Consider this scenario: you’re a manager at a plastics fabrication plant. One morning, an employee tells you he injured his shoulder while lifting bags of resin. He says he’s in excruciating pain and can hardly move his arm. As the person in charge of safety, you instruct the employee to go to your company’s medical provider for assessment and treatment. When the employee leaves the facility, you begin filling out your First Report of Injury form.

The question is, what information should you and can you gather to help minimize loss time related to the work injury? The most important time to investigate an injury is at the time the worker reports it. As time elapses, employers and employees overlook important details and circumstances. Gathering this information immediately gives you and your insurance carrier the most accurate information regarding the claim.

Employers should ask themselves important questions and provide it to the adjustor at the time of the injury:

What’s the nature of the injury? In the above scenario, the worker complains of shoulder pain. Is it a traumatic injury (something stuck the shoulder) or a strain injury (did the worker lift or pull a load)?

What specific body part does the worker report as injured? This might seem a simple question, but there have been instances when a left shoulder injury becomes a right shoulder or even a leg injury en route to our facility.

Do you know if the worker has injured the same part of the body in the past?

What are the physical demands in the worker’s area? In our scenario, is the worker required to lift resin bags? It’s also important to tell the provider how much the bags weigh, the level of the required lifts (ground to shoulder level lifts), and frequency of the required lifts. In many instances, a written job description outlines the worker’s position, and faxing this description will prove extremely helpful.

Is modified or light duty available? For many companies, modified duty is available for injured workers. Telling the adjustor the basics of your modified duty program is imperative for their management of the case.

Remember, the medical provider should serve a dual purpose in evaluating and treating your workers. First and foremost, they’re responsible for rendering the best care available. Second-and most often forgotten by the medical provider-they should assist you in the investigative process. Providers often forget their second purpose or are passive in the process. This results in increased treatment costs, higher litigation rates, and unnecessary lost workdays. IBI