Implementing a successful safety program hinges not only on what type of program employers want to put in place, but on how they present that program and, most significantly, how employees perceive it.
The key to engaging employees in the application of a new safety program, says Michael Melnik, is to assume that those people actually putting the program in place are the ones who will participate most as it develops. "An effective safety program is not typically something that is done to employees, but rather something that is done with them," says Melnik, founder and president of Prevention Plus Inc. in Minneapolis.
Melnik's keynote presentation, "Batteries Not Included: The Energized Approach for Creating a Safe, Healthy and Productive Workplace," caps the 14th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo, Nov. 15-17 in Chicago.
Kicking off the conference this year is workers' comp veteran and high-energy speaker Richard Pimentel, whose presentation, "Raising the Bar in Medical Case Management--and Other Workers' Compensation Innovations," is the 2005 conference's opening keynote. Workers' comp is changing, Pimentel says, and he has an innovative model that will change the way employers think about getting injured workers back on the job--while saving their companies money at the same time.
Also featured at the conference on Wednesday is a session called "Mock Trial: Workers' Compensation Trial Gone Bad," in which a mock workers' comp trial will be played out--and everything that could possibly go wrong does. The trial will give attendees a first-hand look at how a workers' comp case progresses, as well as a chance to discuss how certain mistakes can be avoided. The conference seminars encompass the following topic tracks:
- Claims management/RTW
- Disability and integrated disability management
- Medical issues
- Legal/regulatory issues
- Safety and ergonomics
MANAGING CLAIMS AND RTW
At last, there is some hard evidence about quality independent medical exams. Jennifer Christian, president and chief medical officer at Webility Corp., and Ruth Estrich, director of product development at MedRisk, will present the findings of a year-long study of independent medical exams quality assurance based on hundreds of actual audits.
Maddy Bowling and David Huth of Chicago-based Maddy Bowling and Associates Consulting will participate in a session titled "How to Buy a Claims Management System." The panelists will sort through the increasing number of systems on the market today, identifying both the new efficiencies and the latest complexities that recent technology has introduced.
Using the Internet as a tool in early return-to-work programs is the focus of Anita Rothard's session, "How to Use the Web for Return-to-Work Programs." Rothard will reveal how Internet resources can help you increase productivity and profits.
INTEGRATED DISABILITY MANAGEMENT
Webility Corp's Jennifer Christian returns to discuss disability management and the range of methods that compose a disability management perspective. In "The Real Truth About Disability Management," Christian will set the record straight about what exactly disability management is and how employers can apply the approach to lower their workers' comp and disability costs.
Meanwhile, Stan Long of Portland-based Harrang, Long, Gary and Rudnick is scheduled to explain how employers can cut workers' comp costs and facilitate injured workers' recovery just by changing the employees' behavior in a session called "The New Disability Management." Long, former chairman of workers' compensation and managing director for Marsh, will discuss how to keep workers informed about how their injuries and diseases should be treated--so both employers and employees see better outcomes.
Mandy J. Gamble and Donielle Harsh, consultants at Job Accommodation Network in Morgantown, W.Va., will discuss the right way to manage the early return to work of employees with occupational injuries in "Early Return to Work Through Accommodation."
The session will also take a detailed look at assistive technologies, including demonstrations of new assistive technologies and how these technologies can increase productivity and reduce risks.
MEDICAL AND LEGAL ISSUES
James Pocius, a shareholder with Philadelphia-based law firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, joins David Cooper, director of orthopedic surgery at The Knee Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to discuss a critical task for employers dealing with aging employees: identifying the difference between disabilities resulting from common aging problems and legitimate work-related ailments and workers' comp claims. The distinction can be a tenuous one, Pocius says, as employers toe the line between accommodating injured employees and taking on expenses for age-related setbacks.
Cooper returns on Wednesday to discuss the latest findings on soft-tissue injuries and disc ailments, another area in which employers can mistake age-related pains for workplace-related injuries and incur avoidable costs. "Whether it's a lawsuit stemming from a request for accommodation that an employer was slow to grant, or a workers' compensation claim, these injuries are taking up an inordinate amount of employers' time and money," Cooper says. The session, "Soft Tissue and Disc Injuries: 2005 Update," continues in the same vein as a popular 2004 presentation.
Finally, Stephen Dannenbaum, director of clinical programs at Point Richmond, Calif.-based MHN, will discuss innovative strategies to deal with what has become the fastest-growing type of disability claim: psychological disabilities. Dannenbaum will cite the increasing impact of psychological disabilities on employers' costs and the most effective ways to implement a successful return-to-work plan for these employees.
Attendees who have been involved in litigation resulting from a workplace injury--as well as anyone who could be implicated in the future--will want to see Matthew B. Schiff's session, "Winning Workers' Compensation Trial Strategies," on Tuesday morning. Schiff, of Chicago-based Schiff and Hulbert, will cite actual employer victories in cases of common workplace injuries, as well as field any questions and address any concerns regarding the intense legal issues of workers' comp litigation.
Schiff's second session on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005, is a fast-paced hour of workers' comp advice and information titled "60 Tips in 60 Minutes." He'll be joined in the discussion by Steve Borgstrom, owner of Employer's Claim Service Inc., and Darlene Lewis, vice president of human resources for the University of Chicago. Medical consultant Albert Mitsos and EPS Rehabilitation Inc.'s Ed Steffen round out the panel for the Tuesday afternoon session.
SAFETY AND ERGONOMICS
Dennis Downing, president of Future Industrial Technologies in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Daryl Wilson, manager of security and safety for United Airlines, introduce bionomics and the idea that excessive workers' comp costs can be avoided by helping employees prevent injuries in the first place. Bionomics looks at workers' comp from a pre-emptive standpoint, addressing the possibility of accidents and injuries in the workplace before they become expensive realities.
Ergonomics Technology Corporation's Cindy Roth will lead a discussion centered on a similar workers' comp philosophy in Wednesday's "Ergonomics: Proactive vs. Reactive." If employers don't spend money upfront on preventing injuries before they happen, Roth says, they're asking for trouble, because it's too late once onsite injuries occur. Roth will also delve into ways to examine jobs and determine the best ways to prevent common injuries and accidents before they happen.
Finally, in "Workplace Safety: Rethinking the Old Model," Liberty Mutual Technical Consultant Lori Adams will reveal how understanding basic risks, communicating those risks to employees, and maximizing traditional safety and disability management approaches add up to a more rounded and effective workers' comp strategy. Adams will delve into the underlying factors that affect and drive risk, including issues that continue to fuel disability and workplace injuries.
JOHN McDONALD is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. He compiled this story from articles that originally appeared in newsletters published by LRP Publications Inc., the parent of Risk & Insurance®.
October 15, 2005
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