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.

If You Are Not Preventing Work-Related Injuries, You Are Causing Them

prevent work injuriesIn the world of safety, day to day, operations revolve around trying to prevent injuries. Proper lifting techniques, guarding on machines, and other safety measures are constantly being scrutinized to prevent work injuries from occurring. If you are working on preventing injuries, you are stopping them at the root cause.

 

 

“That Will Never Happen At My Company” Is The Wrong Thinking

 

What if you have no real safety program, or no loss control techniques? Well, to be blunt, you are just waiting for the next injury to occur. Why would any company want to wait around for the next injury to happen? Most employers think that the worst injuries will never occur at their plant because everyone uses their heads when working and everyone practices using proper safety when operating machinery. This is far from the truth.

 

The truth is, risk of injury is everywhere at every moment of the day. Each worker has the responsibility of operating safely. Unfortunately, this is not the way it works. Workers get caught in their routines, and their attention can get diverted away from what they are doing at the current time. This distraction can, and will, lead to injury.

 

Also to blame are poor training programs. If you have a lot of new hires, they may start off learning bad habits from their veteran employees that are training them.

 

But the new hires are not the only ones to blame. Veteran workers can also become injured because they pay less attention to their work routines. They think because they have worked there a long time and know the machinery that they can get away with more. Examples such as removing machine guarding, improperly using machines, or not wearing safety equipment are usually to blame. These are easy corrections to a widespread problem.

 

So if this is the case, who is policing the veterans to make sure they are performing the jobs the proper way? Are the supervisors on the floor enforcing safety each day? Are there disciplinary measures in force for those that break the rules? If so, are these measures always enforced or is it just some of the time? Does your supervisory program ever have any type of audit or follow-up to make sure management is actually supervising their workers or are they just babysitting them and turning the other way to keep production levels where they want them to be?

 

 

Worker Accountability is Key To Safety Success

 

Slip and fall injuries are very common. Who is in charge of making sure the carpets are in good shape? Who is in charge of making sure any fatigue mats in front of machines are free from wear and tear? Are workers falling in areas that they should not be in the first place? Why are they allowed in these areas? Who is in charge of being responsible for these areas? If your answer is that you do not know, then you have a problem.

 

Are any management personnel soliciting feedback from the employees that are working these jobs each day for hours and hours, week after week? What are their thoughts on how you can perform each job in a safer manner? One of your best resources for safety is your employees. Sure can be great to bring in an outside expert to review each job and comment on how they could be performed better and in a safer manner. However, if you are not soliciting feedback from your staff, then you are missing out on a great opportunity for safety ideas.

 

Worker accountability is key. Each worker has a duty to perform. Each supervisor has a duty to supervise and enforce rules. Each safety person appointed to that position has a duty to review tasks and implement safety measures. Why has accountability been pushed to the side?

 

 

 

Consider Indirect Cost of Workers Comp When Evaluating Bottom Line

 

In my experience, worker accountability, responsibility, and safety are often pushed aside due to production demands. The focus is on the bottom line, and on quality, rather than on safety. Everyone turns a blind eye to hidden indirect costs of injuries. If you have a few injured workers, other workers must pick up their slack. This hurts their production and the production of the work floor as a whole. More corners then get cut to keep up with production demands.

 

It is the classic iceberg effect. Executives see work comp claim costs only at the surface. They see the medical and wage loss expenses as the only “expense” of a work comp claim. The indirect costs hidden under the surface are so much worse. Decreased production, increased strain on remaining workforce, decreased morale, increased hazards, increased shortcuts, decreased quality, etc. All of these have a larger cost to the company as a whole rather than just medical and wage loss expense.

 

When you are thinking about your safety program and accountability, think of the hidden costs beneath the surface. A proper guard on a machine could cost $10,000, but what are the costs to someone being injured because the guard is not there? Chances are, that cost is going to be 10x more expensive.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

Just Culture – Making Mistakes In A Learning Culture

medcor learning cultureWe all make mistakes. Human error is a part of life. In many everyday situations, each of us makes errors, and most of the time, these errors bear no significant consequences for our lives or the lives of others. You mistake your brown shoes for the black ones and end up looking mismatched for the rest of the day. Likely, you’ll recover from your inadvertent fashion faux pas. But if you’re a healthcare provider, and you mistake one medication for another, the consequences could be much more serious.

