Managing Workers’ Compensation

March 26, 2019

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that is used to provide wage replacement and medical benefits for employees who are injured at work. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Program (OWCP) is located within the U.S. Department of Labor. The in-house agency manager is responsible for managing the program and following all OWCP rules and regulations.

The first step in managing workers’ compensation is making sure the company has workers’ compensation insurance in case of employee injury. Next, you should create a process for injury reporting, putting workers’ compensation reporting documents in place for claims. It is imperative to make sure that all managers, supervisors, and employees are made aware of the procedures.

Properly Handle an Injury
If an injury occurs, depending on the severity, the employee should seek immediate medical care. If the employee is not able, the supervisor should fill out the workers’ compensation form and follow the company procedures for processing the form. The employee or the supervisor should document the names of all witnesses who were present when the employee was injured. If possible, witness statements should be gathered.

Develop Relationships
Having a relationship with a local physician or a local clinic when handling workers’ compensation paperwork can be very beneficial. Emergency rooms can take a long time and emergency room physicians are constantly rotating, which makes it difficult to form a relationship. Unless the injury is life-threatening, it is a good idea to utilize a certain clinic. If the company has a relationship with a specific clinic, it would likely simplify the process for the employer to find out the nature and extent of the injury, as well as the physician’s recommended recovery and how long that should take.

Monitor Activity
It is important to monitor clinic activity when it comes to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation insurance typically pays the entire cost to the physician, and this could be a problem. Some physicians could attempt to prolong treatment, in order to continue to receive payments. The Workers’ Compensation Program Manager should be in contact with the various physicians’ at all times to stay on top of all situations.

Employers should also make sure employees are not abusing workers’ compensation. The supervisor should monitor how often the individual appears to be having accidents at work – Are the same accidents happening at work, and what steps are in place to prevent recurring accidents? Most accidents are minor, but if someone reports back issues, those claims are serious. It is important to take into account the possibility that the person may have to get extensive treatment to heal from their injury or have to receive continuous treatments. When someone has a back issue and has two appointments and feels better, that same problem could come back in a month. Whereas, it could be more beneficial to both the company and employee if more effort was spent on completely fixing the problem in the first place. It should be made perfectly clear to the employee that medical treatment is required, and they cannot just stop treatment just because they feel better. The employee must receive clearance from their physician prior to returning to work.

When the employee returns to work, modifications may have to be put in place to accommodate the employee. Those modifications fall under the Reasonable Accommodations program, which is designed to accommodate employees who are injured or have a specific disability. The most important thing is making sure the employee has a quick and efficient recovery and is able to get back to work. If a job can be completed without modifications and not hinder the recovery process, the employer should take the necessary steps to make this happen. If an accommodation is requested, the employee must present medical paperwork from the doctor, clearly stating what type of accommodation is needed, in order for the employee to return to work. For example, if the employee had a back injury, and his/her job required lifting, the doctor would need to state the lowest poundage acceptable for the injured employee to lift. If the company can accommodate this request, the employee can return to work. If the company cannot accommodate this request, the employee could be temporarily reassigned to a new section until he/she is fully healed, or the employee would stay home. The most important thing that should come out of the situation is that the employee’s injury is taken care of and they are able to return to work as quickly as possible.

For questions or more information about workers’ compensation, please contact Jessica Wilken at 240.233.4872.