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Detailed protocols can help reduce workers comp costs: SHRM speaker

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CHICAGO — Human resource managers can help reduce workers compensation costs by devising written plans that document each step of the comp process and effectively communicating expectations to injured employees, a consultant said Wednesday.

Margaret Spence, president and CEO of Douglas Claims & Risk Consultants Inc. in West Palm Beach, Fla., discussed workers comp best practices during the Society for Human Resource Management conference in Chicago.

Companies should have a written road map that can be used to get employees back to work as soon as possible, Ms. Spence said. Such a plan is important because workers comp costs can account for 20% to 30% of a company's overall health care costs.

“We have to start communicating … the business case,” Ms. Spence said of why companies need workers comp protocols.

She recommends that such plans include immediate accident investigations and witness statements concerning work-related accidents.

Even if companies don't believe an employee's injury is work-related, Ms. Spence said that the company still should send the worker to visit a doctor and diagnostic tests within 14 days of a reported accident. Such steps provide documentation that can help defend against fraudulent claims, she said.

Return-to-work plans should be displayed in written form for all workers so they're aware of a company's policies after a work accident. Employees also should be provided with post-accident documents that detail the company's expectations on treatment and returning to modified duties as they recover from an injury, she said.

“Don't give employees the opportunity to say, 'I didn't know what to do,'” Ms. Spence said. “Tell them what we expect and how we expect it. Even in states where you don't get to pick the doctor the employee sees, we still get to create the policy around how the employee operates in our workplace.”

She also recommended that employers ask their insurers, brokers and defense attorneys to provide guidance and assistance in making workplaces safer, rather than relying on them only for claims that have already occurred.