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Benefits of Early Return to Work Programs

Workers compensation is a valuable benefit for society’s working men and women; however, few consider the potential non-physical repercussions of an employee put on temporary disability leave. The psychological impact of becoming a “disabled” employee is profound, even if temporary. There is even the possibility of a strained relationship between the employee and employer to consider, and also the related financial consequences for both parties. These strains can easily be avoided.

Managing employees’ quick and safe return when appropriate is in the best interest of both employees and the employer because:

  • For the most common claims, the workers compensation system tends to prolong disability and increase costs.
  • Injured employees who are out of work for a period of time longer than six months have only a 50 percent chance of ever returning to their job; for those who spend more than a year away from work, the rate of return drops below 10 percent.
  • Managing the transition back to work for the injured employee is the humane answer to a key failure of the workers compensation system.

Successful companies learn to control their health and disability costs with tools that restore autonomy to the injured employee and provide accountability measures for everyone. Getting your injured employees “off the couch” and teaching them how to take charge of their treatment plan should be a top priority. One of these sophisticated tools is the early Return-to-Work program administered by Proof Positive Consulting. After being initiated in 2004 during what many considered a “work comp crisis”, one of our client facilities was able to reduce their injury rates significantly in a very short period of time….even going 4 years without an OSHA Recordable claim and since maintaining the “goal” of acceptable standards.  It truly has been a Team effort at this California-based manufacturing facility, paired with an effective management team, corporate oversight and support, and a workforce that was willing to make changes, the Health and Wellness Room Program has helped them increase health & safety awareness both in the workplace and at home…..and maybe even contributing to a change in the attitudes and culture of their workforce as well.

The “Health and Wellness Room” Program has proven to:

  • Enhance the physical and psychological recovery process for the injured worker.
  • Reduce medical, disability, and lost time costs.
  • Reduce indirect accident costs.
  • Increase awareness of ergonomic risks and help to eliminate them.
  • Minimize the chance of re-injury with “post-injury” monitoring.
  • Encourage cooperation between employees and management.
  • Play a crucial role in the establishment of a more stable workforce.
  • Provide a trusted “outlet” for employees to seek guidance.
  • Enhance the injured employee’s sense of confidence and well-being.
  • Reduce OSHA Recordable claims.

6 Easy Steps to becoming an Industrial Athlete

Start Your Day Off Right: Warm up your muscles with stretching and simple exercises. This activity followed by breakfast is a great way to “prepare” for your day. And whatever you do, don’t skip your breakfast. Breakfast skippers tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal or nibble on high-calorie snacks to stave off hunger. Studies suggest that people tend to accumulate more body fat when they eat fewer, larger meals than when they eat the same number of calories in smaller, more frequent meals. It is as easy as grabbing a banana, handful of nuts, and a bottled water to get your day going in the right direction.

Get Plenty of Sleep: Not getting enough rest can have serious effects on your body, brain, and immune system. There are many side effects associated with lack of sleep, some seem trivial and not that serious, but they can progress and be dangerous for your health and also the well-being of others. Seven to eight hours is the current recommended amount of sleep for adults. It is worth noting that all bodies are different, so it may be that you need six or even nine hours; Children and teenagers need more sleep, usually between eight and twelve hours, depending on their ages. Their bodies are still developing and sleep is needed to help this development be as full as possible. Most of us know how much sleep we need to be refreshed the next day. The challenge is to make sure we get it.