 

Historically, the healthcare field has been marked by a punitive mindset, such that all mistakes, even those that bore no ill consequences, were reprimanded. This punitive attitude, which initially developed from the desire of healthcare organization to safeguard themselves against all potential damages, eventually grew into an atmosphere that deterred even minor mistakes from being reported out of fear of punishment.  This kind of atmosphere stifles constructive learning and tends to make providers feel unsupported by the healthcare systems in which then work.

 

 

Mistakes Can Grow Knowledge In Learning Culture

 

A healthcare learning culture is the opposite. A healthcare learning culture takes everyday occurrences, even mistakes, and uses them so that both organizations and providers can grow in knowledge, performance, and competence.  A learning culture engenders a just culture, and a just culture fortifies a learning culture.  Just culture seeks to create and reinforce a learning culture by providing a framework for managing mistakes and actions.  Just culture acknowledges that all people, including system designers, make mistakes.

 

So, for the healthcare provider who mistook one medication for another, a just culture promotes an environment where the provider who made the error should not fear to come forward.  A just culture investigates to see if the error was part of a system failure such that any provider in a similar situation would have made the same mistake.

 

A just culture, then, differentiates among unintentional human errors, system errors, mistakes made because of poor decision making, mistakes made because of disregard for procedures, and deliberate actions intended to be harmful. This differentiation helps determine the level of accountability and allows for a response on the part of the organization that is fitting and fair for the mistake maker.

 

 

Shift Focus to Management of Behavioral Choices

 

Just culture is founded in the belief that all stakeholders -from healthcare providers to business leaders- are responsible for the quality and safety of services. It demands that providers adhere thoughtfully and safely to clinical standards; furthermore, it expects that even minor errors are reported so that broader learning needs and system failures can be identified. In a just culture, errors become opportunities for the organization and all its providers, not just those who make mistakes, to learn and improve, which greatly reduces the chance that an error will be repeated.

 

Just culture shifts the focus of quality improvement from punishment and faultfinding to the management of behavioral choices in the context of the systems in which providers work.  Medcor has found that embracing a learning culture and a just culture increases providers job satisfaction and adds significant value to our quality improvement processes.  Just culture treats our advocates with fairness and respect and makes our leadership consider how we can improve our systems to promote the best outcomes for our employees, patients, and clients.

 

 

 

Author Dr. Sharon Moise, Chief Medical Officer, Medcor. Dr. Moise joined Medcor in 2015. Sharon is board-certified in emergency medicine and has extensive experience in occupational health, urgent care, clinical education, and clinical quality. Sharon provides broad clinical oversight for Medcor’s Worksite Clinics, Injury Triage Service, and supports all Medcor’s lines of business. In addition to involvement in many of Medcor’s projects and initiatives, Sharon is passionate about clinical quality and chairs Medcor’s Clinical Quality committee.

 

Weeding Out The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Medical MarijuanaMarijuana is illegal under federal law. But workers’ compensation stakeholders who think that gives them license to ignore the issue are making a huge mistake, according to experts.

 

The cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds and shows no signs of slowing. Most states now allow the drug in some form. Judges are increasingly siding with injured workers who want to be reimbursed for the drug.

 

Employers, especially those who do business in multiple states, need to know how to ensure a safe workplace, be fair to all employees and protect themselves from litigation. Staying abreast of the latest developments is key.

 

 

Some Basics

 

Terminology. Keeping up with the lingo can be exhausting, but payers who do have an edge when it comes to addressing the issue. Some important terms include:

 

  • THC: A cannabinoid that produces the ‘high’ that users experience
  • CBD: A molecule touted as having potential medical benefits without the psychoactive properties of THC.
  • Hemp: A strain derived from the species cannabis sativa, as is marijuana, but with lower concentrations of THC and more CBD. The Agricultural Improvement Act signed into law recently removed hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances and made it an ordinary agricultural commodity. CBD derived from hemp has recently become widely available.
  • Strains: There are hundreds of combinations, mainly from three strains:
  1. Indica — produces a more relaxing effect
  2. Sativa — is more energizing
  3. Ruderalis — has low levels of both THC and CBD.
  • Budtender: The person at a ‘dispensary’ who gives advice about which varieties may be more helpful to the user

 

 

Physical Effects

 

Whether and to what extent marijuana helps with various physical or mental conditions is a matter of debate, since the federal prohibition of the drug stymies research on it. But there is some evidence it may help alleviate chronic and neuropathic pain, cancer pain, and spasticity. Some people claim it can also help with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression or acute pain. There are conflicting studies about whether marijuana can serve as a viable substitute for opioids, but the most recent study suggests it does not.

