via smartphone of a worker doing job tasks and uploading it organizations can instantly have access to detailed job descriptions to help them make well-informed decisions when fitting workers to jobs and ensure they keep their workers safe and healthy.

 

 

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.

Ten Light Duty Work Ideas

Ten Light Duty Work IdeasSo you have decided to provide some light duty or transitional work for injured workers to decrease wage loss expense.  First of all, congratulations! This is the first step in decreasing claims costs. The wage expense in a comp claim is most usually the biggest cost, and any chance you have of decreasing that cost should be taken.  But what should the workers do?  What if they do not follow the rules and get hurt again? What if this light duty work hinders the rehab and recovery?

 

 

These are all common issues and concerns. But there are ways to work around them with jobs that already in the workplace for these workers to do.  Jobs that are no more or less strenuous than anything else they do on a daily basis while out of work.  If stumped for ideas as to where to start, use this information, and then further customize your jobs based on the building blocks we list below.  These will not apply to all areas of every employer, but at least it offers possible job ideas.

 

 

  1. Janitorial tasks

 

Although not glamorous, janitorial tasks are a much-needed function of the workplace. A broom is not heavy so sweeping the floor and back storage areas are not only sanitary but can also reduce risks for slips and falls due to debris. Maybe wiping down machines and making sure they are in proper working order is a job the injured party can do based on their level of experience.  With winter looming, salting entryways and making sure rugs and mats are in good shape and in good working order is a must to prevent falls.  Mopping could also be done, but it can involve lifting and twisting with a wet, heavy mop, so make sure your worker is capable of that before you assign that task to them. The goal is to have them working with light materials and prevent exertion that can cause further injury.

 

 

  1. Maintenance tasks

 

There may be a lot of jobs around the shop that are not done on a regular basis. Oiling machinery will increase the performance of the machine, as will changing belts, cleaning guards, checking saw blades, or cutting surfaces.

 

 

The tasks are not limited to only machinery.  Light painting can freshen and improve the look of the work floor. Replacing broken faucets, light bulbs, cracked mirrors, or repairing/caulking windows that may be not closing properly can also help. Checking outlets for proper power wattage is another one.  Go out on the floor and ask workers what needs to be done or what is not working properly and make the injured worker a “to-do” list.  There may not be enough work for them to last weeks, but at least it gets them back to work and doing something while in recovery mode.

 

 

  1. Office tasks

 

These jobs can include answering the phone, taking sales orders from clients, copying materials for files, or scanning paperwork for example.  Ask the office staff about any upcoming projects and what needs to be done they have been putting off for a while.  Chances are there are some sedentary work tasks available and needed, and this is a perfect task for your injured worker to do.  That way a fully functional worker without work restrictions can focus on more important tasks, or jobs that are more strenuous in nature.

 

 

  1. Inventory

 

A lot of employers carry a certain level of inventory for workplace needs. Obviously, the amount of inventory being carried depends on the type of workplace. But if you have the need, this is another light task the injured worker can do. Taking proper inventory and ordering more supplies is also another task to cross off your own to-do list.  Have the injured worker tally up what is currently in stock, what needs to be ordered, and when it should arrive before supply runs low. This is also a good time to have the worker shop and price supplies.  You might be able to find another vendor that can provide a better supply for a lower price.  This way not only gets the injured worker back to work, but the employee is also saving you money in the long-term.

 

 

  1. Job supervision and reporting

 

If the injured worker is unable to do the normal job, maybe the employee can still go out on job sites and help the other workers.  Not only supervise the overall job, but the worker could also assist in gathering light materials needed for the job.  If the work involves ladders and scaffolding, have someone on the ground to help the other workers, so they do not have to go up and down the ladders repeatedly to fetch materials or tools.

 

 

The injured worker also can report back like how the job is going so far, and recommend any changes or needed materials for the job site.  This will keep the job running on time for completion, and it is just another task that nobody thinks of until the issue arises.  You stay on top of the job status, and if certain recommendations are suggested and implemented, maybe that job is completed sooner than expected, resulting in a happier client.