Pay Attention to Your Nutrition: It is very important to eat a well balanced diet. Eating several smaller meals a day will boost your metabolism and provide you with energy more efficiently than eating all of your calories at one time. Meals should be balanced with several food types and colorful (fruits and vegetables providing the color). Skipping meals is also a bad idea and can lead to a slower metabolism because your body is going to want to store calories, instead of using them. This can even lead to weight gain and a decrease in energy levels. The Food Guide Pyramid suggests the idea that adults are recommended to eat 6 to 11 servings associated with whole grains, 3 to 5 helpings of fresh vegetables, 3 to 5 servings of fruit, 2 to 3 or more servings of milk and 2 to 3 helpings of meat on a daily basis. However, due to the complexity of these recommendations, the USDA recently announced the new recommendations using the “Food Guide Plate”. These recommendations can be viewed at http://www.choosemyplate.gov

Avoid Excessive Alcohol and Caffeine: Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics (meaning it increases urination and flushes water from the body). This can cause minor to major dehydration, depending on the amount of intake, medications taken, other medical conditions, or prior fluid consumption. Alcohol also contains many toxins that require more water to help flush them out and reduces our store of vitamins and minerals.
Dehydration caused by drinking excessive alcohol and caffeine drains potassium from the body, resulting in thirst, muscle cramps, dizziness and faintness. Alcohol dehydration also leads to the body turning off its anti-dehydration processes in body, which is a basic, vital function of our bodies. It is best, if at all, to drink only moderate amounts of alcohol and to use the one drink per one glass rule. In other words, for every drink of alcohol you have, you will need one glass of water to replace what is lost. Some medical experts also recommend taking a multi-vitamin and mineral replacements after a night of binge drinking.

Use Proper Ergonomics Everywhere: Ergonomics in the home is just as important as it is at work. Considering that we spend a lot of time at work, it’s true that ergonomic safety is a top priority. But when was the last time you considered your ergonomic health where you spend the other major portion of your daily life, at home? It may come as a surprise to you, but many ailments spurred by the neglect of ergonomics are fostered in the home. Take a look at these areas at home and see if you can make any ergonomic improvements.

Ergonomics in the Kitchen: Most of us cook at least one meal per day at home. In preparing and consuming our foods, there may be risks we are not identifying. There are now designs of common kitchen tools that try to eliminate excessive strains to the body. Try incorporating some of these products to make your kitchen experience a healthier one.

Ergonomics in the Garden: This area can be a place to retreat, relax, and even rejuvenate from a long day at work. What exists as a relaxation hobby for most can actually be an activity which puts incredible strain on our body. It generally involves bending over or kneeling for long periods of time and using tools which, can put excessive pressure on the hands and wrists. It is generally inadvisable to bend over for long periods of time in any situation. If possible, wear kneepads and try kneeling to do work at lower levels. Regardless of whether you bend or kneel, remember to take breaks and alternate tasks. Second, as in the kitchen, there are tool alternatives which alleviate pressure points while gardening. Search out tools such as spades and pruners that have have “natural” or “pistol” grips and feel comfortable when grasping them. This will insure gardening is not contributing to an unforeseen ergonomic issue.

Ergonomics in the Family Room: It is important to be comfortable and able to relax in your home. Unfortunately however, what “feels good” when relaxing might not always be the safest option. Many couches and chairs, for example, promote incorrect sitting positions which, when assumed for extended periods of time, can cause injury. And just like at work, it is important to make sure your sitting furniture provides the type of support your back needs. And remember, your favorite recliner is not a bed, falling asleep in it repetitively can have severe effects to your neck and back health.

Ergonomics in the Bedroom: In order to get the best night’s sleep possible, it is imperative to have a bedroom that keeps ergonomics in mind. The focus, primarily, should be on the bed itself and how you are lying in it. Be sure to choose a mattress that is comfortable and has enough support to provide you with spinal stability. Be sure your pillow offers good support and keeps your neck in proper alignment. Sleep on your back if possible or your side with your arms away from your body. Remember waterbeds? Sure, they were comfortable, but had no spinal stability. In addition to an ergonomically designed mattress, you should consider other ways to optimize your sleep position such as an ergonomic pillow or a leg spacer or pillow between your legs to maintain normal spinal alignment throughout the night. In doing so, you will reduce chances of injuries while you sleep and the “tossing and turning” effect, making sure you wake up as refreshed as possible. The American focus on ergonomics may have begun in the workplace, but it ought not to stop there.

