return to work: how to do it

24 April 2008

To be the most effective, RTW programs have to be tailored to meet a company's own specific needs, work environment, and even the kind of business it is in. Rebecca Shafer, a risk consultant and attorney with Arthur J. Gallagher & Company of New York, Inc. specializing in the design and development of workers compensation cost-control programs, suggests implanting the following six criteria into your RTW program.

Have a measurable goal.

Companies that have reduced their workers' compensation cost always calculate two measurements: lost workdays and the return to work ratio. Lost workdays must be counted in the context of a level employee population while the return to work ratio measures the percentage of injured employees who return to work within the first few days of an accident. In states where a four day waiting period for workers' compensation eligibility following an injury, an employer would want a very high percentage of its injured workers to return to work within one to four days of the injury.

Develop post-injury procedures.

Employers should clearly define what the injured employee should do when they are injured. When the procedures are set and defined, communicate them to the employees on a regular basis, incorporating things like modified duty eligibility and a modified duty task bank.

Train employees, managers, and senior executives.

Set up a mandatory training program that lays out the RTW program.

Have adequate personnel to manage the program.

Assign a manager who can keep a spreadsheet of all employees who are out of work, performing modified job duties, and indicate follow up items.

Use your company proactively.

Explore the possibility of using a medical director or a retired physician as a medical consultant early on in the claim. A doctor could verify the duration of disability, discuss estimated recovery time and identify modified tasks within the scope of an employee's medical restrictions.

Work with the claims administrator.

Pay attention to how aggressively the adjustor assigned to the claim pursued return to work and how quickly job restrictions were obtained.

When we deal with the heavy construction industry, accidents eventually happen. Safety is a constant blip on the radar of every company's executive staff but, unfortunately, we cannot predict unforeseen hazards no matter how careful and cognizant we are. By initiating a proactive RTW program that emphasizes the importance of our greatest investment, our people, we not only take the necessary measures to mitigate our growing insurance costs, but we make a bold statement as to where our priorities lie.

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