Asheville, NC (CompNewsNetwork) - The economic downturn poses challenges to employer-employee relationships, including Workers' Compensation. A strong safety message and focus is critical when people are worried about the future and how the business situation may personally affect them personally. Yet, economic pressures can create a perception – real or otherwise – among employees that production is more important than safety.
Employees who feel stressed are less likely to feel committed to an organization that is depending on their efforts to weather the crisis. When they are uncertain about their job security or changes in their roles, they can lose focus and increase exposure to injury, or worse, look to Workers' Compensation as an ‘exit strategy'.
While the following six keys are relevant in both times of economic contraction and expansion, they require particular vigilance during a downturn:
1. Help employees understand Workers' Comp. Employee education can help foster a positive attitude and deter fraud. Begin with the fact that Workers' Compensation is actually an employee benefit that's no different from healthcare coverage. One covers them when they are sick and the other when they are injured. The only way workers come to recognize that their employer cares about Workers' Comp is by discussing the issues with them and reassuring them that their health and safety remains a top priority. In turn, encourage employees to avoid turning their focus inward and to continue to be engaged in safety activities.
2. File the First Report of Injury immediately and let the employee know it is important. This is the first signal to employees that the company is concerned about their well-being. Communicate that employees are valued and the primary goal is to make sure they receive the proper treatment so they return to health and the job as quickly as possible. Meet with injured employees to review Workers' Compensation benefits and answer questions. When this process is followed, the possibility of delayed recovery, litigation or fraud is less likely.
3. Train supervisors how to handle injuries. A manager or immediate supervisor is the key contact when a worker is injured since it the supervisor who has a relationship with the worker. Since the supervisor is the person who knows and understands the worker best, it's the supervisor who should accompany the worker to the medical facility. The supervisor's role should also involve contacting the worker during recuperation to express concern and communicate the message that the person is wanted back on the job as soon as possible. This level of contact is critical to the recovery process since it sends the injured worker the clear message that the employer cares and they are wanted back on the job. While the supervisor's role with the injured worker may seem obvious, far too frequently, an injured worker is left feeling alone and cut off from the employer. In such conditions, the employee worries and may begin to think that no one cares. When that happens, a longer than necessary recovery may occur, as well as the possibility of a lawsuit.
4. Investigate immediately. Gathering information quickly is key. It sends a message to your employee, as well as your workforce, that you are taking the matter seriously. Moreover, the more you learn about how an injury occurred, the more you can do to prevent it from happening again. Facts fade quickly and people forget. Investigate objectively, keep workplace disruptions at a minimum, and address rumors directly and honestly. Investigating every injury, even a minor one, adds to your knowledge. Your CWCA can assist you in setting up the right procedures. If you suspect fraud, gather the facts and discuss it with your CWCA.
5. Communicate the employees' responsibilities when injured. While employers should treat all employee injuries seriously, fairly and expeditiously, clearly communicating the employees' responsibilities is also essential. If an indemnity claim, the employee is responsible for:
• Following the doctor's instructions and restrictions at home and at work
• Making all doctor's appointments and calling the employer if there is a problem making an appointment
• Informing the treating doctor that return to work opportunities are available to accommodate physical abilities and provide the Return-to-Work Information Packet as provided by the employer
• Keeping the supervisor informed and notify immediately if your work status changes
• Reporting to work on the next regular shift, when the doctor releases a return to work
6. Establish expected outcomes. Knowing the typical duration of an employee's injuries based on scientific protocols, establishes a framework for the employer, employer and medical provider. While recovery times do vary by individual, return to work timetables establish a common, desired goal and benchmarks for progress.
About Preston Diamond
Preston Diamond is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute of WorkComp Professionals, based in Asheville, NC. It trains, tests and certifies select insurance professionals to alert employers about the hidden costs and overcharges in the Workers' Compensation insurance system.
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