July 30, 2014 Leave a comment
When you think of workers’ compensation claims, what comes to mind? Back injuries? Driving-related accidents? Slip, trips and falls? All are common work-related injuries across industries, and health care professionals have been diagnosing and treating them for a long time.
But there is another type of workplace injury that is not as easy to detect, much less treat. It is called psychological stress, and its resulting claims often cost twice as much as claims related to more common workplace injuries.
Stress claims include emotional, mental and psychiatric conditions that develop as a result of a work-related physical injury or traumatic event. Red flags include increased tardiness, absenteeism and workplace accidents; reduced productivity; and criminal behavior.
Because stress claims are more likely to be litigated, they typically come with a long shelf life and a big price tag. Fortunately, you can do a few simple things to minimize the effects of stress claims on your workplace:
- Provide access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs came on the scene in the 1930s, along with Alcoholics Anonymous. During the ’50s and ’60s, EAPs began tackling drug abuse problems. Now, they focus on wider aspects of mental health, including marital issues, financial problems, legal concerns and grief. There are many EAPs to choose from, so shop wisely. For more information about EAPs, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.
- Remember that apologies can work wonders. Many complex stress cases start as misunderstandings with a co-worker or a supervisor. Sometimes, a simple conversation that includes an apology can diffuse the situation before it develops into a costly claim.
- Teach managers to follow up and resolve employees’ grievances. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to handle stress problems directly, without doctors, lawyers and administrative paperwork? By simply following up on employees’ grievances, supervisors can heal wounds and keep stress from festering.
There is so much more to talk about when it comes to stress claims, but I’m running out of space and time. Chat back at me, and let’s see what’s going on in your world.
About the author
Bob Cogburn has nearly 25 years’ experience in vocational case management. Since 1997, he has been helping injured workers covered by a Texas Mutual policy rehabilitate and return to productive employment. Prior to joining Texas Mutual, Bob served as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Department of Assistive Rehabilitation Services. He also spent time as a job placement counselor for Goodwill Industries and El Centro College. At El Centro, he managed a job club specializing in placing students with disabilities back into the workplace. Bob holds a bachelor’s in rehabilitation science from the University of Texas Health Science Center and a master’s in counseling from Amberton University.