 

High doses of marijuana, especially when it’s ingested as an edible, can have serious repercussions. Some users have gone to emergency rooms believing they are having a heart attack. In addition to the potentially positive impacts, the drug can also cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including:

 

  • Rapid, irregular heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Lung irritation
  • Coughing, wheezing
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Various exacerbations of serious psychiatric conditions such as depressions, bipolar illness, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

 

 

Problems for Employers, Payers

 

Drug testing to identify marijuana users high on the job may be counterproductive. Since the drug stays in the body long after its effects have worn off, the tests can’t really determine if a person is impaired. Workers in safety-sensitive jobs are another story, as they are prohibited from performing their jobs if there is any sign of drug use identified.

 

However, for other workers, employers may notice certain signs that could indicate an employee is under the effects of marijuana:

 

  • Slowed responses and reflexes
  • Lethargy, drowsiness
  • Slowed perception of time; appearing in an almost dreamlike state
  • Unfocused
  • Impaired memory function
  • Red eyes or dilated pupils

 

Employers who suspect their workers of being high on the job must be careful about how they respond. Unless they have clear-cut policies that allow for drug testing when they suspect impairment, organizations can be accused of discriminating against certain employees. Working with an attorney and developing a solid policy that is communicated to all employees is imperative.

 

Another major concern for payers concerns the logistics for reimbursement. It’s not like other, FDA-approved drugs, where a physician prescribes a certain dose, number of pills per day and timeframe for use. Physicians in medical marijuana states can only recommend using the drug. It’s then up to the user, working with the budtender, to determine what might help.

 

The many different strains mean one purchase may be different from another. There are many inconsistencies in terms of the quality and purity as well as labeling — within states and even within communities.

 

However, as the pharmaceutical companies begin to derive purer and more targeted compounds from marijuana, we will likely see more employees using prescribed, rather than marijuana dispensary, formats which will reduce the rationale for using the latter, and will provide safer, efficacious and accurately dosed drugs.

 

The best advice from experts is to work closely with all stakeholders involved, including the injured worker. Working with the physician, for example, might persuade her to prescribe a treatment or medication other than marijuana. At the very least, it could help determine how much and for how long the drug will be used. Having more and better communication with the injured worker can provide insight into whether and why he believes marijuana is the best option and help determine the anticipated expense.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The issue of medical marijuana is not an easy one for workers’ compensation stakeholders right now, but it should not be ignored. Regardless of personal feelings about the issue, organizations are increasingly being forced to deal with it. Those who understand their states’ laws and the various nuances involved, and work with other stakeholders will be best prepared when it arises.

 

 

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.

Common Mistakes That Get Employers In Trouble on Questionable Claims

Common Mistakes in Workers CompEvery self-insured employer has to contend with the occasional workers’ compensation claim the employer feels is of questionable validity.  The urge is often to ‘fight fire with fire.’  However great the urge is to give the employee ‘a taste of his own medicine,’ the employer must hold itself above taking the low road taken by the employee.  Just as there are laws in every state against insurance fraud, there are also laws in every state that have names such as “unfair claim settlement practices.”

 

Unfair claim practices are any action taken by the self-insured employer that is unfair, discriminatory, deceptive, or misrepresent the facts.  Any inappropriate conduct by the self-insured employer can land the employer in legal trouble.  Also, if a particularly unfair practice is shown to occur with any frequency, the insurance regulatory authority will review their approval of your self-insurance status.

 

 

Common Mistakes That Get Employers In Trouble

 

While there is a wide array of inappropriate actions a self-insured employer can get into trouble for, we will discuss only the most common mistakes an employer might make that would be classified as an unfair claims practice.

 

  • Delaying the processing of a claim – the self-insured employer cannot refuse to process the Employer’s First Report of Injury form or delay sending the required forms to the employee or the required forms to the state agency that oversees workers’ compensation.