Take charge of your Health and Fitness Plan: If you have an injury or illness, certainly, you should consult your doctor and find out what solutions and recommendations you should follow. However, that is not where you “shift” responsibility to your doctor for your well-being. The best patient advocate is you. Prior to your appointment, be sure to make a list of your symptoms and any questions that you want answered. Following the appointment, learn about your diagnosis, the types of treatment, and what you can do to insure the best outcome. The best patient is an educated one!

Keys to a Successful Health and Wellness Room and Educational Light Duty Programs

While it is still work, Health and Wellness Room programs gives all your Injured Employees a Safe Place to recover from their work-related injury without compromising the treatment plan, wrongly motivating other employees, or skyrocketing your severity rates. It also allows for you to utilize the Health and Wellness Room Coordinator for other tasks that will help improve your safety performance, like, safety and equipment training, first aid, health and fitness training, etc. Five keys to implementation of a successful program include:

Management Connection: It is crucial for the Management Team to support the objectives of the Health and Wellness Room Program. Managers should help relay the importance of the Return-to-Work and Injury Prevention Program to the workforce. Also, communicate the need to control costs by providing employees with a safe and effective means for Light Duty. Educate your management team on the decisions that led you to form a Health and Wellness Room and the need for them to provide full support when requested.

Medical Management: Make sure the medical providers also share the same goals as set forth in your injury prevention program. Often, physicians are unaware of the high expense and loss of productivity that can occur from malingering claims and lengthy treatment plans…or they don’t care.

Claims Management: Insist that your claims adjusters establish an open line of communication with the Health and Wellness Room Coordinator. Often, the visual observations and daily discussions with the injured employee by the Health and Wellness Room Coordinator can provide to be a valuable tool for claims management. The Health and Wellness Room Coordinator will usually receive volunteered updates from the injured employee immediately following the appointment. We also hear about hobbies and “outside” activities that may conflict with their treatment plan.

Human Resources: The Health and Wellness Room is an aggressive and pro-active approach to controlling your worker’s compensation expenditures. Our success is also largely dependent on the execution of your Company’s Policies and Procedures when management support and even when disciplinary action is required. The Health and Wellness Room Program is still work and those attendee’s in violation of your Policies and Procedures can be disciplined accordingly.

Conclusion: The Health and Wellness Room Program accomplishes all of these goals. It is designed to be inspirational and motivating to employees who are injured on the job. It is also aimed to serve as a deterrent against those who don’t want to work and use the Worker’s Compensation Laws to their advantage. Don’t be mislead that “income loss” will provide incentive to return to work. It is often minimal and injured employees often prefer to stay home. No daycare, no gas, no lunch money, no supervisor…you get the picture.

Benefits of portable fire extinguisher training in the warehouse.

By developing a yearly fire extinguisher training program in your warehouse, your employees will become knowledable in the process and means of extinguishing small fires by choosing the right extinguisher to remove one of the four elements of the fire tetrahedron.

From IFSTA Essentials 4th Edition: Fire is a rapid, self-sustaining oxidation process accompanied by the evolution of heat and light of varying intensities.  The burning process can be interrupted by removing one of the four elements in the fire tetrahedron (Heat, Fuel, Oxygen, or Chemical Chain Reaction).

Employees that know the classification of fires will also be able to choose the correct extinguisher for the four most common types of fire classes:

  • Class A or ordinary combustibles
  • Class B or flammable and combustible liquids and gases
  • Class C or energized electrical equipment
  • Class D or combustible metals

Trained employees understand that a portable fire extinguisher is the first line of defense in an emergency. Employees that are trained yearly in the use of portable fire extinguishers also can make informed and confident decisions on when it is ok to attack a fire and when it is appropriate to leave the area and let firefighters handle the emergency. Those decisions are based on some of the following factors:

  • Knowing what is burning
  • Fire is not spreading rapidly
  • Smoke and heat has not filled the area
  • You have a clear path of escape
  • Following the training the employee has received

Remember that trained and motivated employees will make confident decisions that can save the company from valuable losses and possible injuries or deaths.  This type of safety training can also save your company on valuable insurance costs as well.

