Your Claims Questions Answered – How do I create a return-to-work program?

It’s our goal at Texas Mutual to get injured workers back to a productive life as soon as medically possible. With a return-to-work program, you can save on claim costs, business expenses and injured workers can heal sooner and get back to contributing to the team.

We cover how to create a return-to-work program in our next episode of the Your Claims Questions Answered series. Watch the video below and take a look at the steps to create a return-work program in your workplace. Keeping these steps in mind will help you be prepared if the unexpected happens.

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A return-to-work program should begin before an injury occurs. For all your employees, make sure you have a current record of their daily job duties, such as a job description, and encourage cross training. That way if an injury occurs that requires leave time, your team can make sure the job duties get fulfilled and you don’t miss a beat.

It may seem like a quick fix to bring someone new in, but the time and expense of hiring a new employee to replace an experienced worker is 50 to 150 percent of their salary.

Determine modified job duties.
The treating doctor will determine the injured worker’s ability to perform job duties. If they are unable to return to the same job, determine what parts of the job they can still do or find a different area in which the employee can make a positive contribution.

Make an offer to the injured worker for the modified position. It’s best to put it in writing, and it should include a DWC Form-073 (Texas Workers’ Compensation Work Status Report) completed by the physician.

Keep open lines of communication.
A little bit of motivation can go a long way for someone recovering from an injury. Stay in touch with the employee and check in with them. This can help them avoid feelings of isolation and the disability mindset. If the employee is back on the job with modified duties, see how they are adjusting to the new role.

Open communication is also important with Texas Mutual. If you have questions or concerns about the injured worker’s claim or recovery, call us at (800) 859-5995.

While every case is different, one of the best ways to control workers’ compensation costs is with a return-to-work program. Call the Texas Mutual safety services team at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) for help getting started or visit texasmutual.com for more resources. Watch the Your Claims Questions Answered series here and read our key takeaways from how claims affect your e-mod, reporting an injury, and your role in the claims process.

Your Claims Questions Answered – What do I do if an employee gets hurt?

In our new YouTube video series Your Claims Questions Answered, we address the most commonly asked claims-related questions. We covered your role in the claims process recently on the blog. Next up, we are discussing what to do when an employee gets hurt while at work. Watch the video and take a look at our key takeaways below.

Address the employee’s health

If an employee is injured on the job, the first thing you should do is assess the situation and determine if it is an emergency. Call 911 if needed and make sure the employee gets timely care to facilitate a quick recovery.

Using the Texas Star Network can help employees get the care they need and can help you manage claim costs. Injured workers can search for a treating doctor, pharmacy, or specialist through the Texas Star Network’s provider portal online or through the Texas Star Network’s mobile app.

Report the claim to Texas Mutual

To report an injury, we will need a DWC-1 Form known as the Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness. We’ve made it easy to report claims to Texas Mutual online, by phone, fax or mail. Whichever way you choose to report, it’s best to make a report as soon as you can, so Texas Mutual can help you with the claim. The law allows employers up to eight days to report the injury.

Keep open lines of communication

Open communication supports a culture of safety by empowering employees to voice their concerns. Make sure employees know how to report safety hazards and how to access the resources they need to be safe on the job.

In the event someone is injured on the job, getting them back to a productive life is always best. Stay in touch with the employee throughout their recovery to help mitigate their feelings of isolation and maintain team comradery.  A return-to-work program can be started before an injury occurs. Visit the Return-to-Work page at texasmutual.com for more resources.

Training and preparation

There are steps you should take to be as prepared as possible for when a workplace injury occurs. Making safety a habit starts with providing the right training for your employees to do their jobs safely. Texas Mutual has free resources available for you and your employees including webinars and e-Learning online training courses.

Assign a point person to take the lead during injury incidents and create an action plan that is accessible for your employees. Practice drills can help your workplace prepare for an emergency situation and can help you identify any shortfalls in training.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you be prepared when a workplace injury occurs. Next in the Your Claims Questions Answered series, we’ll cover how claims affect your e-mod.

Your Claims Questions Answered – What’s my role in the claims process?

When a worker is injured on the job, an employer may have a lot weighing on their mind. Determining the next steps shouldn’t be one of those things. At Texas Mutual, we provide you with the resources you need to understand the claims process and help employees get the care they need so they can recover and return to a productive life. That’s why we launched a new video series called Your Claims Questions Answered, which addresses the most commonly asked claim-related questions quickly and clearly. In this six-part series, we’ll cover your role in the claims process, reporting an injury, experience modifiers, return-to-work programs, the medical network, and reporting fraud.

To kick off this series, watch “What’s my role in the claim process?” and review our highlights below on how to manage your claims.

