Workers’ comp is a huge expense for many companies and the sad reality is that many of the accidents that cost businesses absurd amounts of money are preventable. Not only that, but the fact that an employee has suffered an injury in the past is no guarantee that the same employee will not suffer the same injury again!
The key to reducing the employee accidents, that can severely impact your business, lies in prevention. Successful prevention, we believe, lies in proper communication between you, your employees, and your company’s medical advisor. Here are 5 ways to successfully communicate with your employees, helping to prevent repeated injuries among your workforce:
1. Make Sure Your Medical Advisor Can Contact Your Employee’s Physician
When injured, your employee will go for treatment to their own personal care physician. While they may not initially heed warnings from your medical advisor, they may lend a good deal more credence to the words of their own doctor.
If your company’s medical advisor is able to contact the employee’s personal physician, then it will make it a good deal simpler to relay important information to that doctor. You’ll have to ensure that this is taken care of well in advance; don’t wait until an injury has already occurred to find out if you can contact your workers’ doctors when you need to.
2. Contact the Employee’s Physician BEFORE the Employee’s Appointment
It is critical that your medical advisor has a strong relationship with your employee’s physician. When it becomes apparent that your worker will need to visit the doctor for an work-related injury, have your medical advisor be the one to call the doctor and inform them that the employee will need an exam.
Your medical advisor can do a number of things to reduce the impact of an injury on your company. First, they can ask the doctor to give the necessary release forms for a worker to sign to ensure they can call the doctor back. A trained medical advisor will be able to ask the correct questions to ensure the exam properly distinguishes the difference between a work-related injury and an injury that is not work-related at all.
With a proper line of communication established, the doctor can also advise your company on how to make sure your employee is working again as soon as possible. Of course, make sure the physician takes a detailed medical history and heed whatever advice they may render to keep your employee working safely, whether they are back to full work or temporarily put on light duty.
3. Ask the Physician to Watch Out for Symptom Magnification
Certain tests can look for Waddell signs, which can indicate whether an injury is causing an employee’s discomfort or if the symptoms are exaggerated or even psychological. It is entirely possible that an injured worker does not understand the cause of their own pain; they may attribute a chronic or preexisting condition to a work-related injury when that is not the case.
In addition, an employee may fabricate or exaggerate an injury if they are trying to avoid a particular task and a well trained medical advisor can ensure that physicians check for this.
Once again this goes back to establishing a proper line of communication between your medical advisor, your employee, and their physician. Your medical advisor can inform the treating physician if the employee is unhappy with their current work, for example. This sort of background information will greatly assist the physician in finding the true cause of injuries and thereby make injuries much easier to treat.
4. Your Employee’s Physician Can Order Medical Restrictions
As we’ve stated repeatedly throughout this article, proper communication is key for the prevention of repeated injuries! Communicating with your employee’s physician will ensure that they can provide you with any limitations that the employee may have.
Workers themselves are not always aware that employees are able to accommodate restrictions in duty, potentially leading them to conceal or underplay injuries and leading to worse problems in the future. A doctor can make suggestions but should be made aware of what accommodations your company can make. If they don’t communicate with your medical advisor, they may give “off duty” as a restriction where this is not necessary.
If the employee isn’t confined to their bed, they may well be able to provide some sort of valuable work to your company. Doctors may not even realize that an employee who cannot drive, could – potentially – work from home. You will want to make sure the doctor is aware of what accommodations you can make and, with this knowledge, provide you with an extremely detailed restriction for your employee, informing you what exactly your employee is and is not capable of. Once you have this information, it is up to you as the employer to decide whether you want to make accommodations or not. However, if you do not make a reasonable attempt to accommodate your employee, it is possible you may open your business up to a discrimination lawsuit so take care when making these choices.
5. Give the Doctor a Simple Form to Fill Out
The last step is to ensure the doctor has a simple form that they can fill out to streamline communication between your company and the physician. Simple boxes they can check that list what the employee can and cannot do, with extra space for the doctor to provide additional comments. This will make it very easy for the doctor to provide the detailed information you need.