 

  • Delaying the necessary investigation of the claim – most states require the claims office to accept or deny the claim within a specific period of time.  If the claim is not accepted or denied timely, in most states the lack of a timely decision is acceptance of the claim.  Worst yet, if the employer does not investigate the claim within the frame specified by the state, the employee’s version of the claim facts is accepted without any rebuttal by the employer.

 

  • Misrepresentation of coverage – the self-insured employer is handling its own claims must provide the employee making an injury claim full information on available medical care and indemnity benefits, if indemnity benefits apply.  For example:  you cannot tell the employee there is a 30 day waiting period for indemnity benefits.  Or, you cannot tell the employee that required medical services are not covered.

 

  • Withholding payment of benefits – the self-insured employer who has accepted a claim, or has received an adverse ruling on a claim, cannot withhold payment of temporary total disability benefits or the payment of medical bills to coerce a quick settlement with the employee.

 

  • Needless duplications – the self-insured employer cannot bombard the injured employee with extra or duplicate claim forms, or have the employee repeat medical procedures that were completed properly.

 

  • Withholding an equitable settlement – if the workers’ compensation regulatory authority has ruled that workers’ compensation coverage must be provided, the employer cannot refuse to make a good faith effort to reach a prompt and fair settlement of the claim, regardless of how the employer views the validity of the claim.

 

  • Appealing all awards – the self-insured employer cannot make it a standard business practice to appeal all awards of workers’ compensation coverage in an effort to compel employees to settle for less than they would otherwise be entitled to.

 

  • Putting forth an unreasonable settlement offer – the employer cannot offer to settle a workers’ compensation claim for permanent partial disability or permanent total disability for less than the requirements of the state statutes.  The settlement offer must be based on the requirements of the law.

 

 

 

Unfair Claims Practices Acts Designed to Protect Employer & Employee

 

The unfair claims practices acts are not designed to compel a self-insured employer to pay fraudulent workers’ compensation claims.  The unfair claims practices act statutes are structured to compel the self-insured employer to investigate thoroughly all claims. These statutes mandate the employer to either accept an employee’s work comp claim or to provide the reasons and the documentation as to why the work comp claim is not owed.

 

When the self-insured employer is confronted with the questionable claim, the employer should investigate the claim completely gathering all information from the employee, the co-workers, witnesses, medical providers, past employers, past medical providers, state agencies, the Insurance Services Office, and all other sources.  A decision on the claim should be made timely, and the decision should be conveyed to the employee and the state agency.

 

By acting in an unbiased and factual manner, the self-insured employer will avoid any violation of the unfair claim settlement practices acts.

 

 

 

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.

Improve Workplace Safety with Communication Systems

Improve Workplace Safety with Communication SystemsMany employers are concerned about workplace safety, but fail when it comes to communicating the message in an effective manner.  Due to the inability to communicate this important message, many accidents an injury occur every year.  Now is the time to re-examine how safety is communicated in your workplace and implement these steps.

 

 

It All Starts with Communication

 

An effective safety program requires two-way communication between the employer and employees.  This requires the following:

 

  1. Information needs to be shared with employees and feedback from employees on workplace safety hazards.

 

  1. All communication should be multilingual, if appropriate.  This ensures that all employees receive the message in a language that is familiar to them. Suggested formats for effective multilingual communication should occur at all employee safety meetings (all shifts) and include messages about safety via posters, newsletters, and videos.

 

It is important to engage employees by having a “safety suggestion box,” where employees can report unsafe conditions, and help improve workplace conditions.  Even anonymous suggestions should be taken seriously.

 

 

Conduct a Thorough Workplace Assessment

 

A review of safety in the workplace needs to be ongoing and continual.  When conducting an initial workplace safety audit, it is important to review the entire workplace and understand current trends.  It must involve managers and their employees who are called upon to analyze all worksite conditions to identify, and eliminate existing or potential hazards.  In some instances, employers may be required to have a safety committee.  The committee should be chaired by someone who can effectuate change and is comfortable speaking to people in all levels of an organization.

