At WorkCare, we have observed that employers often find it difficult to avoid 10 pitfalls or obstacles that stand in the way of effective work-related injury management.
The 10 pitfalls and related recommendations for employers are briefly explained in this and a subsequent blog post. To learn more, register here for a complimentary Jan. 27 UL Workplace Health and Safety webinar (noon to 1 p.m. Central time) featuring our very own Peter P. Greaney, M.D., WorkCare’s medical director, president and CEO.
1. Inadequate understanding of the workers’ compensation system.
A deeper dive into insurance coverage, claims management fundamentals and workers’ compensation compensability rules is essential in order to avoid Pitfall 1. It’s important to manage insurers and benefits administrators as you would any other aspect of your business.
2. Not applying common metrics to support collaboration and benchmark performance.
Operational silos, poorly integrated but related functions (e.g., risk management, human resources, safety, occupational health) and an inability to measure collective contributions are key contributors to Pitfall 2. Top-performing companies use a collaborative approach and standardized metrics to determine exactly where they stand in comparison to internal and external best practices, processes and procedures.
3. Using medical providers who do not have occupational health training and experience.
When injured employees are routinely treated in hospital emergency rooms, at walk-in clinics or by personal physicians who lack occupational medicine expertise, Pitfall 3 becomes a concern. A worker’s critical connection to the workplace can be compromised during an initial treatment encounter when the treating provider is not familiar with essential job tasks, potential workplace hazards and applicable regulations. Injured employees’ trust in the process increases and outcomes improve when employers cultivate relationships with qualified occupational health providers.
4. Failure to require the use of accepted, standardized treatment protocols.
All health care consumers are potentially subject to treatment variability and exposure to Pitfall 4. While medical professionals don’t always agree on how to treat common complaints, studies show that outcomes improve when they adhere to evidence-based guidelines and can explain outliers. Employees and employees benefit when physicians, nurses and other caregivers have the innate ability to reassure injured workers that standard, recommended treatment interventions, including over-the-counter pain medications, are often enough to provide relief and ensure immediate, safe return to work following an injury.
5. Absence of a workplace culture that emphasizes health and safety.
Obesity, aging, chronic medical conditions, fatigue and inattentiveness in the workforce are among factors that come into play when encountering Pitfall 5. It’s important to appreciate how much sincerely caring about an employees’ well-being can impact their attitutdes and behavior. Leadership commitment to a workplace culture of health and safety can pay big dividends in terms of improved productivity, fewer accidents and injuries, happier workers, fewer litigated cases, and lower insurance and medical costs.
Part 2 will describe pitfalls 6-10 and solutions related to:
- The “disabled” mindset
- Realistic expectations for recovery
- Return-to-work programs
- Case management interventions
- Innovative approaches to persistent problems