Eye Safety, Prevention & Care in the Workplace

January is National Eye Safety Month! 

Your eyesight is a priceless commodity and once lost can never be brought back.  Every day in the workplace employees are exposed to numerous hazards to the eyes from chemicals to flying objects.  Protecting your eyes starts with education and utilizing the right equipment. 

There are many different types of eye protection available to you and choosing the right equipment should be based on the hazards YOU face in your environment.  Your eye protection should be;

•Strong, durable & lightweight

•Resistant to impact, penetration & heat

•Easy to clean

Eye Protection can include safety glasses,goggles,face shields or helmets.  They should always fit snugly and be comfortable without becoming obtrusive throughout the workday.  If you wear contact lenses be especially careful because they can absorb or trap particles and gases that can injure your eyes.

Remember: Regular prescription glasses can’t protect you on the job!   You must wear only “approved” protective gear (check with your employer).  OSHA requires that safety glasses or goggles meet standards developed by ANSI (American National Standards Institute).

Too many eye injuries occur because eye protection was required, issued & available- and NOT USED!!!

KNOW WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY 

♦Particles in the eyes- Flush eyes with water until the particle comes out.

♦Chemical splash or burn- Hold your eyes open and flush with water for at least 15 minutes.  Get immediate medical attention and check your MSDS for specific 1st aid treatment.

♦Blow to the eye- Apply a cold compress for 15 minutes to reduce pain & swelling.

♦Cuts near the eye- Bandage the eyes loosely and get immediate medical attention.

Always seek professional medical attention if warrented!

EYE CARE

Regular care of your eyes is also very important, eye exams on a regular basis (every 2-5 years) can uncover underlying medical problems such as diabetes , hypertension or the onset of Glaucoma.   And for eye diseases such as Glaucoma, the damage may be detected through your normal exams before you notice any signs or symptoms.

According to the study “Vision Problems in the U.S.” by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute (NEI), there are nearly 2.3 million Americans ages 40 and older who have glaucoma.  Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and the leading cause of blindness in African American and Hispanic populations in America. 

Pertinent risk factors for Glaucoma;

•Over 40 years of age

•Race- Leading cause of blindness in african and hispanic populations

•Family history

•Diabetes- If you have diabetes you have a higher risk of developing Glaucoma

•Nearsightedness

•Eye injury or surgery

•Extended use of steroid medications

REMEMBER TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR EYES!

 

 

How to Reduce Frequent Employee Smoke Breaks

Do you have employee’s who smoke? Did you know that annual health care costs for smokers are 31 percent higher on average than non smokers? With today’s raising health care costs, every company should be asking this question and every company should be developing a cost saving plan to reduce the costs associated with smoking.

A  recent study from the American Cancer Society revealed that  when a smoker is hospitalized their average stay is longer than a non smoker resulting in a higher medical bill to the employer and the patient. Smokers also made six more visits to health care facilities per year when compared to non smokers.

How can you change this  for your company? Here are some tools you can use to  provide a comprehensive smoking cessation program to your employees and in turn save you millions  in  associated health care costs:

  • Let your employees can help themselves by providing them with smoking cessation brochures in public places
  • Provide information on the affects of smoking through employee newsletters and intranets
  • Offer telephone based counseling for those employees interested in quitting.
  • Provide on line information on smoking cessation to your employees
  • Consider implementing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides counseling and support
  • Train existing staff members to teach cessation programs
  • Develop incentive plans for those employees who quit smoking
  • Offer low or no cost co-pays for smoking related medications
  • Sponsor an on site support group, for those trying to quit
  • Conduct brief seminars on the effects of smoking
  • Sponsor special events around other healthy changes: such as weight loss and exercise programs
  • Offer Health Risk Appraisals
  • Create a non smoking environment by posting the new policy and enforcing the new policy

Awareness of the costs associated with smokers is growing and causing many state and local governments to mandate workplace smoke free policies. It is in the best interest of employer’s bottom line to formulate a voluntary, proactive and prevention oriented approach to this growing, costly health concern.