 

 

  1. Performance reviews

 

If there is a management member out of work due to a claim, maybe now is a good time to bring them in to do annual performance reviews.  This way they can pull all the personnel files on the workforce, review them, get updated feedback from other supervisors on what the current performance is like, and then sit down with the employee to conduct a review and suggest improvements.  Again this may not supply the injured workers with weeks and weeks of work, but at least it is something that needed to be done. And if you have the right candidate to do it then it makes sense to have that person complete the task.

 

 

  1. Security

 

A lot of larger employers, such as grocery stores and retail businesses, have in-house surveillance cameras. The injured worker can monitor the day to day surveillance, clean up messes or spills, rotate product, place shelf signs, or any other light task that may need to be done.  Theft prevention can also be addressed; however, you do not want the injured worker trying to apprehend anyone and get injured again.

 

 

  1. Accounts payable/receivable

 

Another sedentary job is shifting the injured worker over to helping with accounts receivable/payable.  Your business probably has vendors to pay, and you also may have clients that have outstanding invoices.  Have the worker take over the books, and see if they can collect payment on some of the invoices that have not been paid.  Sometimes a faxed invoice to a client followed up by a phone call is all it takes to get the invoice paid.  This task will clean the books up, and make the company current with payments that are coming in and going out all the time.

 

 

  1. Assign a helper

 

If the injured party has restrictions but can still do most of the job, assign an entry-level helper to go along and do the tasks that they cannot do.  This provides the newer employee  a chance to learn more about the business and job duties, and it allows the injured worker to keep doing the normal job, now with the assistance of a helper

 

 

  1. Reach out to the injured party for ideas

 

When you just cannot think of anything for the injured worker to do, reach out to them and see what ideas the employee has.  The incentive for the worker is the chance to return to work, and maybe make the normal pay instead of collecting reduced wages on workers comp.  Sometimes great ideas are suggested. So keep an open mind, solicit some ideas from them, and try to do what you can to implement those job ideas.

 

 

Summary

 

Trying to create jobs for injured workers can be a difficult task.  But with an open mind and some creativity, get injured workers back to work.  Not only does this cut down on the workers’ comp expense but it also can complete some overdue tasks.  Put some thought into it, and ask others around the workplace for ideas.  Together you should be able to come up with a list of tasks that need to be done.  Every dollar saved on wage loss will count in the end.  Keep track of the cost of having these workers come back to light duty work, and weigh it against the cost of keeping them out of work, only returning at full duty.  You will be surprised at the cost savings of implementing a light duty work program.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the 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/

 

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

 

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

Why and How Good Job Descriptions Help Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs

digital job descriptionA good job description is like money in the pocket for workers’ compensation payers. The more specific the information is available, the better the chances of returning an injured employee to work that much sooner. A well written, appropriately available job description is invaluable for any organization that ever has an injured worker.

 

 

Job Descriptions

 

Surprisingly, many organizations have either poorly written or no job descriptions at all. The vast majority are vague and don’t provide nearly enough information on which to make decisions about whether an injured worker can physically handle a particular job. It is not uncommon to see a company with multiple locations have different job descriptions for the same jobs at each location.

 

Medical directors for third-party administrators cite the lack of adequate — or any — job descriptions as one of their major hurdles in getting injured workers back on the job.

 

Some job descriptions include the 5 strength categories outlined by the Department of Labor:

 

  1. Sedentary
  2. Light
  3. Medium
  4. Heavy
  5. Very heavy

 

This, at least, gives the treating physician an idea of how much weight and effort is needed to do the job. But it fails to take in many other factors that can be crucial to fitting an injured worker in the right position.

 

For example:

 

  • Does the job require the worker to bend, kneel, reach – and how high?
  • Are long periods of standing necessary?
  • Is driving a requirement?
  • Would climbing be important, such as climbing onto equipment?
  • Is pushing and/or pulling involved?
  • Are specific body parts more taxed than others, and to what degree?
  • What cognitive skills are needed?

 

The more detailed, accurate information provided in the job description, the easier it is for physicians to determine if an injured worker can handle the job and what, if any accommodations could enable him to return to work.

 

In addition, a good job description (profile) reduces the number of injuries at an employer by identifying injury risks and preventive ergonomic modifications.

 

 

Disability Duration

 

Getting injured workers back on the job in some capacity saves costs for the employer/payer, who no longer has to pay workers’ compensation benefits. But it also saves the employer/payer additional, though overlooked costs; that is, preventing an injury from becoming one of the small percentages of claims that consume the majority of costs.

