Even with all the new high-tech safety equipment and more access to quality safety training programs than ever before, hundreds of workers continue to be injured every year. The good news is that any size contractor can have an effective injury management plan (IMP) in place to handle non-critical injuries and keep costs to a minimum while raising employee morale.

The Start-Up After a project is awarded and before you start work, locate an urgent-care facility (UCF). Location is an important factor, but not the most important. Consider evaluating a UCF like you would a subcontractor or vendor: What services do they provide? What hours do they keep? How are they staffed? How much do they charge? These questions must be answered before you decide.

The Interview Make an appointment with the UCF office manager. Ask for a tour of the clinic and check out their facilities, such as surgery rooms, eye exam and x-ray services. Do they have physical therapy on site? Can they do post-accident drug tests?

Meet with the staff doctor to determine their level of customer service. Some clinics have a courtesy shuttle to bring employees back to the jobsite afterwards so you do not have two employees tied up for hours. Explain in detail your company’s policy for injured workers, including your return-to-work program.

The Job Description Having detailed written job descriptions for each craftworker on your jobsite is a great tool for the treating physician when assessing injured workers. A good-quality job description includes information on how much the employee bends, kneels and stands in each position for how long per hour and per day. It should also include how much weight the employee lifts during his/her shift. 

A job description acts as a guide for doctors as they compare both the objective physical symptoms: “a one-in. cut on the right forearm,” and the injured employee’s chief subjective complaint: “it hurts when I bend my elbow,” with the mechanics of the injury: “I was lifting a drill in place.”

This process weeds out inconsistencies that could point to fraud. When these  match up, the job description assists the doctor in assigning light duty (restricted activity), allowing the injured employee to return to a temporary, modified duty status while receiving full pay. This benefits both the employee and the employer.

Morale is higher when an effective RTW program is in place, as the injured employee, with a modified work plan, continues to receive full pay while healing.

The benefits are huge to the contractor as well. For example, the injury will be recorded as a medical-only claim. This saves the employer a serious “ding” on his OSHA log with implications of higher Experience Modification Rates, the risk of not qualifying for future work and incurring higher insurance premiums.

The Medical Provider Network Another consideration when choosing a UCF is whether it is part of your insurance carrier’s medical provider network (MPN). Many insurance companies have an established MPN. You definitely want in on this deal. Use your insurance carrier’s services to the maximum. It is beneficial for the medical providers who belong to an MPN, since it will increase their client base and ensure timely payments.

It is likewise beneficial to the insurance company since it can pre-negotiate anticipated services at discounted rates, saving the contractor anywhere from 20% to 40% on medical services directly charged against a workers compensation policy. Whenever possible, insist on a UCF within your carrier’s MPN. Also have a protocol in place that does not allow a UCF to refer one of your injured employees to a medical specialist without your approval—that way, you maintain control of the process.

The Bottom Line: Everyone Wins The bottom line with a successful injury management plan is that an injured employee is positioned to receive the best care possible and the employer is positioned to manage the claim ensuring a higher level of care at the lowest cost. When it is time for renewal of your workers compensation insurance policy, your insurance carrier will recognize that you remain actively involved in each claim, working closely with the injured employee to support them through the process, seeing the injured employee return to full duty in record time with minimal cost. This can only increase your renewal bargaining position.

David Little is the director of safety at J.R. Filanc Construction Co., Escondido, Calif., and a certified Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist and Construction Health and Safety Technician. E-mail: dlittle@filanc.com