Less than two years ago, a worker injury at Cheryl&Co. meant a trip to a hospital emergency room.
The trip resulted in a long wait for the employees treatment and return to work. The treatment was high cost, and often Cheryl&Co. and the employee were not able to track the status of necessary follow-up care.
Now, the pictures changed. Thanks to a new approach aimed at preventing injuries and more closely managing those that occur, the Westerville gourmet foods and gifts company has, in one year alone, reduced its accidents by more than half, says Tim Horn, vice president of Cheryl&Co.
The nature of workers compensation, the way it is set up in Ohio, it behooves all business owners to take a good look at the way their exposure to workers compensation is being handled, Horn says, noting that negative experiences stay with a company, wracking up bills in later years. Even though your dollars look good now, by the time they look bad, its too late.
Providing better care
One way Cheryl&Co. simplified its workers compensation process is by using WorkHealth, the occupational health services provided by OhioHealth, for injury treatment, case management and tracking of follow-up care.
Injured employees travel a short distance from the company about the same as that to St. Anns Hospital, the closest emergency room to the WorkHealth facility at Cleveland Avenue and I-270. Doctors there are trained in worker injuries, are familiar with the work at Cheryl&Co., and have a record of how the company wants such instances handled. That saves the company time and money over its previous emergency room procedure, Horn says.
They dont specialize in workers care, Horn says of emergency rooms. If they go to WorkHealth because they have a bumped finger, they can get it checked out, have an X-ray, find out its OK and be back to work in an hour, vs. a day, or at least half a day, at the emergency room. Its a total bonus for everybody.
Lisa Shannon, WorkHealth director, says the most common mistake she sees business owners make is letting occupational health go unmanaged. Employers who take control of those issues see cost savings and are viewed by employees in a more positive light.
One of the No. 1 ways employers help injured workers get back to work is to show sincere care and compassion in them getting back to work, she says. Its no different than the best player on OSUs football team getting an injury and the team rallying and the coach rallying to get that injured player back.
WorkHealth has 2,700 employer clients of all sizes. Popular services are injured care and disability management; on-site medical staff; and drug and alcohol testing.
Cheryl&Co. which boasts a regular payroll of 300 workers, but can employ up to 700 during holiday seasons is the most common size corporate client of WorkHealth, Shannon says.
Thats often the case, because companies of Cheryls size are big enough to have needs but often not big enough to do it all by themselves, she says.
Horn made sure the WorkHealth program would be a good fit for Cheryl&Co. before choosing its services for the companys employees.
We interviewed the doctors who were going to be taking care of them to see if they understood our problems and the issues we were going to be presenting them, Horn says.
They openly showed us their procedures, he says.
The openness also worked in reverse.
There were tours of the workplace so our medical workers would understand the nature of their jobs, Shannon says. All of that was important to us to understand what it is that Cheryl&Co. does.
WorkHealth also provides Cheryl&Co. with post-accident drug testing, a procedure the company previously did not do.
We endorse it because we dont want anyone to be of danger to themselves here or to others, Horn says. Its not inherently a dangerous place, so we dont want people here making it so.
Theres no standing fee; Cheryl&Co. pays for the services of WorkHealth whenever theyre used by one of its employees. WorkHealth also helps coordinate workers compensation claims through the company and provides billing from one location, rather than from many health care facilities where workers may have gone instead.
Theyre good about letting us know about the status of our employee and letting the associate know their status as well, he says. You just get treated more as an individual.
While WorkHealth has contributed to the reduction in accidents at Cheryl&Co., a renewed safety focus, initiated two years ago, also played a significant role, Horn says.
He declines to give numbers regarding accidents, but says the company should continue to reap benefits in coming years as workers compensation costs decrease.
- Developing a safety staff that proactively eliminates safety issues. For example, this staff is on the lookout for broken equipment or boxes stacked too high. The production staff are not looking for that, but we have people who do, Horn says.
In addition, safety and security staff are trained in CPR and emergency response.
The last thing you want to do is lose an employee because you couldnt take care of them, Horn says.
- Emphasizing to employees that safety is everyones job to make employees more aware of and prepared to react to potentially dangerous situations.
- Contacting the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to ask for assistance in ensuring safety at the company.
- More training. Earlier this year, for example, employees had fire training, actually putting out fires in a drill outside the building. Thats an experience they wont forget, Horn says. Almost everybody in the company had their own fire extinguisher and did it one at a time with a safety instructor there.
- Fit-for-duty inspections. Checks of employees to be sure theyre not impaired by lack of sleep, for example, are conducted by safety and security staff to keep the procedure unbiased. The manager who wants to get a lot of work done that night may let somebody slide, Horn says.
- A new, nonslip floor in the kitchen. The previous floor carried a high potential for accidents because of the number of workers moving around there and the fact that the floor was often wet due to constant cleaning, Horn says.
- Greater enforcement of the use of safety glasses and safety shoes.
Business owners, Horn says, need to look at safety situations not only for the cost savings but for the protection of their workers.
If you make it a safer place to work, Horn says, its a win-win situation, not only for the company, but for the employees.
How to reach: WorkHealth, www.ohiohealth.com/work/workhlth.htm, 566-8459
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.