What to do when encountering shipwrecked parties in the sea of workers’ compensation
A plant worker at a chemical manufacturer was involved in an explosion that killed a co-worker and caused partial and full thickness burns that covered 30 percent of his body, including parts of his torso, face and extremities. During a home visit following his discharge from the rehabilitation facility, he made a statement verging on the incredulous. “I have been with the company for over 25 years, never missed a day of work, and always came in when they called,” he said. “I willingly worked overtime when asked and I didn’t even get a Christmas card from them this year.”
According to this worker, his employer traditionally sent all of the employees a Christmas card every year. After his work accident, he became angry with his employer because he felt that he was forgotten.The man had become a casualty of the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome that affected his company.
The employee’s words were shared with the corporate executives of his company during a claim review.The executives took the words to heart, as they were familiar with the high-profile accident and this particular employee. After a review of their loss-management program, it was evident that the employees who were off work due to a work-related injury had fallen through the cracks of their system. Contact and communication with the work-injured employees had been lost.The company executives subsequently
took steps to develop and implement fundamental changes in their work injury management program.The company became committed to the idea that no work-injured employee would have a similar experience. Because of this employer’s commitment to keeping in touch with employees, the loss-management program protocol was changed to reflect that commitment. From this profound experience evolved a case management philosophy that would be imprinted on all future cases — the “Four C’s” — Continuous, Communication, Coordination and Creativity.These four criteria are critical factors to the successful recovery and return to work of an injured worker.
- Medical case managers should be familiar with the many benefits of timely and regular contact with an injured worker by the employer following an injury
- Continuous contact and communication with the employee can:
- Build the injured employee’s sense of belonging, self-confidence and overall wellbeing through a positive recovery experience.
- Enhance the employee’s physical and psychological recovery while preparing them to return to gainful productivity.
- Minimize the chances of the worker seeking legal counsel, which in turn can reduce the potential claim cost exposure.
- Control medical care costs by minimizing “care seeking” by the employee.
- Facilitate a successful return to work outcome that is a win-win situation for all.
When an accident happens, a phone call or a personal visit by the employer, especially if the worker is hospitalized, can go a long way to demonstrating that the company cares about the employee.This demonstration of concern and caring can help avoid the development of ill feelings, which can in turn morph into litigation. Employees often seek legal representation because they have questions and fears or are angry about their work injury. Often they don’t know what to expect from the system or whether they will have a job upon return.When the employee does not get answers to his questions, he feels he has been forgotten by his employer or claims representative, and believes that an attorney can provide answers. Employers who have a formalized return to work program that includes continuous communication requirements are the most successful, and typically have lower loss costs.