Return-to-Work

A Healthy Bottom Line Means Healthy Employees

Allan Posted by Allan Brown

In today's business world we are faced with escalating healthcare costs. Employees are asked to contribute more to the cost of their healthcare policy and employers are providing wellness programs and incentives to change behavior and ultimately improve employee's health and reduce costs. Smart investments can work to bring these costs down, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This remains true in health and workers' compensation. MEMIC prides itself on partnering with employers to create safe workplaces so injuries don’t happen and helping employees recover from injury as quickly as possible. Changing workplace culture by emphasizing prevention helped bring workers’ comp costs in Maine down by more than 50% and lost-time injuries down by about 40% since MEMIC’s inception in 1993.[i]

Preventing injuries still remains a primary focus but has become more complicated as the percentage of obese and overweight workers has reached epidemic proportions. The adult obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled in 20 years, from less than 12% in 1991 to more than 27% in 2011.[ii] Studies have shown what common sense knows: the range of medical treatment and time to recover are all greater for obese employees, with medical costs being three times higher in the first year and five times higher at 60 months.[iii] This is one reason why MEMIC has begun helping employers meet this challenge and in the past 3 years we have focused on expanding  the traditional emphasis of workplace safety to include ergonomics and wellness.

You don’t have to be a big company to be serious about employee wellness. In many states, like Maine, employers with 20 or fewer employees are allowed an annual tax credit for comprehensive workplace wellness programs.[iv] Putting a focus on employee wellness does not need to be expensive or time consuming. You may have heard people say “Sitting is the new smoking.” Something as simple as doing regular stand and stretch breaks can be a great place to start. See my other post about the little things that can cause back pain: http://memicsafety.typepad.com/memic_safety_blog/2012/05/the-little-things-can-cause-back-pain.html

 

Here is a list of workplace wellness program resources:

WellSteps has free webinars, presentations and tools as does the National Wellness Institute.

(Note: national groups like National Wellness Institute and WellSteps may have local partners with dual membership like Lifeline Center for Workplace Wellness or Wellness Council of Maine.)

WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) has free resources like case studies, presentations, surveys and samples.

The American Heart Associations’ Fit-Friendly Worksites Program has a free worksite wellness toolkit and employee resources, such as an online activity tracker, walking and exercise programs, and healthy eating resources.

National Business Group for Health offers resources and represents large employers' perspective on national health policy issues.

Partnership for Workplace Mental Health works with businesses to ensure that employees and their families living with mental illness, including substance use disorders, receive effective care.

National Health Awards offers descriptions of award winning employee health promotion programs.

Scoping paper by the Australian Government: “Overweight and obesity: implications for workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation

CDC (Centers for Disease Control) offers a variety of resources including Healthier Worksite Initiative, National Healthy Worksite Program and Workplace Health Promotion.

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A New Year's Resolution we can all benefit from... Improve your Safety Program

EricGrant Posted by Eric Grant


As we begin 2013, if you are like most people, you have probably made a New Year’s Resolution.   Consider the same for your business and more specifically, your injury prevention program.

Consider these ideas or brainstorm with your safety committee and/or leadership team:

  • Focus on company specific exposures - Work with your agent to review injury claims and loss runs.   Refer to your OSHA 300 log to determine areas of opportunity.
  • Develop a formal safety training agenda - OSHA compliance is a start but should not be the finish. Remember 15% of claims are associated with unsafe conditions, but 85% are caused by unsafe behaviors.
  • Conduct quality Event Investigations - Determine root cause and take corrective actions. Remember, look for the Facts, not Fault and operational involvement is key to an effective program. (Visit the MEMIC Safety Director for program materials)
  • Utilize your resources - Internal (supervisors/experienced workers, safety committee, leadership, HR) and external (MEMIC loss control, state consultation services, private consultants, your insurance agency). 
  • Recognize and reward positive behaviors - Consider implementing a formal program that reinforces positive actions taken by employees at all levels.
  • Pre-plan activities with a focus on safety & injury prevention - Have you considered implementing a Job Hazard Analysis Program? This may be the year to get it done!
  • Provide leadership accountability training - Integrate safety with business goals.  Management commitment is one of the foundations of a comprehensive health and safety program.
  • Explore ways to increase employee involvement - Examples include safety committees, routine self-inspections, participation in training agendas, and company sponsored activities/programs.
  • Implement a formal routine self-inspection program - What does OSHA want from businesses? Identify hazards and correct them! Get out there and inspect your workplace and implement follow up corrective actions. 

