When a workplace injury occurs, it needs to be reported to the work comp insurer right away. Prompt reporting gives the injured worker the best chance for a speedy return to work, and it avoids state penalties for the employer. Getting the injury reported immediately goes a long way toward minimizing the disruption associated with a workplace injury, but it’s really only the beginning of your responsibility as an employer.
There are several integral steps that follow the report of a claim, and each of them plays an important role in returning the employee to work and limiting the impact of the injury on your business.
- Contact the injured employee. Make a call or a visit as soon as you can. It’s important to answer any questions an injured employee has about the expected recovery and return to work. Injured workers often feel confused and abandoned, and reaching out them early and often prevents them from perceiving that they’re going it alone. Injured workers who are in frequent communication with the employer are more likely to get the treatment they need and less likely to seek legal representation.
- Get involved with the physician treating the injured worker. Discuss the employee’s current condition, physical capabilities, return-to-work status and date of next appointment. Using the Physician’s letter regarding return to work, make the treating physician aware of the employee’s specific job duties and possible transitional assignments. A sample of this letter can be found online in SFM’s Resource Catalog.
- Consult your SFM claims representative. Pass along any additional information you have about the employee and the claim. Make sure you’re aware of the status of the claim and the employee’s treatment schedule, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
- Identify transitional job opportunities. Within your organization, generate a list of jobs that can accommodate different physical limitations. Make sure that you have productive work available for individuals who are performing with reduced physical capabilities. Review this list regularly with supervisors and you’ll always have it ready if it’s needed.
- Coordinate the return to work. When the injured worker is released back to work, call your SFM claims representative right away. Next, reach out to the employee and arrange a return-to-work date. Make it clear when, where and to whom the employee is to report. Follow up with a written letter to the employee’s residence documenting the details, requesting an immediate response. If the employee doesn’t respond to the letter within a reasonable amount of time, report this to your SFM claims representative. Refusal of a reasonable job offer may result in discontinuation of wage-replacement benefits.
- Monitor the employee’s progress at work. Once the employee is back at work, check in with the injured worker and supervisor regularly (at least weekly). Make any necessary adjustments to duties and schedules, and establish goals for a safe return to full duties. Encourage the employee’s coworkers to be understanding and supportive of the return to work, and make sure they’re aware of any medical restrictions that might limit the employee’s ability to perform certain tasks.
- Prevent future accidents. Learn whatever you can from the incident to prevent it from occurring again. Examine the details of the accident and consider making changes to your workspace and safety training to protect workers from any risks you can identify. Don’t just accept workplace injuries as unavoidable.