 

Estimates are that somewhere between 5 – 10% of claims comprise 80% of workers’ compensation costs. While some of these involve catastrophic injuries, many are seemingly small claims that stay on the books for months or years, often involving multiple medical treatments and medications. That is the impact of disability duration on utilization.

 

Additionally, the longer a person is out of work and the more treatments/medications he receives, the more likely he is to continue in that vicious cycle. He develops a disability mindset and believes he truly needs whatever medical services are suggested.

 

Physicians cannot take all the blame for these claims. If employers/payers cannot provide accurate job descriptions that include specific job demands, and if they are unwilling to make accommodations, the doctor can only do what he is trained to do; help the injured worker resolve his injuries and pain.

 

In addition to providing accurate job descriptions, it is also incumbent on employers/payers to work with treating physicians to help them understand the benefits of returning an injured worker to some sort of work — for the injured worker as well as the employer/payer.

 

 

Get Help Creating Accurate and Comprehensive Job Descriptions

 

The creation of accurate and comprehensive job descriptions is often outside of an employer’s capability.  Technology is advancing in a way that makes the creation of this important information easy.

 

 

 

ODG, one the leading providers of evidence based medicine guidelines has recently incorporated a unique new product option, the ODG Job Profiler.

 

The ODG Job Profiler is an innovative software platform powered by MyAbilities™ which adds job demand data across every industry and occupation by providing a comprehensive database of physical, cognitive, and environmental demands specific to over 30,000 jobs spanning nearly every industry. This solution helps insurers, third-party administrators (TPAs), and employers identify and mitigate the risk of injury by creating a customized Physical Demands Analysis (PDA) for each job function, adjusting disability duration guidelines according to job demands.

 

This information is then packaged as an online digital job profile and becomes shareable to all stakeholders in a claim, streamlining the RTW process and allowing for automated job matching between the individual’s capabilities and available jobs.

 

 

Suggested Actions

 

Shortening up disability durations is key to reducing workers’ compensation costs. Organizations can achieve this by:

 

  1. Getting accurate, detailed job descriptions. Get help directly from an outside service provider, or work with a with a TPA or insurer that can provide access to better physical demands descriptions for various occupations, especially if the provider is using a national database.

 

  1. Taking videos of employees doing their jobs. This can become part of a job description. It can also be used to show the treating physician exactly what a job entails, which will help make more informed decisions about getting the worker back to the right work and seeing if accommodations would help.

 

  1. Partnering with the treating physician. The doctor treating the injured worker should be part of the caregiving team. The physician is a vital part of the RTW process since she has the authority to release the employee to work and the type of position he can do.

 

  1. Providing training to avoid reinjury. Based on the job demands and the worker’s condition, some training may help ensure the employee is doing tasks properly.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Helping injured workers recover and return to productivity should not be left to chance. By having a strategic plan of partnering with physicians, TPAs, insurers and others involved in a claim, and providing as much detailed information as possible — especially job descriptions — organizations can prevent routine claims from becoming expensive, long-lasting ventures.

 

 

 

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.

Don’t Make Two Mistakes In A Row in Workers’ Comp Return to Work

 

 

workers compensation return to work

An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. That’s Newton’s first law of motion. “Don’t make two mistakes in a row,” a quote by Beverly Buffini, from one of the podcasts I listen to called The Brian Buffini Show.

 

Hello, my name is Michael Stack. I’m the CEO of Amaxx and those two exact opposite statements and concepts are both vitally important for you to understand personally as the leader of your work comp program or as the educator of your clients, as well as for your injured employees themselves in the success of your program.

 

 

Newton’s Law of Motion in Workers’ Compensation

 

What I want to do today is break down those two concepts, what they are and how they work together to drive your program and yourself to greater success. Let’s first talk about this law of motion and kind of what it means. We all kind of know that, right? You’re kind of going in a certain direction and you just kind of keep going in that certain direction unless you don’t, unless you stop, unless there’s some reason for you to change course.