Reduce injury claim frequency and severity by implementing these nine objectives and communicating them as part of a formal SMART Goal.  To learn more about SMART goals, check out a 2008 Smart Goal posting from the Safety Net, or search online, keyword- SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).

Have a Happy, and SAFE, New Year!


Does Your Business Have An Effective Injury Management System?

Webb Hartley Posted by Hartley Webb

Operating a business is never easy, but is especially challenging in a difficult economy.  This should lead management to identify cost control methods.  Workplace injuries are extremely expensive when both the direct and indirect costs are considered.  An injury management system can help limit these costs while assisting injured employees return to the workforce.   I’ve worked as a MEMIC safety management consultant since 1993, and I still see businesses that do not have effective injury management systems. 

An effective Injury Management System consists of the following:

  1. Knowledge of loss experience (injury cause, injury type, body part).
  2. Identify and meet with a local preferred medical provider who can treat occupational injuries and illnesses; establish a working relationship with a shared return-to-work philosophy.
  3. Detailed job descriptions (that include physical tasks required) that can be used to communicate job requirements to the medical provider.
  4. A written plan that identifies the employer and employee responsibilities regarding injury reporting, claim filing, preferred medical provider use, return-to-work guidelines, and communication with injured employees during treatment and restricted duty. 
  5. Identify alternate duty job activities available in the event an injury occurs.
  6. Documented injury management system training to include specific employee responsibilities.

OSHA has developed a “$afety Pays Program” that includes an injury cost estimator.  This tool can provide convincing evidence of the importance of an effective Injury Management System. 


Hiring Practices That Make Smart “Cents” for Safety

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

As the sluggish economy begins to heat up rendering a more favorable business climate, cost conscious employers looking to grow their workforce need to be even more vigilant to their hiring practices.  The search for a suitable fit can be an exhaustive exercise for a small business owner as well as for an HR professional in a large corporation.  Finding and hiring the right person demands that safety be at the forefront of the decision-making process.  Here’s why:

According to the Business & Legal Reports safety website, workplace injury statistics reveal that new employees are 5 times more likely to experience a lost-time injury in the first month of employment compared to the experienced worker.  Additionally, studies show that 40 percent of all workers injured on the job have been at it less than a year.  

 Given these facts, ensuring the safety of the “newbie” is of utmost importance, particularly where a business’s greatest asset is its people.  Equally, smart hiring practices and new employee safety orientation translate to preservation of the bottom line.

Proactive loss control measures in hiring should include:

  • Post-offer, pre-placement physical exams, especially for physically demanding job positions.
  • Written job descriptions that detail the physical aspect of the work tasks. 
  • New employee orientation and training on the equipment and tools associated with the job, emergency evacuation routes, location of first-aid kits, MSDSs, and items such as fire extinguishers. 

Most occupational health providers offer pre-placement physicals for a nominal fee. These are designed to determine the functional capacity of the individual.  The written job description stipulating physical demands can also be used in determining light duty activities for an injured employee with temporary work restrictions. 

Use of an orientation checklist while showing the new hire the safety features of the workplace can serve as documentation of the facility safety tour. 

As a timesaver, MEMIC has assembled a number of training checklists including an employee safety orientation form in the on-line MEMIC Safety Director resource library.  (Note: MEMIC Safety Director requires user registration and is exclusively for MEMIC customers.) For additional resources on hiring practices, click on the Human Resources link under the bold heading Action Plans on the Safety Director’s home page. 


Why Establish a Return to Work Policy?

Employers of all sizes need to pay attention to safety and the cost of workplace accidents, as well as their bottom line. While accident prevention is the best way to reduce overall injury costs, an effective Return to Work (RTW) Program is the best way to manage the cost of claims that do occur.

The longer an employee is away from the workplace due to injury, the higher your claim cost will be. Additionally, you will incur indirect costs associated with lost productivity, overtime, decreased morale, and the costs of hiring and training a new employee if you must replace the injured employee.

The essence of the RTW program is early assistance in helping injured employees return to work as soon as possible. Research posted by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board has shown that there is only a 50% chance that an injured employee will return to work after a six month absence and only a 25% chance following a one-year absence.

Early outreach and assistance allow the injured employee to maintain a positive connection to the workplace, and can alleviate fears, concerns and frustrations experienced by an employee following a workplace injury.