Keep an open line of communication with Texas Mutual and the injured employee. This helps the injured worker from feeling isolated, increases trust and fosters loyalty. Check in with the employee to let them know you care about their recovery. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way to motivate an injured worker to get back on their feet.

We’re here to help you and the injured worker throughout the whole process. Our licensed claims adjuster will be there for the injured worker every step of the way. As a large carrier, we’ll work to keep your claims costs down and we can help you to create an injury recovery plan. You can also login to texasmutual.com to check the latest status of a claim.

Build a return-to-work plan. Injured workers out six months or more have only a 50 percent chance of ever returning to work. Implementing a return-to-work plan engages the worker and saves you money. For more resources, visit the Return-To-Work page at texasmutual.com.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Your Claims Questions Answered where we will discuss how to report an injury, or take a look at the whole series now. For safety resources to help you prevent workplace injuries, login to texasmutual.com and visit the Safety Resource Center.

A team effort promotes recovery and saves business

If you look forward to going to work every day, oftentimes it’s because of the people you work with. That’s how it was for Josh Paulin. As a valued member of the Classic Construction team, Josh’s special relationship with his employer provided the momentum for his successful return-to-work story. While sealing a roof on the job, Josh fell and nearly lost his life. Josh’s coworkers watched the traumatic accident in devastation as paramedics fought to save him.

When you’re faced with a life-changing event like Josh was, the best outcome is getting back to the life you love. For Josh, getting to that point required learning to walk, talk and read again. Watch Josh’s story and see how Texas Mutual Insurance Company and his employer were by his side every step of the way.

Josh’s story is a perfect example of how valuable a return-to-work initiative is for businesses and injured workers. As a seasoned employee, Josh’s employer was eager to get him back on the team. While continuing rehabilitation, Josh went back to work with modified job duties. He was able to contribute his unique expertise to the company surrounded by coworkers who supported his ongoing recovery. Meanwhile, Josh’s employer had peace of mind over the future of his business.

When a worker sustains life-changing injuries, coming to terms with the new way of life can be a challenge, but a return-to-work program provides countless benefits. Employees can focus on their recovery rather than stress about their financial situation. By being surrounded by team comradery, they avoid isolation from peers and symptoms of depression. Giving injured workers purpose and surrounding them with familiar faces to celebrate recovery milestones promotes quicker healing.

2017-04-05_16-34-45For employers, implementing a return-to-work program maintains production by keeping experienced workers on the job. Bringing on a temporary employee or hiring someone new requires time and effort. Meanwhile, the business loses productivity. Employers who invest in return to work can minimize lost productivity and control workers’ compensation costs, while also encouraging the ongoing recovery of a valued employee.

It was a team effort getting Josh back on the job after his traumatic accident, but it made all the difference. For more resources on return-to-work programs and implementing them in your business, visit the Return-To-Work page at texasmutual.com.

Chuy’s Story of Recovery and Success

When Jesus “Chuy” Duarte went to work in the oilfields of Odessa four years ago, he never imagined it’d be a day that would change his life forever.  Having been sent on a special job three hours away, he headed out in his vehicle and what he remembers next is waking up in a hospital a month later and being told he would never be able to walk again.

However, Chuy had a different idea of the direction his recovery would take, and Texas Mutual was there to support him as he took the journey. Take a look at Chuy’s story and see how his tenacity, and Texas Mutual’s support, got him to where he is today.

Accidents like the one Chuy experienced happen all too often across Texas, even though Texas Mutual and the employers we support work hard to prevent them. When these tragic events do happen, what’s important is maintaining a focus of getting back to a productive life. This requires perseverance from those hurt on the job, strong support and advocacy from Texas Mutual, and the commitment from employers to create return-to-work plans to help workers return to productive work when possible. Returning to a productive life is always in the best interests of those affected by workplace accidents.

chuy_1It has been four years since the devastating accident and Texas Mutual continues to be involved in ensuring Chuy’s wellbeing. Chuy attributes part of his recovery to the support he received from Texas Mutual. “That’s what got our family through the harsh times,” he said.

See more injured worker success stories here, and visit texasmutual.com to download our free return-to-work tools for employers.

Reasonable accommodations: Lessons from the gridiron

Jason Pierre-Paul is among the mere 1.6 percent of college football players gifted enough to make it to the National Football League. Pierre-Paul, better known as JPP, is a pass-rushing defensive lineman for the New York Giants. In layman’s terms, he makes a living – a darn good one – making life difficult for the opposing team’s quarterback.

