RETURNING TO WORK
It’s important to get injured employees back to work as soon as you can. “Experience shows that for every $1 you spend on benefits for an injured worker you will be charged $3.50 in premiums over the years,” says Norman A. Peterson, president of Norman Peterson & Associates, an Ashland, Oregon-based consulting firm that specializes in back-to-work issues.
Injuries lead to increased premiums because medical expenses affect your experience modification rating, or “x-mod” for short. If you experience higher than average claims, your premiums will increase; the converse is also true. Generally speaking, smaller employers who pay less than $5,000 in annual premiums for three years running are exempted from x-mod calculations. But the threshold and rules vary by state. And even exempted employers will benefit from low accident rates because more employees will be productive participants in the workplace rather than spending time at home recovering from accidents.
While the accident victim is off work, be sure to call and ask about the recovery process. “Keep very close contact with the injured employee,” suggests Burton. “Check in often. Show you are concerned and see what you can do to keep the person’s spirits up. Make sure the right medical care is being offered. The worst thing that can happen is a disconnect between the employer and an injured employee that does not lend itself to a prompt rehabilitation and return to work.” Make the employees feel that someone is worried and they are needed. Your business will benefit even if a returned employee can only perform light duty. “Employees who come back to work early go to their doctors less and take fewer prescription drugs,” says Peterson. “Their minds become fully engaged at their work when they are not sitting at home thinking about their injuries.” Develop and implement a light-duty program designed to blend injured workers back into the workforce as early as possible.
Consider appointing an injured worker as a safety coordinator. “Have him write a report on how the injury occurred and how it can be avoided in the future for all workers,” suggests Peterson. “Then have him bird-dog the solution.” This will heighten the profile of security, which is all to the good. The more employees think about safety, the fewer accidents you will incur. Adds Peterson, “Start to think of an injured worker as a resource.”