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.

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.

Cutting Work Time Loss can Save You Money!

One of the biggest causes of work comp costs is a lengthy time loss of work from a disability. If an employee was injured on Jan. 1st, and healed by Jan. 15th, then the employee should return to work on Jan. 15th – not June 15th or July 15th! Keeping your employees recovery time proportionate to the actual length of medical disability will help you save money.

There are several ways protect yourself from unnecessary work comp costs. Create or adopt a Transitional Duty Policy that requires participation when an employee is injured. Communicate this program to your workforce in a positive way so that it becomes part of the corporate culture. Creating a culture that promotes a safe environment improves confidence and awareness for your employees. Establish a goal to bring back injured workers faster. Develop a Health and Wellness Room program to help aid with transitional duty and safety re-education. Communicate with your Health and Wellness Room to talk about progress and obstacles that are preventing the injured employee from returning to work.

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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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Preparing for Future Work Comp Expenses

We have all thought about and planned for the future at one point in our lives, with the hope of being financially stable, in good health, and happy. Well, businesses should be doing the same planning. Having a solid return to work plan for injured workers will help your business thrive in the future.

Does your business have a solid IIPP Program (Injury and Illness Prevention Program), a safety program, and an effective implementation of those policies? Being prepared means having something in place prior to a problem occurring. Take the time to map out the steps so your business does not get lost in the world of workers compensation. Utilizing an early return to work program can help you get injured employees back on the job, save money, and protect that dream of a successful business that cares about its employees and their health.

According to the California Division of Worker’s Compensation the state average weekly wage (SAWW) has increased nearly 4% in 2008. The new maximum for 2009 temporary total disability will be increased to $958.01 a week. With these increases your business needs to have a plan on educating, rehabilitation, injury prevention, safety, ergonomics and return to work programs. This plan will help you save valuable dollars being spent on claims that you did not plan for.

Eliminate the headaches involved with building IIPP programs or Return to Work Programs and Safety Concerns! Let Proof:Positive tailor a plan for your company that will help keep your workers’ compensation costs out of the red and keep you and your employees smiling!

Are You on Top of Your Injured Worker’s Progress?

The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” seems to be the perfect phrase to sum up most workers’ compensation claims. Malingering claims seem to develop when you lose contact with an injured employee. Not following up or tracking their progress can cost companies considerable amounts of money.

Health and Wellness Rooms can help keep you in the loop with that injured employee. Constant tracking of their restrictions allows you to see if your injured employee is improving or worsening. When they are at home, they are most likely not following their plan for rehabilitation. Utilizing the Health and Wellness Room allows you to get firsthand knowledge on their restrictions and any changes that may occur. The Health and Wellness Room can help motivate your injured worker to follow through with their therapy and exercise. Keeping structure for the employee helps them stay on track with their recovery.

Another benefit of keeping in touch and following each case is that it allows you to track the progress from the doctor or clinic that you have chosen for your work comp clinic. Let’s face it, some doctors are just not on the same page as you. Getting the injured worker back to work, or referred out to a specialist, may not be a priority for that doctor.

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Positive Environment Helps Foster Healing!

Do your employees view their glass as half-empty or half-full? Your answer may reflect their outlook on life. Does their attitude show them to be optimistic or pessimistic? Positive thinking helps with stress management and can improve their health. There have even been studies done that show the power of positive thinking and how it can affect how long, and how well, they live.

An injured worker is the best candidate to get started down the path of positive thinking. It all begins with how a workplace injury is handled. Do you show concern for your employee’s health and well being after an accident? Do you evaluate the area where the employee was injured? Do you send them off to see the doctor in a timely matter? These areas set the tone for an injured employee to start developing a positive attitude. Dealing with an injury is hard enough! Help the employee understand the process, and what will be happening over the period of healing. This also confirms other employees’ perception of your company to be one that is concerned about their health.

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Don’t Let your Employees Return to Work ‘Broken’

When an employee gets hurt on the job and goes on Worker’s Comp, they usually just end up sitting at home all day long waiting for their injury to heal so that they can go back to work. In most cases, the employee’s regular job is a very physically demanding one that keeps them fairly healthy. But when they get injured, their job becomes a far more sedentary one. This sudden shift to a sedentary lifestyle can be detrimental to their body and overall health, including a wide spectrum of different types of diseases and disorders affecting all parts of the body. Some of the risks can be increased by as much as 50% or more.

A few examples of these risks include:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: Low Back Pain, Osteoarthritis, Bone Fractures, Connective Tissue Tears, Osteoporosis
  • Cardiovascular Disorders: Hypertension (High Blood Pressure), Congestive heart Failure, Atherosclerosis (Hardening of Arteries), Coronary Heart Disease, Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol), Cardiomyopathy (any disease affecting structure and function of heart)
  • Metabolic Disorders: Overweight, Obesity, Diabetes
  • Cancer: Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate
  • Pulmonary Diseases: Emphysema, Asthma, Chronic Bronchitis
  • Psychological Disorders: Depression, Mood, Anxiety

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Is Daytime TV Addictive?

Are Oprah or Jerry Springer offering addictive content in their television shows? Is this one of the reasons lost-time workers’ compensation claims can get out of control?

OK, maybe it’s not Oprah’s fault. There are complex psycho-social factors at work when an individual is off work, nursing an injury, with a reduced income. Managing these factors can help keep the individual out of a costly slump (costly to the employee and costly to the employer).

Every day an injured employee is away from work, the likelihood that they will return to work decreases, which is why it is important to have an early return-to-work program (ERTW) in place – to ensure that employees can recover in a safe and supportive environment. By providing access to an ERTW program you take an active role in your employees’ recovery, which benefits both the employee and the employer.

Proof:Positive has successfully integrated Health and Wellness Rooms into employer operations, supporting injured employees and saving companies money by effectively reducing the cost of work comp claims and returning injured workers to work quickly and safely. Contact Proof:Positive to learn how we can help you leave day-time TV for your competitors.

Help Your Injured Employees Heal Themselves

Many people injured at work place all of the responsibility of getting well on the doctor. But, what most injured workers do not appreciate is that you have the ability to heal yourself! The doctor is an important part of the process but he only guides you down the right path. It is up to you to walk that path towards recovery and a fast return to work.

“Understanding my injury helped me to recover, and the opportunity that I had here in the Health and Wellness Room to do my therapy and stay active during my rehabilitation is what got me back to work faster than when I hurt my back two years ago.” This is what one of our client’s injured workers told me when he brought in his return to work release papers. He said the information we provided about his injury really gave him an understanding of his injury. He told me that we were motivating him to go back to work. “I was able to walk, exercise, use heat and ice, but best of all I didn’t end up on the couch trying to heal. I feel like I got more attention in the Health and Wellness Room then I did from my doctor or therapist.”

When injured workers rely on the doctor to do all the healing they are prolonging their injury and return to work. They still have to do their therapy and remain active to keep their body from becoming weakened by injury. Help your employees learn about their injuries. This is how you heal with the assistance of a doctor. Knowledge of injuries and ways to prevent them in the future benefit everyone.

Health and Wellness Rooms provide a motivated atmosphere to return to work. Educational materials, therapy beds, ice and heat, medical professional on staff, and a common goal for returning injured workers back to their jobs. Getting off the couch each day keeps employees in work mode, which helps transition back to full duty. Keeping the mind set on returning to work helps the body heal. Exercise gets the blood circulating which helps promote healing. Giving your employees a motivated atmosphere to heal, keep a positive mental attitude and help with recovery.

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