With Heller's guidance, SCE chose the WorkSTEPS program, which had a post-job offer testing approach designed to be job specific by matching workers' functional capabilities with the essential job functions. Among other things, WorkSTEPS also would certify SCE's in-house medical staff to be able to perform testing at corporate headquarters.
As a success gauge, SCE used the metric of reduced and/or avoided injury costs. Since the pilot program launched in 2009, approximately 550 post-offer candidates have been tested (nine job candidates did not stay with the company as a result of testing). And while pilot expenses were approximately $96,000, the estimated savings relating specifically to reduced workers' compensation and/or disability claims and wage-replacement benefits totaled $800,000.
"The thing that is important is Heller works in a highly regulated industry," said John Koval, an account executive with Sedgwick CMS, who works directly with Heller. "With that as the context, every program Heller tries to implement has to have oversight and approval. She not only has to sell it internally, but to regulators as well. That's a real challenge."
Koval said that Heller's innovative nature, vision and willingness to take the risk associated with implementing a new program actually not only has saved the company money, but also has served to lower risk by supporting safety on the job.
"Most of all, she recognizes that an employee's ability to safely perform the job is as much a job requirement as technical expertise," Koval said.
-- Tom Starner
September 15, 2011
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