 

A proper workplace safety assessment should evaluate the following issues:

 

  • Review and understand the workplace for safety and health regulations;

 

  • Recognize safe work practices, physical hazards, and use of any hazardous materials with the workplace. Ensure these safety issues are clearly identified and correct postings from OSHA are displayed; and

 

 

The process also needs to be ongoing.  This should include a monthly review of all safety features within the workplace.  Be sure to make sure facility ingress and egress are clearly marked, first-aid kits are properly stocked, and fire extinguishers are properly maintained.

 

 

Hazard Correction/Safety Work Order Tracking System

 

It is important to have a process in place to track safety issues and document corrective action.  This is an easy process to implement if used correctly and completely.

 

  1. Involve employees in this process – their knowledge of the jobs and tasks will ensure a quality assessment and will help get “buy-in.”  Plant maintenance employees are a great source for recognizing hazards.

 

  1. IMMEDIATELY correct hazards that are found.  Do not wait for the audit to be done. Develop corrective actions plans whenever needed.

 

  1. Develop a system for employees to report hazards.

 

  1. Review loss history to look for trends. “Near misses,” in which an accident did not occur, but could have, can give a good indication of inadequate hazard control.

 

  1. Let employees help develop ideas on how to control and eliminate hazards in their surroundings.

 

  1. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), when needed, and train employees on how to use it.  Consult OSHA regulations for specific requirements. In some instances, OSHA representative can assist in training employees and ensure compliance.

 

  1. Safety audits should be supplemented with safety inspections.  Inspections can be informal or formal, using a checklist.  Continuous inspections are performed by employees or supervisors as part of their daily routine.  Planned inspections take place periodically (weekly, monthly, or semi-annually) and are usually limited in scope, or specific to a site.  Intermittent inspections take place on an irregular basis and are usually not scheduled.

 

 

Conclusions

 

An effective workers’ compensation program starts with injury prevention and safety.  Interested stakeholders need to be mindful of these issues and communicate safety messages to all employees in an effective manner.  Safety should also include the involvement of all employees and a commitment to constant review and maintenance.

 

 

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.

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.

 

Get Employees’ Heads Out of the Clouds While Driving

distracted drivingRoadway accidents have been the leading cause of workplace fatalities for the past 5 years. Distracted driving is one of the top reasons for roadway fatalities, after alcohol and speeding.

 

Research suggests that drivers only see about half of all the information in their driving environment when they are using a phone — whether it is handheld or hands-free. These drivers have a 17-percent higher risk of having an accident or near-miss on the road. Texting presents even more of a risk to drivers, making them 5 times more likely to have an accident or near-miss.

 

Sadly, while most people believe cellphone use increases the risk of accidents, most of us also don’t believe we are creating a risk by using a phone ourselves while driving — it’s the other drivers. But with education and strong policies that are strictly enforced, employers can prevent distracted driving-related accidents among their workers.

 

 

The Problem

 

Three types of distractions reduce a person’s driving ability:

 

  1. Visual — anything that takes the person’s eyes off the road
  2. Manual — anything that takes the driver’s hands off the wheel
  3. Cognitive — anything that takes the driver’s focus off driving

 

Cellphone use can include all three, especially handheld use. Educating employees on the dangers of cellphone use while driving can be effective.

 

A study of healthcare workers in Arizona resulted in a 50-percent decrease in distracted driving after an education and intervention program. It was explained to the workers, for example, that using a cellphone while driving is equivalent to driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 — the legal limit for intoxication. Also, the average five seconds a driver’s eyes are diverted while texting and driving at 55 miles an hour is akin to traveling the distance of a football field while blindfolded.

 

Posters were placed throughout the facility where the employees worked, along with information brochures about distracted driving. More than half the workers later admitted they drove distracted but said they had changed their habits after the educational program. Six months later, more than half had still reduced or eliminated cellphone use while driving.

 

 

Policy Elements

 

In addition to giving employees the facts about distracted driving, organizations that implement strict policies have seen significant reductions in at-fault collisions.

 

The policy needs to be clearly written and communicated and appropriate for the company. Each employer’s policy may be slightly different from that of other organizations.

 

The policy does not need to be lengthy; one page is sufficient. It can start with a statement explaining why the company is implementing the policy. For example, it seeks to protect its workers and eliminate unnecessary driving risks, comply with all state and federal motor vehicle laws, reduce operational and financial risks, and strengthen the reputation of the company.

