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Finding the win-win in Pennsylvania worker injury cases

Workplace injuries tend to create a lot of issues. That's why they remain a constant focus of businesses and policy makers in Pennsylvania. The worker is out of commission for at least a while. If the workplace injury is partially disabling, the worker may be at reduced productivity for an extended period. If it is permanently disabling, well, that's a whole other story.

On the business side, loss of an employee affects the bottom line. That tends to be the main thing that everyone talks about, but the human element can't be overlooked. People make business work. When someone gets hurt, everyone from management to co-workers is likely to be touched.

Some businesses are making moves to support a more holistic approach to dealing with workplace injuries. The premise behind these efforts is data that indicates that the longer workers are away from their jobs after an injury; the more likely they are to never return. In response to this, some organizations have begun to institute structured return-to-work programs.

The benefits are myriad, the experts say. On the financial side, they are:

  • Lower employer costs for workers' compensation, disability and health insurance.
  • Reduced costs for replacing a worker.
  • Sustained productivity levels.
  • Lower financial loss for the employee.

On the human side, the experts offer that return-to-work programs:

  • Reduce emotional effects on the worker.
  • Limit feelings of alienation by bolstering continued worker-colleague relationships.
  • Boost workforce morale.
  • Speed the injured worker's return to economic, social and vocational status.

So, what makes for a good program? The experts say the critical elements are good coordination and communication across all the parties involved. That means between employer, employee, medical care providers and insurers. Other elements recommended include:

  • Solid documentation about absences and steps taken to get the injured person back to work.
  • Having properly authorized company representatives who can speak to doctors without violating patient privacy.
  • Identifying alternative jobs that an injured worker might be able to do.
  • Properly educating everyone, from management on down to co-workers.

The experts also urge flexibility. They note that guidelines about what should be "normal" recovery may not work in all cases and adherence to them could wind up causing more harm than good, for both the worker and the company.

Source: Home Channel News, "Getting employees back to work after illness or injury takes preparation," Donna M. Owens, Nov. 14, 2012

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