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Smart Return-to-Work Programs Get Employees on the Job Faster

September 9, 2019

Employees are the vital link to growing the bottom line, but challenges with their health, wellness and ability to do their job safely can create significant negative impact to any balance sheet.

For instance, productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee, according to the CDC Foundation. Getting employees back to work as soon as possible following an injury is helpful not only to an employee’s morale, but also to the company’s profitability. But doing it safely is vital to avoid a repeat injury and additional workers’ compensation claims.

The impact of injured employees

No matter the industry, most employees are covered by workers’ compensation laws. As a result, workers’ compensation tends to be the single-most expensive line of coverage for most employers, making it vital to provide access to tools and resources that help employers manage those costs.

The indirect costs of a workers’ compensation claim for an injured employee can often exceed the direct costs to an employer. They are usually uninsured and cannot be recovered. A case in point is a fracture, which can on average generate direct costs of approximately $50,000. However, the indirect costs associated with this relatively common injury are estimated at an additional $55,000. This means the employer is left shouldering a $100,000+ bill. Compounded by multiple employees with varying on-the-job injuries or illnesses, the impact on businesses can be devastating.

While it can be straightforward to estimate direct treatment costs, there are many variables that influence the amount of indirect costs passed along to employers. These typically result from the following:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Disrupted schedules
  • Administrative time for investigations and reports
  • Training of replacement personnel
  • Clean up and repair of any affected area
  • Management of any adverse publicity
  • Third-party liability claims against the owner
  • Equipment damage

These employer-based expenses can be accompanied by indirect costs such as potential OSHA fines and legal fees.

Smart return-to-work programs pay off for employers, employees

While injuries and illnesses on the job are unavoidable, we keep their employees safe and their bottom line healthy through formalized return-to-work (RTW) programs specific to their industry.

In addition to anticipating and controlling potential hidden costs to reduce the financial impact of workplace injuries, and discouraging abuse, a strategic tailored RTW program can:

  • Improve the ability to manage an injury claim and any restrictions
  • Allow managers to get keep regular contact with injured employees and get them back to work, resulting in less time and money spent on recruiting and hiring
  • Boost injured employees' morale, enhance their self-worth and keep them productive
  • Reduce the e-mod rating

We advocate that manager and supervisor education be a core component of any RTW program. For instance, an employee presented with a modified duty to get them back to work sooner may reject that offer, which is within their rights. Training supervisors to extend these modified job offers in writing can ensure the employee is fully informed of the job scope and ramifications of not returning to work, which can include a loss in pay from both employer and insurer.

Using technology to assess safety, preparedness

Knowing an employee’s – or potential employee’s – ability to meet basic workplace functions is critical to avoiding potential injury in the first place.

While employers cannot ask job candidates if they have pre-existing conditions that may put them at risk on the job, there are tools and resources available to help employers assess a potential employee’s ability.

A CRT Isokinetic Strength and Agility Screening (CRT test) allows employers to, as part of the interview process, conduct strength and agility testing on candidates. This allows an employer to assess the individual and see if they have the physical ability to complete the essential functions of the job in question.

With the only CRT machines in Arizona, Lovitt & Touché’s CRT program provides four types of evaluations:

1.      Pre-employment evaluations: Provide objective assessments of a candidate’s physical capabilities to determine if he or she can perform the essential functions of the job. This evaluation enables companies to better identify qualified applicants.

2.      Post-injury evaluations: Validates whether a work-related injury exists, verifies the degree of injury, identifies areas needing rehabilitation, and determines risk of repeat injury. A treating physician must prescribe this test.

3.      Baseline evaluations: Establishes a baseline on existing employees and is utilized for comparison testing in the event of a future injury.

4.      Return-to-work/function capacity evaluations: Provides an overall assessment of the employee’s injured joint(s) and overall body strength by measuring muscle strength and range of motion. The administration of this evaluation is typically prior to the injured employee’s release to return to work and/or discharge. The treating physician, employer and claims administrator receive a detailed report outlining the results. This evaluation also re-establishes the baseline in the event of future work-related injuries.

CRT testing is simple. Employers interested in using CRT machines would select the jobs for which to test, conduct a job task analysis to determine the essential functions of the job, and test any candidate prior to extending a job offer or a return-to-work authorization. Technicians administer the test, which takes approximately 15-20 minutes, and results are immediate. We then inform the employer of the results, allowing them to move forward with peace of mind.

Learn more about our Risk Management Solutions, including CRT testing.