Take Action to Control Workers' Compensation Costs After an Accident
No matter how careful your manufacturing company and your workers are, accidents and injuries can still happen. When they do, responding properly is an important factor in keeping your workers' compensation costs under control.
Here are six steps to take when an injury occurs:
Workers' compensation insurance can be expensive, but smart planning may cut the cost. One glass installer, for example, paid steep premiums because of the number of claims filed by employees.
The installer couldn't prevent all injuries due to the nature of the business. So the company contracted with a nearby medical clinic to treat employees with minor cuts and other injuries for a monthly retainer. As a result, workers' compensation claims and premiums went down. In fact, the company found that for every $1 paid to the clinic, it saved $2 in insurance premiums.
1. Provide immediate medical care. Cost control always takes a backseat to the health and safety of your workers. Worry first and foremost about treating the injury and minimizing the harm to your employee. Plus, prompt treatment can help prevent long-term damage, secondary infections and other complications that lead to higher costs and longer medical leaves.
2. Create a file. Gather as much information as you can in writing from the beginning of the incident. Record time and circumstances and what witnesses have to say. Include any correspondence with doctors, the insurer and the employee.
3. Reassure the injured employee. Call within 24 hours to check on the condition of injured staff members and remind them the company is there for them. Describe the wage-protection program and medical benefits. Consider sending flowers, candy or books. Not only will this gesture make them feel better, it will also make them less likely to listen to any ambulance-chasing attorneys who may call.
4. Don't let the employee languish at home. Get injured employee back to work as soon as it's safely possible. You may have to put them on light duty or a modified assignment. Statistics indicate that the longer an employee stays idle, the more likely it is that he or she will never be fully employed again. Those kinds of claims drive up your rates. Consider consulting with the doctor about what the employee is able to do and think hard about how you could put the person to work profitably, even in a different job.
5. Do some detective work if you suspect fraud. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of the claim, ask whether the employee where he or she was supposed to be, doing what he or she was supposed to be doing. Talk to co-workers to learn what you can about the employee's circumstances. If something seems out of line, notify the insurance company or state fund.
6. Be careful about not allowing employees back to work. It's not illegal to refuse to take an employee back if you don't have a job available. But it is illegal to not rehire someone because of an injury, and wrongful termination claims aren't covered under workers' compensation policies. Once employees are back on the job, it's generally a violation of workers' compensation laws to penalize or discriminate against him or her for filing a claim. Talk to your attorney before you take any action or make promises.
Contact your HR and legal advisors to help manage workers' compensation claims. These professionals possess the training and experience needed to dealing with fraudulent claims and workers who spend too much time at home after an injury. They also may suggest additional ways to lower your costs and exposure to workers' compensation claims before an accident or injury happens.