The moment an injury occurs, a sequence of events that can last for weeks, sometimes even months, begins. But no matter how prolonged the recovery period, the first 24 hours after an injury are the most crucial. For an employer to respond effectively to an incident, it needs to be ready to act within 24 hours.
You and your supervisors may already be experienced in handling injuries. Still, a clearly-defined, 24-hour injury response plan will help provide even more effective and consistent responses and ensure that supervisors and employees know what to expect when someone is injured. The plan will also provide the necessary guidance when experienced supervisors are not immediately available to respond to an accident or injury.
Injured employees will not only be concerned about their health, but they may also worry about keeping their jobs and may be frustrated or confused by company policies.
A rapid-response plan turns a potentially negative event into a more manageable scenario for you and the employee by addressing their concerns up front, helping them get the care they need, and lowering claims costs.
Organizations that work with injured employees—such as the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons—and organizations that provide risk management services to employers —such as the Public Entity Risk Institute—agree that prompt and thorough action promotes the best outcomes for everyone involved. The lag between when an injury occurs, and the reporting of that injury has a significant effect on both the time it takes to close the claim and the final cost of the claim.
A study published by the Hartford Financial Services Group found the following:
The most common reason for delayed reporting is that the injured party believes the pain will go away. This creates problems, as most injuries that are not addressed immediately take longer to heal. The second most common reason for delayed reporting is a lack of employee training. Approximately 97% of employees injured on the job do not know what process to follow; in many cases, they will go to their own doctor rather than reporting to their supervisor.
Less common, but certainly prevalent, is the concern that there will be a negative reaction from a supervisor. This highlights the importance of supervisor training, creating a clear message about immediate reporting and maintaining a supportive work environment.
Delayed reporting may also be caused by a conflict over a non-injury issue. This occasionally can result in an employee belatedly reporting a real or fabricated injury to retaliate for some other grievance against the company or supervisor. Unfortunately, claims of this nature are rarely resolved quickly.
Since time is such an important variable in resolving claims quickly and cost-effectively, it is important to train employees in their responsibilities should an injury occur. For supervisors, training allows them to take a more active role in managing the response and to serve as a guide for injured employees. This means quicker reporting times and better health outcomes.
Training should include making employees aware of how to access appropriate care. Employees should be comfortable reporting injuries, knowing they will be treated with care and respect. During training, it is important to reinforce the company’s commitment to helping every injured employee heal properly and return to work promptly.
To aid in educating your staff about workplace injuries, your company should create and post a written, 24-hour response plan for employees and supervisors to follow.
The immediate assessment of the injury is crucial to ensuring appropriate and personal treatment. Determine the type and severity of the injury; ideally, a staff member trained in first aid can assess the severity of the injury and the appropriate action needed. For injuries that usually result in the most lost time and highest claims costs, such as sprains, strains, neck and back injuries, appropriate medical care is most likely a prompt visit to a clinic, or a doctor well-versed in evidence-based, occupational health care delivery. An established clinic relationship facilitates prompt and appropriate treatment for injured workers.
After triaging the victim and providing prompt medical attention, it’s important that the injury gets reported to the appropriate parties immediately. Ensure that injury reporting is quick across all levels (supervisor, injury management coordinator, and insurance carriers). Timely reporting is one important result of effective training and results in rapid return to work and minimized indemnity claims.
From the moment an injury first occurs, there should be consideration as to when the employee will be able to return to his or her duties. Return-to-Work programs tend to result in better health outcomes and preserve many important benefits, such as health coverage, that are contingent on attendance. Return-to-Work programs also tend to limit claims costs to medical costs only. Whenever possible, employers should facilitate a return to work to minimize indemnity payments, because even small indemnity payments can have an adverse effect on your experience mod (which is your company’s safety score in determining your workers’ comp insurance rate). To facilitate your Return-to-Work program, you should do the following:
For questions about workers’ compensation or help with a response plan, contact an Insurance Professional at RMC Group today at 239-298-8210 or [email protected].
This article is not intended to be exhaustive, nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2011, 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.