Return to Work

Why a return to work program should be a part of every safety program

If done well a return to work program can benefit both the employer and employees.

June is National Safety Month. In honor of national safety month all businesses should examine their safety programs throughout the month of June. One element of a good safety program is a well thought out return to work program. This is important because returning to work after an injury can be a daunting task for even the best employees.  Anything you as an employer can do to make this process less difficult for an injured  employee will benefit the injured employee as well as the business.  The return to work  process should start before the injury occurs by designing adequate safety programs to prevent and limit the damage of injuries in the first place. Unfortunately, being in business means some of the time accidents are going to happen.  When accidents do occur, the more prepared your business is to deal with those situations will have an enormous impact on how quickly an injured employee returns to work. Here are six ways to create an effective return to work program for your small business.

Worker with injured leg and doctor implementing a safety program that includes return to work.

Put your return to work policy down in writing

It may seem like a small step to put the plan down in writing, but having something on paper for everyone to go back to from time to time is helpful. It is especially helpful if you do not experience an injured worker very frequently. Your business could realistically go more then a year at a time without experience an injury that causes an employee to miss time from work. During the time in between injuries your organization may very likely have turn over in staff and management. Having a document to go back to is helpful for these new employees.

Develop a Communication Plan for the return to work process

Have a plan for how your business should communicate with everyone involved in the workers compensation system is essential to getting your injured employee the help they deserve and get them back on the job quickly. The communication plan should include detailed information for everyone who should be kept in the loop within your business, at your insurance agency, at the insurance carrier, and at the medical facility providing care.

Take care of your employee

When an injury occurs, taking care of the health and well-being of your staff is paramount. It is simply the right thing to do. It will help the injured employee deal with the injury properly. It will show the injured worker that the business does truly care about them. It will send a nonverbal message to your other workers that you will take care of them if they are injured in the future.

Report the injury promptly

Most insurance carriers will require a first report of injury form to be filled out before medical coverage is paid for. One thing to remind all managers is to document as much as possible. Even if it is on a loose sheet of paper. They can always go back and transfer this information to the proper form, but do not leave this information to memory. This information will help the medical professionals administer proper care to the injured employee. Also, insurance carriers document these injuries and if certain injuries occur frequently within a particular industry they can help the industry develop plans to deal with these issues.

Stay in touch with your adjuster throughout the return to work process

In the days and weeks after an accident it is important to keep both your insurance agent and your insurance carrier in the loop.  Do not be alarmed if your agent directs you to call the carrier. Processing the claim is the responsibility of the carrier and not the agent. The agent is not being rude if they direct you to do this. Your agent should be able to give you advice for who to contact at the carrier, their contact information, and how to address the situation when you talk to the carrier. Still it is important to keep the agent in the loop. They can be a resource if the carrier is not living up to their obligations, but they will be a more effective proponent if they are kept in the loop the entire time.

Close your claims quickly  

Once your employee has returned to work, it is important to let both your agency and carrier know this. Do not be alarmed if the carrier keeps the claim for several weeks or even a few months after the employee has returned to work. This is because if the employee reinjures themselves the insurance carrier does not want to process a second additional claim for the one injury. If this happens it can drastically impact the businesses experience modification rating. This rating is the primary way carriers determine what to charge your business for premium the next year. Keeping this rating in good shape is essential to your business.  For this reason, it is important to periodically check in with both your agent and carrier to make sure the claim is closed at the appropriate time.

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