When employers want to cut their workers’ compensation costs, they work on improving safety programs or training. But have you thought about improving your employee communications?
Communications Before the Injury
Communicating with employees before a claim occurs may cut workers’ compensation costs. Intracorp, a managed care company, conducted a survey of injured workers’ attitudes on the workers’ compensation process. Nearly half the injured workers surveyed said their employer had never provided information on what to do if they became ill or injured on the job. More than a quarter said they didn’t know how to go about getting treatment for a work-related ailment. With so many workers uninformed about their workers’ compensation benefits, it’s no wonder that so many turn to attorneys for guidance!
Communications After the Injury
Most injured workers surveyed by Intracorp also said ongoing personal contact from the employer affected their attitude, recovery and decision to return to work. Yet only half the survey respondents reported that their employers had kept in contact with them while they were off the job.
Intracorp’s findings point out the importance of frequent contact with injured workers. But the type of contact is also important. While positive contacts encourage an injured employee to return to work, negative communications can do more damage than no communications at all. By implying that a worker is malingering or faking, you may discourage him or her from ever returning to the job.
Tips for Communicating with Injured Workers
The following tips can help you start a program for communicating with injured workers.
- Have a supervisor or manager, preferably the immediate supervisor, stay in contact. Supervisors should call on a regular (weekly or every-other-week) basis.
- Express the company’s concern. Remember, you’re dealing with people who are sick or injured—a little sympathy can make them feel better.
- Ask about their progress and when they expect to return to work.
- Keep them informed about important events at the office. This includes “people news” as well as updates on current projects. This will help them feel less cut off while they’re out of the office.
- Encourage co-workers to stay in touch with injured workers.
- Stay in touch with your workers’ compensation claims manager. He or she should provide you with regular updates on existing claims.
By communicating with injured workers, you demonstrate the company’s concern for its employees. This can improve the morale of injured workers—and their co-workers as well. For more information on workers’ compensation communications, please call our office.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: This site lists government statistics on labor and employment, including rates of occupational injury and death on a national level and statistics on injuries by type, occupation and more.
Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies: This site has a section that provides information on the relationship between behavior and safety.
Center to Protect Workers’ Rights: Sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the site focuses on construction safety. Employers in the construction industry will find hazard information sheets that may be useful.
Mayo Clinic: A general health site that offers information on many health issues.
Electrical Safety Foundation International: This site focuses on safety topics pertaining to electricity. Employers in the construction business, electrical contractors and those who employ electricians may find information of use.
National Institutes of Health: This site focuses on more general health-related topics. Employers looking to set up certain wellness or prevention programs might find some information of interest in the Combined Health Information Database.
National Safety Council: This site covers many aspects of safety, not just safety at the workplace.
OSHA: The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) website includes OSHA regulations for various industries, as well as current information on safety.
AIHA: The website of the American Industrial Hygiene Association defines industrial hygiene as the science and art of “…anticipation, recognition, evaluation, prevention, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among workers or among citizens of the community.” It provides referrals to members and general safety information applicable to the workplace and homes.
Workers’ compensation insurers: Many workers’ compensation insurers provide occupational safety information online. Check your insurer’s website for information on general safety and prevention topics.