The joys of daytime TV seem endless. Dr. Phil, Oprah, various judges and the endless soaps; all sponsored in part by groups whose message causes safety professionals to cringe: "Have you been injured on the job? You have rights!" Unfortunately, these ads are not just confined to daytime TV. We even find them on billboards in metro areas and even on the back of phone books!

Admittedly there is a fine line for those in safety which must be maintained in terms of worker's compensation. We're compelled to take care of the injured worker to ensure a speedy recovery, while at the same time driven to ensure the company is protected. At best it is a balancing act. Aside from the "human factor," there are many issues facing the administrator of worker's comp programs.

Federal regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) form a dangerous triangle to be navigated. An employee who is out recovering from an injury could be eligible for FMLA leave, but could also receive protection under ADA. On top of this, Worker's Compensation laws are not federally mandated so they vary greatly from state to state. For employers with multi-state operations, at times it can become mind-numbing and only decipherable by legal counsel.

And then there's the endless Sea of Acronyms or Alphabet Soup. "The FT ee was treated on 3/18 for an injury received on 1/27 which resulted in him being placed at TPD. Following three weeks of PT, he has now reached MMI and should be scheduled to undergo a FCE to determine the impairment rating for PPD in order to settle the claim according to the WC code as prescribed by the DIR." Here's a four letter word that's not an acronym… HELP! Can someone pass me a cheat sheet?

The goal of this paper is to provide the safety professional with an understanding of the basics of worker's compensation, examine ideas for improving programs, and identify potential pitfalls. The author's background in manufacturing and safety management yields an employer's perspective differing somewhat from that presented by insurance representatives or attorneys. It is vital that each employer consult with appropriate legal counsel when questions exist concerning these items.

Basics of Worker's Compensation
No Fault Insurance/Exclusive Remedy

Employers are mandated to provide Worker's Compensation insurance which covers all workplace injuries, regardless of who was at fault. In exchange for this coverage, injuries which occur are typically covered exclusively under the Worker's Compensation act.

Not Federally Mandated

This coverage is mandated by state code which, as mentioned previously, causes a number of variances with the administration of claims. Some of these specific differences will be outlined in greater detail later in this paper

Worker's Compensation insurance policies are purchased through private insurance carriers in most states. There are monopolistic states where premiums are paid directly to a state agency which administers the program. Currently these states are North Dakota, Ohio, Washington, and Wyoming.

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