Your employees are the backbone of your business, and it can be a blow when one of them gets injured. Workplace accidents and injuries are not only traumatic for the victim, but they can be stressful for your company too, disrupting productivity, employee morale, and your bottom line.
When it comes to your New York workers’ compensation insurance claims, the biggest cost driver is severity, the amount of time the injured employee is off work. So your prime goal with every claim should be to minimize that time off and get the employee back to work as soon as possible. In fact, having a proactive and well-coordinated return-to-work (RTW) program is the best way to cut down on:
- Time loss costs
- Lost productivity
- Medical and indemnity costs
- Costs to replace workers and wages
- Use of disability benefits and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time
- Legal costs
But it’s not just about saving money
More importantly, getting an injured employee back on the job doing something productive can boost the employee’s morale, help him or her recover more quickly, and make for a more successful transition back to regular duty. Even if it means offering your injured workers some type of transitional or modified duty such as filing, sorting mail, or answering phones, getting them back on the job can be the best way to keep them from falling into the downward spiral of disability.
What does an effective RTW program look like today?
The face of workers’ compensation insurance rehabilitation is definitely changing. Traditional “work hardening” programs use real or simulated work activities, while traditional “work conditioning” programs use physical conditioning and functional activities related to the injured employee’s occupation. Modern rehab programs are combining the two and evolving into a new breed of “advanced work rehabilitation” or “level II return-to-work” programs. The goal is the same – safe and effective re-entry of the injured employee into the workforce – but these newer rehabilitation programs:
- Are more flexible
- Are customized to the individual
- Use combination of warm-ups, stretching, full body conditioning, and functional activities
- Are generally directed by a single physical or occupational therapist, but supported by other clinical professionals such as assistants or trainers
Today’s advanced work rehabilitation programs boost the likelihood that an injured worker will have a successful transition back into the workplace and avoid getting re-injured.
Let’s take a hypothetical scenario with a construction worker who gets injured on the job. Under a more traditional program, the worker might be referred for physical therapy, with no comprehensive conditioning plan. Without specialized training, that worker could still experience instability performing his specific job tasks, which will affect his productivity and even his and his coworkers’ safety, and put him at greater risk of re-injury.
In a modern level II RTW program, that same worker would undergo a treatment plan focused on conditioning the appropriate muscles during functional work tasks specifically related to his daily work activities, with work-specific short- and long-term goals. Other specialists would be brought in as needed. As a result of this more comprehensive treatment, the injured worker is more likely to successfully return to regular duty with no restrictions and less risk of re-injury.
Successful RTW is a team effort
Getting an injured worker back to gainful employment is a team effort between you, the employee, healthcare providers, physical therapists, and anyone else involved, and that collaboration is crucial to the success of modern RTW programs.