Attention Supervisors: You Can Head Off Costly Claims

By Bob Cogburn, Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager

By Bob Cogburn,
Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager

“My wrist gets so sore. I wonder what it will feel like three months from now.”

“Every time I dig that hole, my back tells me to try another way.”

“There must be an easier way to break down boxes with all this high tech equipment we have.”

If you’re a supervisor, there’s a good chance you’ve heard an employee say something along these lines. In the course of your busy day, it can be easy to dismiss them and move on with business as usual. If you do, you may be missing an opportunity to head off a costly workers’ compensation claim.

When employees are hurting, they often tell their immediate supervisor, not just once, but repeatedly. Left untreated, minor ailments can degrade into serious injuries that require extensive treatment and time off work. You may also have to contend with the resentment of an employee who feels you are responsible for his injury.

So what’s the solution? Vocational rehabilitation professionals like me are trained to help injured workers get well and back on the job. By the time we get involved, however, the damage is largely done – to the employee and the business. Prevention has to start with you.

You have the power to head off costly claims by exercising a fundamental management skill: listening.

If an employee repeatedly mentions aches and pains, take a few minutes to investigate. In some cases, you can eliminate the problem by providing the right equipment and suggesting alternate ways to do the task.

For example, let’s assume an employee repeatedly complains of back pain after lifting boxes. Solutions might include:

  • Provide lift trucks or dollies.
  • Have employees work in teams to move heavy loads.
  • Break big loads into multiple smaller loads.
  • Review proper lifting technique: Use your legs, push rather than pull, center the load between your legs and shoulders, do not twist, keep your back straight and carry the load close to your body.

Supervisors are management’s closest link to front-line employees. You are in the best position to recognize when someone is on the road to an injury. If you listen and respond, you can help keep experienced employees on the job, maintain your team’s production and save the company the expense of costly claims.

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.

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