Communicate with Injured Workers

This letter is in response to a process that was outlined by one of the roundtable participants.  She has every party involved in mangaging a given claim.  They meet every 45 days and outline a clear plan.  It is a remarkably forward-thinking concept and very effective.

Hi _____, I think the program you outlined is excellent.  I am not on the ground floor of managing an injured worker’s claim, but your process is remarkable.  When I mentioned the multiple parties being involved as an obstacle, I was referring to parties that don’t talk to each other.  I agree that the only way to keep these claims moving is a process like this, with all parties involved being in the same room and freely discussing the options.  From my perspective, it seems like a “roundtable” like this could be a standard practice for a company of any size.  It would seem to be easier for a smaller company.  I think that your process clearly addresses the “ability” issue and would help the motivational component.  A clearly defined pathway with an end point will decrease anxiety and frustration.

I think the way that the individual employee is treated during the process is the part that is hard to measure.  When a person is in a vulnerable role, at the mercy of a system, every interaction is important.  Treating the employee with the utmost respect at every level is critical. I have also discovered that an angry employee will often perceive everyone as treating him or her badly regardless of how well they are actually treated.  That is why your Employee Assistance Program is so important.

I mentioned earlier that it took me months of playing your role of a moderator to get one specific worker back on the job.  He personally took a lot of responsibility.  Instead of being rewarded for fighting to get back to work, they put him into an entry position, took away his commission, and decreased his pay by seven dollars an hour.  He is understandably having a hard time with the situation, as am I.  He is now beginning to experience panic attacks on the job.

______, I think the book that you recommended is important regarding the effects of working in a stressful workplace.  Although physical conditions in the workplace have improved, maybe we have not progressed that much regarding how we actually treat employees since Upton Sinclair’s book, “The Jungle” written in 1906.

______, I would also recommend that you contact _______ who is a part of this roundtable.  I have watched him for over 20 years streamlining the front end of a claim and I think he could add to your process. Much of what your group has to discuss might be prevented.  He has now gone up the line and is working on safety.  He has sold his ideas in that he can significantly decrease the number of injuries; increase actual production, and therefore profits. This is in addition to the money not spent on worker’s comp. The key to his success is spending a lot of time talking to the workers on the floor. They do have the solutions to prevent most injuries.

I also have personally felt for a while that if we are going to make a dent in our overall disability problem, we need to begin in elementary school.  We need to teach both stress management tools and that the highest priority in life is to learn to treat each other nicely.

NH, BF