Controlling your work injury costs – what managers can do
Accidents happen – and when they do, mangers often feel at a loss when navigating their immediate and long-term implications in their department. Arrangements of medical care, submitting the appropriate paperwork, planning for the uncertainties of the injured worker’s return all have to be balanced with the need to come up with an immediate plan on how to replace the injured worker, which often requires training and other disruptions of the regular work flow.
In this situation it’s all too easy to surrender the management of the injury to the medical community: The incident has been properly recorded, the claim has been filed; and now it’s just up to the medical practitioners to return the injured employee back to work, when they see fit.
This arbitrary separation between workplace stakeholders on one hand, and the medical providers on the other hand produces no winners in the return-to-work process. It turns out that many occupational health physicians would love to have available a realistic assessment of the injured worker’s actual job demands. Treating physical therapists deeply appreciate the opportunity to shape the rehab plan according to the movements and postures demanded by their patients’ work tasks. Patients see the immediate benefit of a medical plan geared toward their own particular work situation, and managers appreciate the predictability of being involved more intimately in their injured employees’ return-to-work planning.
As it turns out, the evidence pointing to a more involved approach of the supervisor in the injury management process is strong. In a landmark study by Liberty Mutual’s Center for Disability Research in which supervisors were trained on effective communication strategies, in some cases “the impact of the supervisor’s response on the disability outcome was more important than the severity of the injury or the quality of medical care”. The lessons are clear: The more the workplace can become an integral part of the injury management process in all phases of a worker’s injury, the more likely the possibility of positive outcomes. To this end, it is suggested that managers and supervisors
- “Encourage early reporting and encourage medical treatment”: Rewarding employees for “no injuries” leads to underreporting and eventually higher injury severity
- “Maintain communication with the injured worker during recovery”: Attachment to the workplace is an essential component to the worker’s successful re-integration after an injury
- “Brainstorm options for alternative or modified work and communicate suggestions to medical case manager”: Immediate supervisors often have a better idea regarding appropriate work modifications than the medical practitioners who are disconnected from the worker’s actual work tasks.
Therefore, don’t ride along on the passenger’s side and get on the driver’s side when employees get hurt – it will pay off for all involved!