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Managing injuries can control compensation costs.

One of the most effective ways to control workers' compensation costs is to work toward controlling the high costs associated with serious injury cases. Typically these cases involve long- term treatment, rehabilitation and lost workdays. Only by implementing a program to manage these cases on an individual basis can one hope to reduce rising costs and lost time.

Employees who suffer job-related injuries are entitled to proper medical care. A trained, experienced and healthy employee is a valuable, difficult-to-replace asset. it is just good business practice to ensure that injured employees receive only the best medical attention at the earliest opportunity to limit the time off the job. Limiting Lost Time

Returning an injured employee to the job quickly may sound cold or uncaring, but this practice is as important to the worker's well being as is effective medical care. It is also a key factor in reducing workers'compensation costs. Patient management and cost control take a close relationship between the company physician, the compensation manager and the injured employee.

It has been found that the sooner an injured employee returns to the job, the better off he or she is physically and mentally. There is evidence that getting back to work quickly is as important to the rehabilitation process as is the actual medical treatment.

Statistically, the employee who is off work for a year or longer probably will never return to the job. There are several reasons for this: simply being off and injured can cause physical deterioration after a few months; they may lose interest in returning to work; there often is a loss of personal pride and a loss of self-worth. These can easily lead to other problems such as substance abuse, family problems and even suicide.

Taking an active roll with the company physician in the treatment and rehabilitation of an employee who has suffered a serious industrial injury can play a key roll in reducing workers' compensation costs for your company and at the same time provide a real service to the employee and his or her family. This doctor/compensation manager/patient relationship is critical to the success of managing the serious injury case.

Industrial Physicians

Having an industrial physician, preferably one who is board certified, on retainer as a company physician is important to the success of a worker disability control program. This person must be trustworthy, accessible and open to discuss patient care while maintaining the necessary confidentiality. It is critical that these three factors be part of company/physician relationship if you are to assist in providing the best medical treatment and rehabilitation strategy for the injured employee and reducing compensation costs.

Board certified industrial physicians are medical doctors who have taken hours of specialized training geared to understanding industrial processes, the types of injuries that are more common to the industrial setting, toxicology, etc. This specialized training is what makes the physician qualified to help you manage and reduce work-related injury costs, both direct and indirect. in addition, this person is specially trained to provide the treatment and rehabilitation program designed specifically for the industrial injury.

In starting a relationship with your company, an industrial physician needs and wants to understand company processes and to see firsthand how they operate, who is involved and the potential hazards present. The physician should be familiar with job descriptions and/or a job safety analysis book.

In addition, the physician will probably want copies of the various Material Safety Data Sheets for the materials used in the workplace. The more the physician knows about your operation, the employees'jobs, and the materials the employees handle, the easier it is to treat and rehabilitate injured workers.

There is a doctor/patient relationship, of course, but in the case of an injury covered byworkers'compensation, this relationship is somewhat modified. Generally, the compensation administrator retains the right to all information that pertains to the injury, treatment and rehabilitation of injured employees because the company is liable for medical and rehabilitation bills. To achieve maximum cooperation, the physician and the employee must be assured that any information shared is kept confidential.

Return-to-work Program

A successful compensation cost control program should have a light duty or some similar return-to-work program for serious injury cases from which the employee and the company will gain. It allows the employee to feel that he is contributing and keeps him in the daily routine of going to work.

For a plant operating under a labor contract, a return-to-work program will need union agreement because people may be moved temporarily from one job to another or to job classifications not covered by the labor agreement. Return-to-work programs are usually coupled with a work hardening program managed by the physician and a physical therapist. Consideration is given to the nature of the injury as well as to the job's physical requirements when setting performance goals. With properly managed programs in place, compensation costs can be controlled and reduced. The employee returns to work sooner and is less prone to reinjury.
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Title Annotation:workers' compensation
Author:DuVal, Charles E.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Previous Article:Market drives automotive castings to aluminum.
Next Article:Keeping a lid on sales expenses.

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