In manufacturing and distribution, employee safety is paramount. Employees in factories and warehouses often work in a fast-paced, multi-shift environment filled with heavy machinery, product, people, noise and other hazards. Common injuries include strains and sprains and repetitive trauma from lifting and pushing, slips and falls, and accidents with equipment, including conveyors, forklifts and other machinery.
In this context, a company's worksite safety culture becomes particularly important. Proper training, on-going safety programs, machine guarding, use of PPEs and other risk reduction strategies can go a long way toward decreasing injuries and their costs.
Nonetheless, even with great safety programs, accidents can happen and employers face ever-rising workers' compensation costs. Adding a worksite clinic with an experienced partner providing specially trained clinicians, software and systems on-site can go even further – helping companies decrease workers' compensation costs, ensure appropriate care and further enhance their safety results.
On-site Occupational Health: The Core Concept
The core concept behind on-site occupational health is simple: a well-managed clinic, even one staffed by a single nurse, with the right tools, can provide a broad range of benefits:
- Immediate response to injuries (early intervention).
- Accurate assessment of injuries (getting on the right track from the onset).
- Treat most cases on-site without incurring off-site claims or costs.
- Make appropriate referrals for off-site care when necessary.
- Support safety programs with data (such as injury trends) and one-on-one coaching (such as the use of protective equipment and following safe practices).
- Ensure compliance with HIPAA and other health-related data and privacy regulations.
- Conduct drug testing, respirator fit testing, hearing tests and other screenings.
Experts agree that the best workers' compensation outcomes result from appropriate, early medical intervention. Intervention can happen no earlier than when skilled clinicians are on-site! When those clinicians are equipped with evidence-based protocols and state-of-the-art software, unnecessary claims are avoided, costs are controlled, productivity boosted, lost time decreased and outcomes improved. All this translates directly into savings for the company.
Although larger corporations have led the way in adopting worksite occupational health clinics, the trend is expanding to mid-size firms. Experienced worksite operators now have the tools necessary to scale clinic services to the needs of companies with as few as 500 employees and make it cost-justifiable. This development is especially valuable for distribution and manufacturing facilities.
Decreasing Workers' Compensation Costs
On-site health clinicians drive savings through effective triage and treatment of injured employees at the worksite. More than 80 percent of work-related injuries can be effectively handled on site, eliminating many off-site costs. Worksite clinicians have algorithms and extensive training to select the right level of care to avoid unnecessary and costly ER visits, and to utilize in-network preferred providers.
The on-site clinicians can also serve as trusted advisors to injured employees, enhancing compliance with treatment regimens. They can also support good case management by being the "eyes and ears" for the third party administrator (TPA), and facilitate return-to-work by clarifying restrictions and coordinating between supervisors, employees and doctors. Incident follow-up and care management can add as much as 20–30 percent to total worksite clinic savings.
On-site health clinics can lower workers' compensation costs so much that midsize corporations, as well as large manufacturers, can cost-justify worksite health clinics solely from workers' compensation savings.
When working closely with safety personnel, on-site occupational clinicians can reinforce the company's safety culture. By analyzing and sharing injury data with safety professionals – rather than simply collecting data – on-site clinics can support prevention programs as well as keep future injuries from occurring and decrease future claims. When employees are treated on-site, opportunities arise to identify and correct broader problems that might be missed when employees are automatically sent off-site for care. Importantly, mid-size employers with worksite health clinics report decreased work-related incidents and a decrease in the percent of workers' compensation cases that become loss time events.
Other Benefits of Worksite Health
Other benefits of worksite health programs can include:
- Training in CPR, first aid, automated external defibrillators, blood borne pathogens and other health-related topics for employees and for on-site emergency response teams.
- Emergency response and planning.
- Champions to drive wellness programs that support long-term health.
Worksite occupational clinics are growing in popularity and becoming cost-justifiable options for mid-size companies. On-site occupational health partners who understand the specific challenges of the manufacturing and distribution can now deliver services tailored to a company's size and needs.
Curtis Smith is Executive Vice President at Medcor, Inc.