 

It should explain who and what it covers, including:

 

  • All employees
  • Company-provided cellphones, and other electronic devices that may be used while driving
  • Company-owned vehicles
  • Personal vehicles when used on company business
  • Work-related communications, whether in a company or personal vehicle and company or personal device

 

Restrictions can include the use of handheld or hands-free phones, computers, GPS tools or other electronic devices while the person is operating the vehicle — including while the vehicle is at a traffic light or stop sign. It should specify that the restriction on electronic devices includes answering or making calls, and reading or responding to emails, texts, tweets, or instant messages. The exception would be only when the car is parked in a safe location.

 

It may also state that phones must be turned off or silenced before starting the car. Employees should inform business colleagues, associates, and clients of the policy to explain why calls are not immediately answered or returned. They might be required to activate an automatic answering message that explains they are driving and not available.

 

The policy should conclude with the effective date and a required signature of the employee to acknowledge he has read and understands it.

 

Once the policy has been implemented, it should be reviewed often to make sure it addresses any new hazards or technologies.

 

 

Enforce the Policy

 

The policy should state that failure to comply will result in specific penalties. For example, it may say the person will initially be given two warning, while a third violation would be grounds for termination.

 

An effective method to ensure compliance with the policy is through cellphone blocking technology. This is available from many wireless services and companies that provide these apps. Basic systems can prevent calls or texts while a vehicle is in motion. Some systems can additionally block audio features and track a driver’s speed and other actions, such as sudden stops. Some also send information about the employee’s driving to employers.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Distracted driving is both deadly and preventable. A well-written, simple policy that restricts employees from using electronic devices while driving can go a long way to preventing roadway tragedies.

 

 

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.

The Problem with Wellness Programs and 11 Ways to Make them Work

Wellness Programs in Workers CompContent for this article was derived from a webinar presented through Risk & Insurance by

 

  • Marcos Iglesias, Chief Medical Officer, Senior Vice President, Broadspire;
  • Monica Manske Sr. Manager of Workers’ Compensation and Employee Safety, Rochester Regional Health.

 

Access the On-Demand Webinar here

 

 

Over the past few years we have heard it claimed that wellness programs can generate a 3 – 1 return on investment for employers. But many organizations that implement them become frustrated by the lack of significant – if any – benefits and may feel their money has been wasted.

 

Wellness programs are not a panacea. Some elements of typical wellness programs are questionable or even harmful, from a medical standpoint. Faced with high healthcare and workers’ compensation costs, organizations are seeking ways to help their employees and improve their bottom lines. Experts say with proper design, effort, time, and realistic expectations, employers can see positive impacts from wellness programs.

 

 

The Facts

 

The overall health of the average America is not ideal; “deplorable,” is how some would describe it. Chronic health conditions, which comprise 7 of the top 10 causes of death, are common, deadly and disabling – yet preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says if we eliminated poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, and use of tobacco products, we could eliminate 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and 40 percent of all cancers. Improving the health and wellbeing of the employee population is far beyond the abilities of any single employer and will require massive changes in society.

 

But employers can take steps to help their employees make incremental improvements in their overall health and wellbeing. More than half of small employers and the vast majority of large employers are trying.

 

The problem comes when companies that undertake these efforts see no gain. One year into the program, it’s not unusual for companies to see no improvement in health outcomes or productivity and no difference in the number of sick days employees take.

 

One recent study showed the only difference after 12 months was that employees who were included in the program were overall happier than others. There were no measurable health changes, however. Another recent well-publicized study of employees at BJ’s Wholesale Warehouse found no reductions in healthcare costs and no difference in clinical measures after 18 months.

 

Dr. Marcos Iglesias, the chief medical officer for Broadspire, said some wellness programs include recommendations that don’t follow evidence-based medical guidelines. One he cited from the Midwest encouraged all employees to undergo a colonoscopy, which is not medically recommended for everyone, is expensive and unpleasant. Another suggested self-breast exams and testicular exams, which he said are also not advised or recommended for everyone. Iglesias said the frequency of preventive screenings in most wellness programs on the market do not follow medical evidence, and in some cases may do more harm than good.

 

Weight management programs, while well-intentioned, frequently advocate crash-dieting principles. Also, they may cause emotional harm by constantly reinforcing the message that the employee needs to lose weight or stop smoking.

