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Focus on core values improves comp disability outcomes: Risk manager

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holistic

SAN DIEGO — To address weak links in disability management following a workplace injury, employers should look inward for ways to improve outcomes and return to work, according to a risk manager for a Texas manufacturer.

Overhead Door Corp., a multistate manufacturer of industrial doors and walkways, realized two years ago that, at some sites, more than half of its workers comp claims wound up in litigation, said Andrew Shay, risk manager for the Lewisville, Texas-based company.

“We were developing some unfavorable claim trends, and there was an adversarial nature that we were starting to develop,” Mr. Shay said Monday during a session on holistic disability management at Riskworld, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in San Diego.

The first step was creating core values for the organization; one of those was “our people are our greatest strength,” he said of the about-face the company made to improve outcomes.

The company then hired an “advocacy person,” whose job is to support injured workers and their families.

“When someone is injured… the first person that they hear from is somebody that works for the corporation. It’s not an attorney. It’s not the adjuster,” Mr. Shay said. “The mentality behind this is that we’re going to take care of our people better than any insurer can take care of our people.”

He cited the case of a 62-year-old man who suffered a fractured skull while at a remote worksite and needed surgery in a city hours away. Overhead Door’s advocacy professional stayed in contact with the family and provided a place for them to stay for the three days he was in the hospital.

“He returned to work, light duty, six weeks later, full day 12 weeks later, and he’s still an employee,” Mr. Shay said. “That had (permanent total disability) written all over it. … It was just the right thing for us to do as an organization. … We started doing these things right and better.”

Overall, Mr. Shay reported that the company has seen a 12% reduction in the duration of comp claims, a 19% reduction in legal costs, a 16% reduction in lost days, and a 40% decrease in work restrictions.