How can a risk manager implement creative strategies to
prevent workers’ compensation claims and get a handle on
insurance costs? It is a difficult challenge to address. Yet it is
one that is critical for the future of our economy. There are
two key areas that the risk manager must focus on: accident
prevention and loss control.
Accident prevention focuses on strategies and techniques
that occur to avoid or minimize the risk of loss. There are
three key steps to accident prevention:
Employee screening — The first step in accident prevention is
matching the employee’s physical capacity to the essential functions of the job. According to Louis Zuniga, president of Health
Masters in El Paso, Texas, and an authorized WorkSTEPS
Program provider, “Employers must ensure that they have the
right employee performing functions that he/she is physically
capable of performing. An office manager would not hire a data
entry clerk who can’t type. The same goes for our labor force.
By screening employees utilizing a program like WorkSTEPs,
the employer fulfills the need for reliable, medically safe, legally
defensible employment testing programs to assist in reduction
of work place injury incidence and associated costs.”
Employers must invest in functional capacity screening in
order to match the required level of physical activity with
the employee’s ability to perform.
Education and training — In a down economy two of the
first things on the chopping block are safety and training.
Without training employees become inefficient and may
make mistakes resulting in rework. Doing something twice
is never a good way to save money. Safety management protects the life force of the organization and keeps everyone
working smart. According to Darren Woody, president of
CF Jordan Construction LLC, a large general contractor,
“Safety is the litmus test of how our projects are performing.
If there are issues with safety, it will not be long before there
are issues with quality, schedule and profitability.”
Continuous Improvement — When we accept the status
quo, we accept failure. Keeping employees involved in preventing accidents, investing in corporate wellness, communicating the value of our employees and helping them stay motivated in the vision of the organization is the key to successful
safety management and accident prevention. Recognizing
that the wellness of the workforce is one of the biggest ways to
save money and improve productivity will result in a bottom
line profit improvement and lower turnover.
In the event a claim occurs, the next key strategy is loss control.
Catherine Benavidez of Injury Management Organization, a
health cost containment company in Dallas, provides the follow-
ing guidelines on how to control a workers’ compensation loss:
Compassion — Make sure that the employer has designated
someone (supervisor) responsible for creating and maintaining a
continuous personal connection with the employee. It is important that the employee have a clear and reasonable understanding of worker’s compensation as well as employer expectations.
Collaboration — The employer adjuster, employee and
medical community must work together to achieve the best
outcome. Employers should invest time in advance of a
claim to develop a resource network for doctor referrals that
will ensure the injured employee receives excellent medical
care from a provider who understands work-related injuries and the employer’s culture and environment. Having
the physician and staff tour the workplace in advance and
work on identifying transitional duty opportunities can help
minimize the length of lost time as a result of an accident.
Knowledge — Working with your broker and underwriter
to ensure that your claims provider understands your business and is interested in developing a business relationship
with you and your employees is critical.
Transitional Duty — Look for ways to accommodate meaningful, productive transitional duty assignments for employees injured on the job. Studies show that the ability to return
to work keeps the employee engaged and increases the healing time while reducing costs of workers’ compensation.
Benavidez also recommends becoming familiar and selective about the health care network (HCN) provided by your
carrier. Some of the benefits of an HCN include:
u Screened medical providers who are credentialed and contracted to effectively mange medical costs and lost days of
u Expedited care using effective medical utilization techniques
to limit exposure to unnecessary, expensive treatment.
u Greater employee access to communication and guidance. The employee will have access to telephonic case
managers that assist in the coordination of care.
Employers must take an educated approach when selecting a
workers’ compensation carrier that goes beyond the insurance
purchase decision. By exploring the service provided by the carrier and the claims administrator the employer will ensure that
their employees are treated fair and equally with better access
to service. They will also ensure that they are receiving excellent
service, which can result in better outcomes and savings.
Patricia Kagerer is the Vice President of Risk and Safety Management for
CF Jordan Construction, a Texas-based construction company.