Balancing Scale

Employer Solutions | 4 years ago

Workers’ Compensation Tips – Worker Recovery and the Bottom Line

As hard as we try to protect every employee, accidents do happen, which means injuries can occur. Know the specific rules and regulations every organization must follow when presented with a potential workers’ compensation issue.

By Lawrence Raymond, MD, medical director, Atrium Health Employer Solutions

Workplace safety is a top priority for any company. From a human perspective, we all want to see our colleagues happy and healthy as they enjoy their roles within the organization. From a business perspective, on-the-job injuries can lead to lost productivity, increased medical costs and reduced morale, all affecting your healthcare spend.

As hard as we try to protect every employee every day in every role, accidents do happen, which means injuries can occur. From a minor ache or pain resulting from tripping in the hallway to more serious incidents that may require hospitalization, employers must be prepared to handle on-the-job mishaps. A key piece of this is workers’ compensation.

Designed more than 100 years ago as a safety net for employees, workers’ compensation provides an injured employee necessary medical care at no out-of-pocket cost – as well as some level of weekly salary   until they return to work. But there are specific rules and regulations every organization must follow when presented with a potential workers’ compensation issue.

Injuries can occur at any time. These are a few steps every employer can – and should – take right away to prepare for a potential workers’ compensation situation:

Properly Assess the Injury

Have you ever slipped on a patch of ice and crashed onto the sidewalk? Have you ever been rear-ended in traffic by another driver? Have you ever turned a corner in your home and smacked your arm or foot against a door? In any of these scenarios, you might feel a sudden, sharp pain but not be completely clear on the type of injury you’ve sustained. You could have anything from a small bone break to a joint sprain to a deep bruise – all of which need to be treated differently.

That’s the mindset staff should have any time an employee is injured on the job. No employee should be encouraged to “just walk it off.” Rather than assuming a specific injury has or has not taken place, staff should be trained to take the injured employee for a professional medical evaluation. This evaluation will determine whether the injury needs formal medical care, such as a cast or surgery, or if it can be addressed by the injured employee, such as with rest and ice.

Keep Employees Informed

It goes without saying that, in the event of a serious injury, an employee should be taken to the nearest, most qualified medical provider – this could be an urgent care facility or a hospital emergency room. But for more minor injuries and follow-up care, your company likely has processes in place that need to be followed. Most workers’ compensation cases must be evaluated and treated by a practitioner identified by the company. Typically, an employee will need to work with their HR team and the workers’ compensation department throughout their recovery to discuss treatment and benefit status.

One thing that can make handling an injury more difficult is when the employee is confused or uncertain about how they can receive treatment and what their downtime means in terms of salary loss. From the moment an employee joins your team, they should be instructed on what to do when seeking medical care in the event of an on-the-job injury. Employees and management should also regularly review the processes to ensure best practices are top of mind.

Have A Return-to-Work Plan in Place

Once an injury is diagnosed and treatment protocol established, there needs to be a plan to bring the employee back to work. In some instances, a team member may be out of the office for weeks or months, but in many cases an employee is able to return to work in a modified capacity. For example, a team member may not be able to drive a forklift or haul loads of materials, but they can help with processing orders.

In an ideal scenario, a return-to-work plan is established between the employee and employer based on guidance from the overseeing physician. In the event that a mutually agreeable plan cannot be reached, government regulators may need to be involved.