Workers' Compensation Programs

By Gilmour, Bill | Risk Management, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Workers' Compensation Programs


Gilmour, Bill, Risk Management


Attitudes & Behaviors

If you cannot pin point what is workers' compensation program, it may be because the critical visors are the flesh and bones of any company's communications: they are the the design of a program and its successful implementation.

Many return-to-work intiatives seem straightforward. The simple things don't cost much, like taking a just-injured worker to the doctor's office, periodically calling injured employees to check on their condition, or sending cards or flowers to let them know they are missed. These are small but very important efforts for someone who is recovering from work-related injury or illness.

Other initiatives take more administrative time and planning, like evaluating potential transitional and modified duty job options, writing up job descriptions and communicating with employees before an injury occurs so that they know what the company's workers' compensation process involves.

Yet, even given all the good that can come from these activities, many times they are ignored because no one steps up to fulfill the responsibility.

Where is the breakdown between senior management and frontline supervisors in implementing these initiatives and why does it occur? To answer these questions, you must reexamine the chain of command in workers' compensation programs.

Wisdom from Above

First it must be recognized: change has to start at the top. Senior management must take the first steps to improve workers' compensation program outcomes. There are three key proposals to starting this process:

Fully insured employers, even small to midsized companies, must begin to think like self-insured employers.

Think of the premium the insurers take as if it is still your money. Employers do have control over how much of that premium is spent. If you are controlling the money your attitude will change dramatically. You will want to find ways to spend less because your premiums will go down as your experience improves.

From senior levels on down, managers must recognize that they are the only ones who can truly break the cycle and make a difference.

Carriers only see the paper results from workplace injuries and illnesses. While an insurance company can certainly help improve results by providing quality claims management and utilizing appropriate managed care interventions, responsibility for the human relationships resides with the employer, the supervisor and the employee. Those relationships are yours to win or lose. Never forget that for many employees, the workplace is an extended family. Put yourself in their position. Imagine how you would feel if you were unable to come to -work and the people you count on everyday suddenly stopped talking to you.

Senior management must make the commitment to get involved and begin the process of communicating expectations and program processes to employees.

Make sure the people who work for you fully understand the benefits and limitations of your program. Show them that if they are more efficient, the program is more efficient, and devise a way that these savings can be passed on to them.

As much as these steps may improve senior management's relationship with employees, there has to be a strong connection between the people who make the decisions for a company and those who implement those decisions. There has to be someone on the frontline to direct the troops. Without this link, the whole process breaks down.

In the Trenches

Frontline supervisors represent the best cost-control link between senior management and employees. Supervisors' attitudes and actions have a significant impact on workers' comp costs. These employees can translate senior management board room initiatives into action on the company floor. There are six crucial ways this can be done effectively.

New Employee Orientation to Worksite Practices. …

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