Dr. John Koehler, Medical Director of Occupational Medicine for Physicians Urgent Care, is a board-certified specialist in occupational medicine and has been practicing for over 30 years. During that time, he’s worked with thousands of businesses to help them improve their occupational health practices and focus on workplace safety. Below are tips for controlling costs in workers’ compensation, and important areas of focus for identifying occupational health providers.

5 Ways to Control Workers’ Compensation Costs


1. Develop a Safety Culture.

Culture is an all-encompassing behavioral pattern. To create a culture that thinks, lives, and breathes safety, management support is crucial. Designate a “safety champion” in the company – someone who is fully invested in the cause and will hold others accountable. This “safety champion” should put a team in place that meets regularly and represents different departments of the company. The safety team should investigate all incidents fully and immediately, and share key learnings with the rest of the organization. When the staff routinely hears from the safety team, it sends a message that safety is a priority and important to the company. Management should reinforce these messages to show support and elevate the importance of safety.

2. Show Them the Right Way.

Safety doesn’t happen by accident. All new hires should be trained immediately – whether it’s proper lifting techniques, proper body mechanics for performing their job, explanation of the safety features of the workplace, or a safety review of all relevant equipment. Supervisors also must be trained to support an overall culture of safety. It is important that they be aware of the safety program and the protocols for injuries. A well-trained supervisor will know when to recommend that an injury or illness, based on its severity, goes to the ER or to an urgent care clinic. Unnecessary ER visits cost the company and the employee valuable time and money.

3. Make Metrics Matter.

Regular walk-throughs by the safety team are an important step towards maintaining high safety standards. To prevent “misses” from those who see the area on a regular basis, it’s best to have the area reviewed by several sets of eyes – possibly an insurance company or representatives from your occupational health clinic. It’s important to establish safety metrics that are easily measurable so there are benchmarks to work against if there is a need for change. Lastly, incentive programs – for example, ordering lunch when metrics are met for a certain period of time – can demonstrate the company’s commitment to safety and drum up excitement among employees.

4. Know Where to Go.

It is crucial to identify where workers will go if there is an injury or complaint of pain – and to identify the site before the event occurs. The laws vary from state to state, but when companies have the legal right to refer an employee to a chosen provider, it’s best to take advantage of that opportunity. An occupational health clinic – which is dedicated to this field of medicine and is cognizant of work injury treatment, rehabilitation, and return-to-work issues – is a great option. An unnecessary trip to the ER may result in an expensive bill, and a visit to the primary care physician could mean waiting for an appointment. Training the team to properly identify the best place to go can save valuable resources and time.

5. Stay on Top of Claims Management.

An early return-to-work program is vital to keeping employees engaged. Maintaining contact with the employee – whether they’re on light duty at the facility or at home – is an important step towards keeping an open channel of communication. To avoid delays in the administrative process, make claims decisions as quickly as possible while giving the case its due attention. Assign case managers as needed, and monitor each case closely. Ensure the safety team is aware of what types of injuries are happening, and in what department, so injury patterns can be assessed and addressed.