The Benefits of Having an Automatic External Defibrillator at Your Worksite

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) early CPR and defibrillation plus early advanced care within 3-5 minutes after collapse can result in a greater than 50% long-term survival rate.  The value of early CPR by co-workers is important as it will “buy time” for the patient by circulating oxygenated blood until an AED can be put into place and activated.

Defibrillation is a procedure to stop the type of irregular heart beat called ventricular fibrillation, usually by using electric shock.”

Did you know that according to the AHA:

  • The first out of hospital defibrillation device weighed in at 110 pounds!  Most units in use today now weigh less than 8 pounds.
  • Security guards in Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports and security guards in Las Vegas casinos have achieved a 50-74% survival rate for adults with sudden, witnessed cardiac arrest.  These programs are thought to be successful because rescuers are trained to respond efficiently and all survivors receive immediate bystander CPR plus defibrillation within 3-5 minutes.

Case Study:

In January 2010 we helped a client in Clackamas, OR purchased three new Phillips HeartStart AED’s through Medic First Aid International to compliment the two AED’s they currently had in service to become compliant with Oregon’s Senate Bill 556.

The new Oregon law as it applies to this client states that any facility with greater than 50,000 sq. ft. and where business activities are conducted and where 25 individuals will congregate on a normal business day, then they must have at least one automated external defibrillator on site. Not only do they comply with the new law but they go above and beyond by having five (5) AED’s on site, coupled with a new training program that will include 1st Aid/CPR & AED training on-site by the Proof Positive Health & Safety Coordinator.

Proof:Positive is Hiring Seattle Area Wellness Center Managers

We have two immediate openings in the Seattle area (Auburn and Bellvue) for Onsite Safety and Wellness Center Manager. These Professionals will manage our Return to Work Program for the client, deliver Onsite First Aid, provide Client-Specific Safety and Health Training, and promote and deliver other initiatives that help our clients reduce the severity and frequency of work-related injuries and illnesses. Learn more and apply now…

Most Injured Employees Milk Their Time on Light Duty: Fact or Myth?

Do employees really try to stay out of work longer than necessary when they get injured on the job? To accurately answer this question, there are two key factors that need to be looked at – the employee’s personality and the conditions surrounding your return to work program.

In order to weed out the few who would take advantage of a more lenient return to work program, employers are forced to come up with programs that appropriately balance the day to day routine that employees crave with a job that is productive and meaningful, while still making the program a deterrent to prevent employees preferring the return to work program over their regular job.

Employees, in general, want to return to work as soon as possible for many reasons. Having friends in the workforce, the need for a steady daily routine, and the fear of becoming de-conditioned while not working, to name a few. However, every so often, you will come across an injured employee who does not worry about any of these things and would rather look at being injured as paid time off than an irritating interruption of their daily routine. Even though these employees make up a small percentage of the overall workforce, they are responsible for the strict conditions of many return to work programs.

More…

If You Don’t Talk to Your Employees About Workers’ Compensation, Someone Else Will!

There are some employers who believe that communicating the details of how workers’ compensation works with their employees will increase the likelihood that their employees will file a work comp claim. For this reason, many of these employers decide not to talk to their employees about workers’ compensation.

While they may think that this is saving them money, it may actually be costing them more than they think. Generally, employees who have questions about workers’ compensation are going to seek out the answers to those questions and if you are unwilling to give them the answers they are searching for, they will be forced to get their information elsewhere. Most of the time, if the employer does not answer an employee’s questions about workers’ compensation, the employee then decides to seek out the advice of a lawyer. So, now the employee is not only getting their information from an outside source rather than from you, but you have also just successfully alienated yourself as the “bad guy” in the situation.

I cannot stress enough the importance of good communication in any employer/employee relationship. Answering an employee’s questions fully and honestly will not only give you more control over the situation, but it will also serve to build up their level of trust in your company which, we all know, results in higher productivity and a lower turn-around rate.

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