How SHC Expedites Worker’s Compensation Claims for BIAW
Before the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) started working with Single Handed Consulting, they handled worker’s compensation claims like most organizations: by waiting for the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to assign vocational services. The process, however, was lengthy.
“Usually L&I waits for a long time to initiate VOC services, and by that time the worker’s life is pretty messed up,” says Frank Romero, ROII Program Manager at BIAW. “They’re relying on the Department for time-loss payments.”
Expediting Worker’s Compensation Claims for BIAW
BIAW is one of the largest trade associations in Washington State. Core members are contractors who build everything from homes to parks to roads, while associate members supply materials like drywall and heavy machinery. The Association also includes banks, real estate companies, and other financial institutions. Romero runs the Return on Industrial Insurance Program, a retrospective ratings pool that many contractors belong to.
“Worker’s comp is one of the most expensive parts of business costs,” he says. “It’s a huge piece of what they have to spend to stay in business, so it’s important for them to control what those costs ultimately are. Time is money.”
When it comes to controlling costs, however, the problem is two-fold. The longer an injured employee is off work, the more the business pays in wage compensation. But studies have found that employees who are off for more than six months are 50% less likely to return to their jobs. As time passes, costs mount.
Then BIAW learned that they didn’t have to wait for L&I. With the help of Single Handed Consulting, they could start the ball rolling early and get the claim resolved quicker, says Romero. “We were able to show that it was possible to handle claims from the employer side. L&I had never seen that done before and at first Single Handed took a lot of heat for us but in the end, it’s been a good thing for everybody.”
Starting the Process with Risk Assessments
Risk assessments, also known as an ability to work assessments, are key to starting the process. “They should be done as early in the claim as possible,” says Romero. “That gives the employer an idea of which way things are going to go. If a kid falls off a roof and breaks both ankles, the likelihood of him returning to a job in roofing is slim to none.” However, without a risk assessment in place no formal plan for retraining or moving to work can move forward.
Now instead of waiting for a referral from L&I, the BIAW has Single Handed perform the risk assessment and relay the result to the Department. In a similar vein, they no longer get held up waiting for progress reports on injured workers but receive regular updates from Single Handed which they then forward to L&I. “We don’t need a third party,” says Romero. “We’ve basically cut out the middleman.”
Accurate Information is Key to Success
Another critical function SHC performs is providing the injured worker with accurate information. “Around the workplace, people hear stories about how the system works and there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what L&I will do for you if you can’t go back to the job you were doing,” says Romero. “People think they’re going to retrain you to be a rocket scientist.”
The reality is quite different, he notes. L&I’s educational and/or retraining programs last two years or less and often, employees’ retraining options would place them in entry-level jobs in a different industry. “It’s important for that worker that someone sits down with them and explains how the system works,” says Romero. “If they’re making $25 an hour and they want to go into another field where they’ll be making $12 an hour, it’s best if they have that information as soon as possible.”
Having an accurate understanding of their options helps employees get back to work sooner. “We’ve noticed that people aren’t staying in the system as long,” he says. “Having that discussion with a neutral person who can dispel the myths lets them see that the best thing they can do is get well and get back to work.”
Providing A Roadmap to Success
Working with Single Handed has expedited the overall process, he says. “ Our goal is to get answers, so we can keep things moving. Single Handed provides us with a roadmap for how to get a worker back on the job.”