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.

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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Invest In Your Safety Plan and Workers’ Compensation Programs and Save!

If you purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49.00 today. If you purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0.00 today. Tough economic times call for aggressive measures. Invest in your company’s safety program and your injured workers return to work program.

Designing a good safety program can help with the rising costs of workers’ compensation insurance premiums. No business is immune to having injuries, they will happen! That is part of the cost of doing business. Having a safety plan is like ground zero; you need to look at your company as a whole and build from your safety plan. Evaluate the environment, the tools, the hazards, and overall safety of your employees. Prevention is the best way to save!

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Workers Compensation Costs Driven By Inappropriate Claims!

Inappropriate claims are one the biggest driving costs of workers compensation increases. Up to 25 percent of all filings may have some form of fraud. There are many possible causes, including misunderstandings, miscommunication, cost shifting from a non-occupational health care plan, employee resentment, non-efficient service providers, and outright fraud. The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that workers’ compensation fraud costs alone are in the billions. So in return, this cost is billed back to the employers in the form of billion dollar premiums.

Workers’ compensation laws are working against the employers. The laws are creating insensible incentives. The longer an injured employee is out of work, the more likely they will ride it out for a cash settlement. Even the small injuries that should only have the worker out for two or three days can be stretched into two or three weeks, or even more! Every workers’ compensation guideline has a waiting period. Typically, it runs about three to seven days before an injured employee becomes entitled to indemnification for lost wages. It can often be done on a retroactive basis to day one of the claim. For many low paid workers the “tax free” wage alternative is an acceptable lifestyle.

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Prevent Injuries with Diet, Weight Management & Exercise

Most companies have injury prevention programs in place that will cover topics such as lifting, proper equipment or attire, but not often do these programs cover eating and exercise, which are important aspects of injury prevention.

We all know about eating healthy to keep out hearts strong and/or to lose weight and feel good. Most of us however, don’t take the time to think of eating as a form of injury prevention. Rock hard abs aren’t just for show. They can also help you to remain injury free.  Having a strong “core” will alleviate stress on the back, reducing back injuries. Engaging your “core” muscles in all of your activities (not just lifting) will help keep you strong and as injury free as possible. Think about flexing your abdominal muscles when you do things as mundane as getting out of your chair. You know you want to try it when you get off of the computer.

Staying at a healthy weight will also keep unwanted stress off of your joints. There is no lack of gravity, so you don’t need to worry about weighing yourself down. Have you ever seen a pick-up truck loaded down with a heavy load and thought “those poor shocks”? Well, it is the same thing for your joints. Any excess weight  that you might be carrying is going to work against you, and eventually break you down. More…

Are Work Comp Costs Really a Big Deal?

The system that was designed to provide medical care and wage replacement for workers who suffer work-related injuries or illness is straining to sustain itself. Rising claim costs and non-regulated reinsurance are contributing factors to the rising costs of work comp.

Today, workers’ comp accounts for one of the fastest growing labor costs. Premiums for workers’ comp have risen 50% nationwide in the last three years – the fastest pace in a decade according to the New York City-based Insurance Information Institute. It really is simple math when every year costs double due to too many claims lasting longer than expected. Some businesses are finding themselves being hit with back-to-back increases of 25% and 40%, even if these businesses are favorable in workplace accident rates. As a business, there is no way to budget for a 20% increase that turns out to be twice that number.

Workers’ Compensation costs have had an enormous impact on several businesses’ bottom line. Accidents simply cost money – not only through direct costs, such as medical and compensation expenses, but in employee morale and client respect as well. Indirect costs are hard to calculate, but if lost, these items can cost your business several times more than direct expenses.

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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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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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What Can a Health and Wellness Room Do For You?

Maybe you have not heard of the term Health and Wellness Room and are not familiar with what its function is. You’re not alone! Surprisingly a lot of people have not heard of this service. Maybe reading some testaments from a few people who have been to a Health and Wellness Room can help clear up the mystery.

A 38 year old warehouse worker experienced his first Health and Wellness Room after hurting his back at work.

“I had been out on disability for about 4 months before hearing about the Health and Wellness Room. My adjuster called me and told me they had a job offer for me. I was surprised because my restrictions had not changed. I was told that I would be getting my 40 hours a week and my regular wages. I was only getting roughly 60 % of my wages on disability. My back was very sore from just laying on the couch but I decided to accept the offer. It was the best thing I could have done! While in the Health and Wellness Room I was given a bunch of information about my injury and how to treat and prevent it in the future. My doctor did not even give me this much info. The room had times allotted for stretch therapy, walking, exercise and ice and heat therapy and I was inspired to get back to work. This structure was perfect for me to get my back injury better. After just two weeks of being in the Health and Wellness Room my back already felt better because I was getting up and going to work and exercising within my restrictions. The Coordinator was an EMT and was able to help motivate me through knowledge and understanding of the body and helped me work within my restrictions to recover.”

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