March 22, 2004
Program takes new approach to preventing injuries,
easing employees return to work
By Louise Donahue
If you want to cut workers compensation costs, consider the whole
employee--not just the injury. That's the goal of a progressive, employee-centered
program launched by UCSCs Workers Compensation Team.
UCSC has the highest injury rates in the UC system. A new worker's
compensation initiative is designed to emphasize worker safety from
the start, at employee orientation sessions. Photo:
The idea is to provide tools and training to supervisors so they can
more effectively lead the injury prevention effort, and, likewise, to
provide tools and training to employees so they can take a more active
role in preserving their own health and safety.
To get employees thinking about safety right from the start, the team
is working to expand the New Employee Orientation program to provide
more focused attention to injury prevention and management. There, new
employees will learn about campus resources on everything from ergonomic
workstations to lifting heavy loads.
Existing employees will be reached through a training and development
program to be launched in fall 2004. Additional outreach is planned
through the fall Wellness Fair.
On the medical side, the team is trying to develop the specialist physician
pool that treats UCSC injured employees. In partnership with Dominican
Occupational Health Center, UCSC sponsored a physicians forum
on March 18 to educate physicians about UCSCs program and clear
up misconceptions that have been leading some top physicians to stop
treating workers compensation patients. Our goal is first
and foremost to prevent injuries, but if a UCSC employee is injured
we want to ensure that the best treating physicians are available to
help return an employee to health, explained Lisa Rose, the leader
of the Workers Compensation Team.
The Workers Compensation Team is part of the campus's Executive
Budget Committee business
transformation project. The workers' comp initiative is designed
to save the campus money without job reductions, as well as reduce and
manage injuries to sustain a healthy workforce.
With UCSC having the highest injury rates in the UC system, the team
has its work cut out for it. Repetitive stress injuries are the largest
single source of workers compensation claims, but claims cover
a wide range. In addition to team leader Rose, director of Materiel
Management, team members include Gesna Clarke, chief operations officer
for Colleges and University Housing Services; Buddy Morris, director
for campus Environmental Health and Safety; Jim Schoonover, Environmental
Health and Safety adviser for Physical and Biological Sciences; Saladin
Sale, risk manager for the Office of Risk Management; Barbara Perman,
manager for Staff Human Resources Training and Development; Ryan Andrews,
manager of the OPERS Wellness Center; and AVCOR consultant Eric Robbins.
UCSC has seen a 15 percent reduction in total injuries over the last
year, but with a current average of three lost workday injury claims
a week, the campus has a long way to go to match the best-performing
universities in the UC system.
To address the high number of lost workdays, another effort of the
Workers Compensation Team is to promote wider use of the Transitional
Return to Work program, which allows employees to return to work gradually,
once their doctor determines it is medically safe. The goal is
to try to find a transitional work option within the employees
home department or elsewhere on campus, said Gesna Clarke. She
added that it is hoped a coordinator for this program can be hired by
fall of 2004.
The Workers' Compensation Team wants to hear what units and departments
are doing to promote injury prevention and management. Employees with
a story to tell about actions they took to make their workplaces safer,
or ways they averted an injury, are asked to contact Gesna Clarke at
firstname.lastname@example.org) with the details.
Throughout the workers compensation process, the team will encourage
the campus community to share ideas, and work closely with the Staff
It will also expand and modify the role of the Workers Compensation
Advisory Group--comprised of assistant deans, and assistant and associate
vice chancellors--to focus more on safety and injury management. Injury
reports are now being provided to divisions, units and department managers
and supervisors for more effective tracking and managing of injuries
and costs. Many reports may be accessed at the Risk
Management Web site.
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