We’ve all been there. Entirely confused about the process of worker’s compensation, not knowing which documents need to be filled out for each claim, which accidents need documentation, or who is even responsible for making sure all the paperwork is completed accurately. Not to mention the confusion of where to send paperwork to once completed. Dealing with workplace accidents and workers’ compensation insurance can be complicated, and an unnecessarily drawn-out process can lead to frustrated employees and create a potential for turnover. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that much of a chore. Educating yourself and your team on the steps and procedures before, during, and after an incident can help save your company and your employees time, turn over, and money.
Preparing Yourself: Properly managing a claim can make all the difference in how long it will take an employee to return to work, or potentially if the employee will ever return. If an employee feels that the HR team is dragging their feet or is not knowledgeable about the process, they may choose to leave the company after an injury. Before an injury occurs, you should know where your accident investigation forms are, as well as where the OSHA first report of injury forms are located. Familiarize yourself with the actual claims reporting process with your work comp carrier. You will need to know where to send the forms, what information is required when reporting and who to contact if there are issues in the process. Many work comp carriers will provide training on their process if you feel you could use additional information.
You should also identify if your workplace utilizes a return to work or light duty program. These programs allow employees to return to work in a limited capacity while they heal from their injuries. If your organization does not use light duty, you should approach your organization’s decision-makers about implementing one. This increases the chance of an employee returning to work after an injury, and it also engages an employee while they heal, greatly reducing claims costs. Before workplace accidents occur, you should familiarize yourself with your program’s details and have a list of light-duty options an employee can perform based on restrictions.
Preparing the Employee: Before employees are hired, they should know the exact physical demands that the job requires of them. The job description should contain full details of the job’s physical needs and full descriptions of how they are expected to perform physical tasks along with any tools that may be used. These expectations should also be heavily emphasized during the training process. Employees should be held accountable for performing these tasks correctly. During training and throughout the year, each employee should be informed about the reporting procedures if there’s an accident. This will make the process a lot smoother for them when one occurs.
Preparing the Leadership: No matter how present you are as an HR professional, you will often not be the first to know about an injured employee. Leadership at your business should be regularly trained on the steps to perform when an employee is injured. They should be aware of who to communicate with, where to direct the employee and how to perform an on the spot investigation.
It’s important to remind managers that all workplace accidents need to be reported, regardless of medical treatment status. This can help reduce fraud and, more importantly, can help identify the causes of potential future accidents and let you prevent them before they occur. A fall down some crumbled stairs may not injure a younger employee but could mean a severe injury and long, drawn-out recovery process for an older one. Identifying these can not only assist in limiting your turn over but can limit the time both you and supervisors spend recruiting, hiring, and training temporary or replacement employees.
Safety is key! Ensuring each piece of equipment is safe for operations and keeping aisleways clear of hazards can help prevent Worker’s Compensation claims. Nobody likes to dodge objects or sit wondering if something is going to crash on them. A maintenance checklist and monthly safety committee can be great tools to ensure that everything is in great working order and preventable injuries are not occurring.
As mentioned above, employees should be held accountable for following all safety policies and procedures. Training on processes should occur quarterly or as necessary.
A big piece of prevention is doing a complete investigation on all accidents, even if medical treatment is not sought. Not only can this can be vital in educating you on environmental risks like the one summarized above, but it also can help you identify training or scheduling issues you were previously unaware of. A large concentration of new hires or employees of a specific age group on one shift or one team can sometimes drive the frequency of incidents up for them.
There should be one claims coordinator from your company that handles the claims procedures for Worker’s Compensation. Very often, this ends up being an HR representative. The injury process runs much smoother if one person is directing everyone in the business and is in contact with your insurance company or brokerage. This coordinator will need to keep the following items in mind.
- Report your incidents in a timely manner. Reporting an incident as soon as it occurs means the insurance company is more likely to get all the paperwork they need as quickly as possible, making the process smoother for the injured employee. It also allows you to do a full investigation and identify potential environmental or training hazards.
- Communicate with the employee about treatment. Depending on your state, you may or may not be able to direct the employee about where to seek treatment. Regardless, you should be in constant contact with the employee, checking In on how they feel and when and where they have appointments for their ongoing care.
- Train, educate, and communicate. If there is a specifically preventable cause of loss, you should communicate, re-train, and re-educate employees post-incident. This serves as a refresher on policies and procedures and can help prevent repeat injuries.
- Regularly communicate with the claims adjuster. You should communicate regularly with the claims adjuster. This allows you to make sure you are meeting any light-duty requirements and monitor the employee’s progress.
- Utilize your Return to work programs. Work with your employee and their supervisor to create a limited duty plan for them. This will keep the employee engaged and give you an opportunity to regularly check-in and show you care about them, hopefully ensuring they remain an employee throughout this process.
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