 

The penalties for non-participation in the program or failing to meet certain clinical measures may be seen as coercive or punitive, especially for workers who cannot participate – the disabled and single parents, for example. According to Iglesias, employees who do not participate in wellness programs forfeit an average $670 per year.

 

 

How to Impact Employee Health

 

All this begs the question, what can employers do to impact the health and wellbeing of their employees?

 

The first step is to understand what a wellness program is and what elements to include, based on the organization. There are myriad definitions of what actually constitutes a ‘wellness program.’ Generally, it is a benefit to employees that focuses on lifestyle and prevention to help employees improve their health and/or stay healthy. It may include a variety of elements such as fitness activities, smoking cessation and weight loss programs, health assessments, disease management, nutritional guidance, and lunch and learn educational sessions, for example.

 

No two wellness programs are necessarily alike and the most effective ones evolve with changes in the organization. The webinar outlined a series of ‘musts’ in designing or improving wellness programs that can make a difference for organizations.

 

  1. Seek input from inside and outside the organization.
    1. Unless an organization is comprised of wellness experts, it can benefit from consultants who are brought in to provide input.
    2. A wellness program should be a benefit to all employees – not just those who are already-fit and healthy. Their needs and desires may be different. Creating a cross-functional team comprised of various employees can serve as a guide to the elements that should be included. Surveys can also be used to identify their needs and satisfaction levels, once the program has been implemented.
  2. Clearly define the goals of the program.
  3. Explore and determine the amount needed to be budgeted and human resource commitment.
  4. Find the right space.
    1. If onsite fitness will be included, an area needs to be designated.
    2. Additionally, there should be an area for educational services and preventive programs. It should be welcoming and attractive to employees and their families.
  5. Show compassion, care, and foresight for employees in the design and approach of the program. Consider the specific needs of all employees, including those with outside obligations that may prevent them from participating in after-hours programs.
  6. Continuously evaluate the program. Again, seek engagement of a cross-section of employees to determine how effective the program is.
  7. Make it a carrot, not a stick. Center the program on employees. Offer a variety of activities that meet their needs. That may involve expanded hours for certain programs, or allowing workers to use work hours to participate.
  8. Have realistic expectations. Acknowledge that it may not be able to move the needle toward optimal health and wellbeing for all employees, but that some improvement is a benefit to workers and the organization and that it will take time.

 

For existing programs that appear to be ineffective,

 

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis. Collaborate with a cross-sectional team of employees to determine what is and is not working, and if any new needs have evolved; what, if any external forces are impacting the program.
  2. Identify what to measure. Looking to workers’ compensation costs to determine the program’s effectiveness may not make sense because of its long tail.
  3. Determine if there is the appropriate amount of HR support for the program, since these are often add-ons and, therefore, not administered by a designated person.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The idea of a wellness program should not be to create wellness superstars but to impact workers’ overall health. Organizations that carefully consider the needs and desires of their workforces spend time properly developing the program, and continuously evaluate and tweak it may see some benefits to their workers and bottom lines.

 

Author:

 

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/

 

Contributor:

 

Dr. Marco IiglesiasDr. Marcos Iglesias is senior vice president and chief medical officer of Crawford & Company’s global TPA, Broadspire. He has more than 25 years of experience in workers compensation, disability evaluation and treatment, and insurance leadership. In addition to being a physician, executive, national speaker and author, Iglesias is known for his compassion for patients, progressive and inspirational leadership, and integrated approach to injured worker care. Iglesias has a special interest in the prevention and mitigation of delayed recovery and disability. He is driven to help ill and injured workers live active, productive and fulfilling lives, which has led him to develop innovative, comprehensive disability management solutions that focus on returning workers to pre-injury function.

 

 

Monica ManskeMonica Manske, Sr. Manager of Workers’ Compensation & Employee Safety; Rochester Regional Health. Rochester Regional Health is the leading provider of comprehensive care for Western New York and the Finger Lakes region. From harnessing research and technology, to helping patients redefine the odds—we are leading the evolution of healthcare. It’s a commitment to health that exceeds expectations, reaching beyond the present into what’s next. Formed in 2014 with the joining of Rochester General and Unity Health systems, now, as one organization, Rochester Regional Health brings to its mission a broad spectrum of resources, an ability to advocate for better care, a commitment to innovation and an abiding dedication to caring for the community.

 

 

 

©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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