Sample reasonable accommodations
Injury Accommodation
A warehouse worker with a shoulder injury had trouble reaching material overhead. Storage areas were rearranged so heavy and frequently used materials were accessed at waist level.
A forklift driver with rheumatoid arthritis had difficulty grasping the steering wheel. The forklift was fitted with a spinner ball to eliminate the need for grasping.
A data entry clerk was having difficulty sitting for long periods due to his back impairment. He was accommodated with a sit/stand workstation, an ergonomic chair and a copy holder.
A medical technician who was deaf could not hear the buzz of a timer, which was necessary for specific laboratory tests. An indicator light was attached to the equipment.
A police dispatcher with heart disease had fatigue, which worsened when he did not keep a regular sleep schedule. He was accommodated with a dayshift instead of having to rotate shifts.
Credit: Job Accommodation Network

Like anyone who ascends to the game’s highest level, JPP has worked hard all his life, and he can spend his money on whatever he sees fit. And that’s exactly what he did last summer, when he purchased a U-Haul van full of fireworks for a Fourth of July party at his home.

Despite sage advice from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, JPP orchestrated the show himself rather than hiring a professional. And that was just fine until a bottle rocket exploded in his hand. Witnesses say a green and white light instantly swallowed JPP’s 6′ 5″, 278-pound frame.

If you follow the game even marginally, you know JPP survived the ordeal relatively intact, with one notable exception. Doctors had to amputate his right index finger, as well as part of his thumb and middle finger.

When you spend the better part of your life learning to use your hands to move opposing players out of your path, losing even one digit is devastating. So it’s no surprise JPP panicked in the aftermath of the accident.

It’s not that he can’t do his job anymore. He just has to learn how to do it differently. And that is the perfect jumping off spot for two key points:

  1. Your employees’ personal lives inevitably carry over into their work lives.
  2. Injured employees might not be able to return to their normal duties immediately, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to productivity. You might be able to work with the treating doctor to come up with reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments to a job, the work environment or processes that enable a person to work. For JPP, that means a wrist strap fitted with hooks to help him lift weights and a glove custom-fitted for his right hand.

The adaptive devices industry grows every day, so it’s easier than ever to identify and implement reasonable accommodations. Some are simple, and some require creative thinking.

Basic solutions include one-handed keyboards to accommodate hand injuries, chairs that allow workers with spinal conditions to alter sitting positions, software that increases text size for people with visual impairments, and adjustable-height work surfaces.

Advanced solutions include re-engineered packaging machines, modified cutting devices and lightweight, plastic dumpster lids. The only limits on adaptive devices are our own imagination and the laws of physics. It’s all about finding what works for your employee. And that’s where they can help.

Texas Mutual return-to-work specialists recommend employers collaborate with their employees to identify reasonable accommodations. Employees know their jobs better than anyone, and they are in the best position to tell you what will work for them.

Reasonable accommodations can be costly in the beginning, but they ultimately pay off for employees and the bottom line. If return-to-work sounds like a worthy investment for your business, take advantage of the free resources you have access to.

Texas Mutual’s website includes a comprehensive guide to implementing all aspects of a return-to-work program. The Texas Department of Insurance also offers a range of free material on its website.

Return-to-Work: Job descriptions are your ace in the hole

You work hard to prevent on-the-job injuries, but accidents happen. When they do, the goal is to get the employee well and back to work. One of the first questions your insurance carrier will ask is, “Can the employee still do their normal job?”

That question is tough to answer if we don’t know what the employee’s normal job duties are.

Watch this short video to see how a near-fatal accident sent Lonnie Williams down a new career path.

Thorough job descriptions for every position at your company are critical to the return-to-work process. They are important pieces of the disability puzzle that help vocational case managers put on their creative return-to-work thinking caps.

A vocational case manager’s job is to evaluate the injured worker’s normal job duties. Then, they coordinate with doctors to get a work release based on agreed upon modifications to the original job.

Thorough job descriptions pay close attention to the physical demands of each task. In developing job descriptions, ask yourself these types of questions:

  • How much does the employee have to lift? How high? How often and how long?
  • What kind of tools and equipment does the employee use?
  • What are the environmental conditions (heat, cold, noise)?
  • How long does the employee sit, stand or bend?
  • Does the job comply with the employee’s new work restrictions?

That last question can be tough to tackle, but remember that you don’t have to answer it alone. The physician can help if you provide a good job description.

The Texas Department of Insurance created form DWC-74 as a template for communicating injured workers’ job duties to physicians. A thorough DWC-74 tells the physician exactly what the employee does on the job every day. From there, the doctor determines whether the employee can still do those tasks.

If not, the doctor will use form DWC-74 to explain the injured worker’s restrictions. Your vocational case manager can use that information to identify alternative productive work the employee can do while they recover.

Your insurance carrier might be able to help you develop job descriptions. For example, Texas Mutual employs the state’s largest team of workplace safety professionals. They help our policyholders analyze jobs and develop written job descriptions for the return-to-work process.

For more information about writing job descriptions, see page 17 of Texas Mutual’s Return-to-Work Kit for a Physical Demands Task Assessment checklist. For more information on return-to-work, visit our website.

 

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