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Workers’ Compensation Claims

What steps does your company take to protect itself from employees who claim they are injured on the job and involve you in a Workers’ Compensation claim that goes on for an extended amount of time?
                                                                   
– Joan Clark, President, J.J. Clark Inc. (Aston, PA)

Dave Griffith: I am assuming you have a working relationship with your Workers’ Comp carrier. If so, you would have had this person sent to your doctor and the injury would be confirmed. Second, you would have this person monitored and on a light duty program as soon as possible. Third, you would make sure your safety program and procedures are being followed, root cause of the injury is identified and, if possible, preventive measures taken. Fourth, when you hire, extensive background checks are always a good idea. Make sure you ask about pre-existing medical conditions that may prevent someone from doing the job, such as a bad back.

John Maybury: At Maybury, our focus is on prevention, which begins with the culture we have developed at our company. The development of this culture did not happen overnight. It takes dedicated management leaders and associates to embrace a culture that promotes safety, open and honest communication, and a working environment where associates are overall satisfied.

We also have an aggressive Employee Safety Program developed by Safety Director Sandi Gagner. This safety program is associate-driven with monthly safety meetings that include one associate from every department in the company. At the monthly Senior Leadership meetings, any safety issues are discussed and addressed. When the associates have seen that all of the safety issues have been taken care of, this also helps maintain our safety culture. All employees are required to report any unsafe conditions and incidents, in writing, directly to the safety director.

If an accident does occur, our safety director and the associate’s manager are directly involved in the investigation of the accident and the treatment of the associate. Usually, our safety director will accompany the associate to the initial medical visit for support and help enable any treatment that may be required. We also have a liberal back-to-work policy, otherwise known as a restricted work policy. We know how important it is to get the associate back to work even if it means a few weeks of light duty. Our associates are the most important asset of this company. Our genuine concern for their welfare is proof to the associates that we care. Finally, we work with our insurance carrier in order to maintain frequent contact and regular physician updates on associates who are out of work.

We have found that a high level of associate satisfaction, combined with a culture that promotes a safe, open and honest environment, will help minimize both Workers’ Compensation claims and the duration of lost work days.

Chuck Frank: First of all, if there is an accident on the job, the individual is to contact our project manager and make him aware of what happened. We have an accident form we fill out detailing exactly what happened. We will take photos, interview those who witnessed the accident, etc. We ask the individual to review and sign all documentation as filled out by our staff. If the company we are working for has a safety or loss prevention program, we inform them of what took place and solicit their input specific to their internal policies. If the person injured requires a doctor’s visit, we have them forward us a copy of the doctor’s report, along with the doctor’s opinion of what the individual needs to do during the recovery process, such as physical therapy, etc. We also provide copies of all documentation to our legal group and discuss with them anything else we need to do to protect both the injured person and our organization. By maintaining good records and staying on top of things, we have limited our exposure to extended time off.

Duncan Murphy: The best protection against Workers’ Compensation fraud is to thoroughly check out potential employees before they are hired. It sounds simple, but hiring right and then providing an attractive work environment minimizes the chance of the claim occurring.

All Workers’ Comp claims injuries are examined by a company-designated doctor. If the employee wishes to see his or her own physician, we require our doctor’s examination as a second opinion. We research the accident. If the injury is not consistent with the story, we research the possibility of another action outside of work. In the extreme case of a malingerer, surveillance can be performed. In any case, we have a written return-to-work policy that states that as soon as a doctor approves light duty return to work, the employee must work at any job management deems productive within medical release parameters. Tasks might include anything other than their current responsibilities and tend to be menial, such as filing, letter stuffing, janitorial, etc. We find this to be effective at speeding up recovery.

Jack Phelan: First, we ask the claimant what restrictions the doctor has put into effect. If the claimant appears to be following the doctor’s orders, we hope for a quick recovery. If, the claimant does not seem to be following the doctor’s orders, we report any inconsistencies to the insurance company.

Stan Sewell: We follow these steps in close cooperation with our Workers’ Compensation carrier:

  1. Our internal senior safety and risk coordinator communicates regularly with our insurance carrier to be sure all claims are investigated to ensure validity.
  2. Through our carrier, independent nurses are assigned to monitor problem claims and recommend medical treatment.
  3. Managers follow up with assigned doctors and nurses and make every effort to let the doctor know that we will assign light duties if the employee is medically approved for return to work with restricted activity.
  4. Questionable claims are assigned surveillance by us through our carrier.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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