 

Same is very much true in work comp. Let’s take a look at these return to work rates and this comes from a Washington State L & I study published in the IAIABC return to work paper that they published several years ago. This is a probability that your injured worker is going to return to work ever, probability that they ever return to work at all. Here’s the numbers and you can see how dramatically they start to drop off, 92.8% probability they return to work in some capacity in their lifetime if they’re back to work in less than 12 weeks. Pretty high likelihood that they’re going to be back to work if they get back to work pretty quickly.

 

After 12 weeks, this drops off a cliff, 55.4% of people ever return to work if they haven’t been back to work in 12 weeks. Critical concepts to now start to understand. This ball is in motion, this ball is in motion, this ball is in motion, this ball is in motion, and then after 104 weeks, less than 5% chance they ever return to work at all if they’ve been out of work for that entire time. The ball is in motion. It’s an important thing to critically understand that if you don’t change it for some reason, intervene before here, get those numbers up here, your employee is going to be likely out of work forever, causing permanent and lasting damage to their entire life, as well as making that claim very expensive.

 

 

Don’t Make Two Mistakes In A Row

 

This other concept I heard on this podcast, The Brian Buffini Show. I’ve been following Brian Buffini for 15 plus years. Great lessons, great information as far as business success, personal success, living a balanced life. Check it out if you are interested in that type of thing. But listening to this concept when they’re talking about teaching volleyball. His wife Beverly was a Olympic volleyball player and they’re teaching their daughters about how to be successful in volleyball. This concept which resonated with me, resonated with my wife, is just don’t make two mistakes in a row. Everyone’s going to make mistakes, you’re going to miss the ball, you’re going to drop the ball in some capacity in our lifetimes, but if you don’t make two in a row, you now start to avoid this ball going downhill in all phases of your life, personally as well as your work comp program.

 

If you can understand those two concepts, that the ball is going to stay in motion and if you make a mistake, if something goes wrong, if things are starting to go off the tracks, they’re going to continue to go off the tracks unless you do something about it, unless you’re intentional about it, unless you’re aware that if you’re making that mistake, oh okay, let’s not make two in a row. Or you have a bad part of your day, let’s not have that continue and ruin my entire day or my entire week or my entire month or my entire year in this capacity.

 

Two important concepts to understand, that things are going to stay in motion and if they’re going positively you want that to continue. If you make that mistake, you need to intervene and get things going on the right track.

 

Again, my name is Michael Stack. I’m the CEO of Amaxx and remember your work today in workers’ compensation can make a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line, but it will make a dramatic impact on someone’s life. 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.

ACOEM 3-Part Return to Work Framework



ACOEM Whitepaper: Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed


Hey, there. Michael Stack here, CEO of Amaxx. One of the most fundamental goals in workers’ compensation is to return our injured employees to work and back to function. I want to draw your attention to a white paper written by ACOEM several years ago entitled Preventing Needless Work Disability. You could find a link to that white paper below. Within that paper, they talk about a three-part framework or a three-step framework to consider return to work on nearly every single workers’ comp claim. I want to walk you through what that framework is when you’re considering return to work for your injured employees.


ACOEM 3-Part Return to Work Framework


The first part is to assess where that current employee is. The next piece is compare. Then, the final piece is to create. So assess, compare, and create. Assess where they currently are. What are their current job restrictions? What restrictions do they get from the physician that say they could only lift 20 pounds or 50 pounds and they can bend this way or stretch this way X amount of times standing, whatever that happens to be? Where do they currently stand? Compare that what the job descriptions are, the physical demands of their actual jobs. You should have a very comprehensive library of what this means at your organization so you can compare one with two. It’s very, very simple when you actually break it down.


Simplicity of High-Level Understanding


Then, the final piece is to create that job. What are those action steps, then, to now put this into practice? Obviously, there’s a lot more depths to each one of these steps. But if you can understand the high level of what it is that we’re actually trying to accomplish, it can ultimately be fairly simple in your mind to now put this all together. So assess, compare, and create. Three steps in the return to work framework in ACOEM’s Preventing Needless Work Disability white paper, which I highly recommend downloading and checking out. It’s a great resource. Again, my name is Michael Stack, CEO of Amaxx. Remember, your work today on workers’ compensation can have a dramatic impact on your company bottom line. But it will have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. So be great.



Michael Stack - Amaxx

Author 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/

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under InternationalCopyright 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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