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.

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One Employee Incident, Two Worker Compensation Claims?

Do you have any pregnant employees? If so, are you responsible for work related injuries to their unborn child? It is a delicate situation when it comes to injuries involving those in utero. In the late 1980s, there was a case involving a San Francisco Macy’s department store employee who complained to the company nurse of abdominal pain. The pain was misdiagnosed as gas and was later found to be a ruptured uterus. Even after pleas from the expectant mother, the ambulance was not called for 50 minutes and the delay was determined to be a main contributing factor to the severe brain damage and early demise (age 2) of the child.

The mother sued on behalf of her son but lost, because although Macy’s found that it was indeed negligent, the child was not an employee and therefore his surviving family could collect nothing.

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Accident Investigations: An Essential Tool in Every Work Comp Management Program

Performing accident investigations when an employee gets injured is an important step in carrying out your company’s work comp management program. The first reason that comes to many people’s minds for conducting an accident investigation is probably to prevent a fraudulent claim from being filed, but there are many other good reasons for conducting these investigations.

Accident investigations help to identify the root cause of the injury. Was an inadequate workstation to blame? Or, maybe a malfunctioning tool or machine? If it is found that one of these scenarios was the cause of the accident, they can be promptly corrected before another employee suffers a similar fate. Maybe the employee had a pre-existing problem with their injured body part. Or, maybe they were doing something that they weren’t supposed to be doing so there is no equipment that needs to be fixed.

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Showing Compassion for Employees on Disability Can Reduce Work Comp Costs

What happens when an employee gets injured while on the job and goes on temporary disability? They can’t come into work anymore and are forced to sit at home, or they’re in the hospital with almost no contact from anyone at work. In many cases, the only work-related person who they get to talk to is the claim adjuster. They become cut-off from their peers and supervisors.

Sadly, this kind of treatment often leads the employee to feel lost, scared, abandoned, and perhaps even angry. They begin to feel as if they are not wanted around and that their company doesn’t really care about them at all. In many cases, the result of such thinking will end up leading to attorney’s becoming involved and the employee ends up being out for far longer than would otherwise be necessary. This situation is neither beneficial to the company or the employee and most employees would rather it not come to that but feel that they have no other option.

Preventing this from happening can be very simple. All it takes is a simple phone call about once a week to follow up with the injured employee and ask how they are doing. They will be glad to hear from someone from work other than the claim adjuster and it is a good way to monitor the employee’s progress. Sometimes, the information that an employee reveals through conversation can help to better understand the notes from their doctor. A small gift such as flowers or a “get well soon” card is another nice gesture that may be extended to go that extra mile and really make the injured employee feel reassured that they are cared for and eager to return to work.

Good Habits are Formed in Health and Wellness Rooms

Learning occurs when the brain creates a pathway of neurological activity through connections and repetition. When actions are repeated, your brain learns patterns of behavior and makes what we call a habit. Our brain acts similarly to a computer, whose cache memory stores frequently used information and makes it faster and easier to process. Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, once a habit is formed it is very hard to break.

Continuing the routine of rising for work and participating in a work environment preserves your employees’ daily habits. In the Health and Wellness Room, a full work week and daily schedule is maintained. This prevents a “slump” and/or the potential of developing bad habits.

Physical therapy and mental stimulation keep the mind and body active, all the while providing recuperation and bringing your employees back to the pre-injury workplace. Sometimes, even in better condition than they were prior to the injury. We encourage your employees to create new good habits that will follow them throughout their lives, professionally and personally.

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Believe in Your Employees and Create a Safer Workplace

Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe in your employees? Do you believe that every job assignment makes a company flow and is just as important as the next? Do you believe that if any employee is injured, it affects the entire company? Take time to think that if any one of your employees was injured, who could pick up the slack to keep your business on course? If you are an employer who believes in your employees, then you are already on the right track to creating a safer workplace.

Returning an injured worker back to the assembly line is just as important as returning the CEO to his or her desk. Whether it is a repetitive strain injury such as carpal tunnel, an ergonomic issue such as neck or back strain, or even a fracture from a traumatic injury; recovery and return to pre-injury employment is the most important and mutual goal.

Action should be taken to assist with the needs for your injured worker. Your injured employee needs to have a plan for the beginning, middle and end of his or her recovery. With graduating work, programs like work hardening, and safety classes your workplace can have the chance to prevent future injuries as well.

Contact Proof:Positive for more information about preventing future workplace injuries, and assisting those who have already been injured.

One Less Thing on Your “To-Do” List Next Year

Happy New Year!

What is your resolution? Possibly to be more profitable or to cut overhead costs? It certainly wasn’t to have an injured employee sitting at home, right?

The most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and to get back on the right track. The holidays make a lot of us very conscious of our personal and professional year end goals, and being more productive and healthier should be on everyone’s list.

With the injured employee on your “fix in the new year” list, the major goal is to be fully functioning and that means rehabilitation. The simple discouraging facts of being an injured employee at home and trying to conquer therapy exercises are feeling that you look funny while doing them, the exercises are boring, or even the “I don’t have the time” or “I’m frustrated because I can’t do what I used to” excuses. These excuses may seem silly on paper, but which category do your employees fit into?

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Could Your Employee Workstations Use an Upgrade?

Warehouse employees are subjected to a great deal of repetitive stresses on the body and as a result, musculoskeletal disorders are their most common forms of injuries. One way to significantly decrease the number of musculoskeletal injuries sustained while on the job is to make their work stations more ergonomically sound.

Ergonomics is the science behind why things are designed the way that they are. Handheld tools, for example, may have ergonomic handles on them that decrease or disperse the force that is applied to the hand. Also, workstations can be designed in a way to maximize productivity while reducing employee fatigue and risk of sustaining an injury.

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Leading Your Company Tribe Back to Productivity

I recently read Tribes, by Seth Godin and I found many of his insights relevant to workplace wellness. Here’s how I see the company tribe impacted by an injury.

Humans have a desire to belong. We crave membership in a group and we’ll go out of our way to find it. Groups easily come together around a common goal and if the goal is ambiguous, financial incentives will keep us engaged. With some basic leadership skills a manager can turn this scenario into a success.

On the other hand, it takes effort to break tribal bonds. The cohesion among a group requires force and persistence to break. Dehumanization, de-individuation, and direct threats to a member’s livelihood are tools that have been used to destroy tribes since human history began. Unfortunately, this gauntlet is what many employees must face when confronting a workplace injury.

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Can I Fire an Injured Employee?

An employee hurts themselves at work resulting in a worker’s compensation arrangement. You have multiple write ups for this individual, but now they are at home. Have you been unable to contact the individual? Is this employee’s position at the job site now on hold? Were you already planning to fire him before the injury occurred? If any of these questions sound familiar you may want to ask, “Can I fire this employee even though they have filed a worker’s compensation claim?” The answer may be YES.

However…proof of business necessity needs to be established. Factors to determine business necessity include (source: reish.com): More…

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