Categories: Strategy & Industry Insights, Workers' Compensation,
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Sprains and Strains: Falling into Prevention

The National Safety Council ranked both repetitive motion injuries and overexertion injuries in the “Top 10 Preventable Workplace Incidents” in 2013. Both of these types of injuries can result in back sprains and strains, time off work, and dollars spent on both treatment and lost wages. Just as trainers and coaches work with athletes to ensure they are ready and conditioned for the season to prevent injuries, we must work with employees to make sure they know what a back sprain or strain is, and how to prevent it.

Our Back is Complex

Our back is made up of many pieces that come together to create a complex structure of bones and muscles that are supported by cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. As we go through our day walking, running, lifting, bending, and twisting, our back bears the majority of our body’s weight. This explains why at the end of the day pain, strains, and sprains are common in the lower back.

What is a Sprain?

A sprain is the stretching or wearing of a ligament that occurs with repetitive movement of the joint. The ligament, a fibrous band of tissue, connects two or more bones in our back. When these bones stretch the ligament between them the ligament will fray, similar to a rope that has too much tension. This stretching over time will cause pain.

What is a Strain?

A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is pulled, twisted, or even slightly torn. Tendons are also fibrous bands, but they connect muscle to bone. When this pulling or twisting occurs, a sharp pain is often felt at the time of the initial injury.

Symptoms

The symptoms of both a sprain and strain are the same. Usually, the pain worsens with movement. Some people will also experience muscle spasms or cramping and, if severe enough, may notice a decrease in the ability to walk, bend or twist.

Ways to Prevent Sprains and Strains

The workplace is one of the most common places for a back sprain or strain to occur. We must teach our employees to prevent these injuries from ever happening. The best action we can take as employers is injury prevention. Below is a list of preventative tips for back sprains and strains:

  • When lifting, always bend at the knees and use the strength of the legs to lift. This keeps the back muscles safe and prevents over-stretching.
  • Carry all loads in the “powerhouse” region, which is from the mid-thigh to mid-chest area of the body. Keep the load close to the body and the back straight.
  • Be realistic about what is safe to carry. This may require that your employee ask for help or break large loads into smaller loads and make more trips.
  • If your employee must turn when carrying an item, encourage them to turn the entire body instead of turning at the waist. This simple measure prevents the muscles and tendons from being stretched or injured.
  • Encourage employees to change positions and take stretch breaks often during the work day. It does not matter if they stand or sit to work, the muscles need periods of rest and changes in position.

By following these simple, yet effective, prevention measures you can keep your employees and your team safe, healthy and productive while at work.

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Categories: Strategy & Industry Insights, Workers' Compensation,
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Return to Work Starter Kit

Ohio employers are faced with some difficult tasks when it comes to their Ohio workers’ compensation programs, especially when it comes to getting an injured worker back to work.  Studies show that the longer an injured employee is off work, the more difficult it is for them to return to work.  That is why early intervention is so crucial. Not to mention the impact lost days has on a business’s premiums and production.

Here are some tools to help with getting an injured employee back to work:

Communicate

When your company experiences a workplace injury, you can’t communicate too early or too often about it.  Early communication with all relevant parties leads to early intervention by the experts.  Communicating immediately and frequently with your Managed Care Organization (MCO) and any appropriate parties allows your MCO to begin managing the injury and strategize how to minimize lost days.

Creative Thinking

Often times, we think that a person must return to work to their exact same position.  That’s not always the case. There are many options available to employers and if we can brainstorm together we can typically come up with  good alternatives.  For example, one injured employee who worked for a construction company suffered a shoulder injury. He was not able to return to his same position right away. However, the employer worked with their MCO, the Treating Physician and the therapists to develop a modified duty position for this employee.  He was responsible for sweeping up the shop, which also served as therapy for his injured shoulder. Not only was he working and being productive, his duties were also therapeutic in nature.

A key component that helped make this scenario successful was that the MCO had the job description of the injured worker, as well as other job descriptions for the company.  Many times, there are duties from other positions that can be incorporated into a modified duty position.  Your MCO may be able to discuss a hybrid approach with the treating physician where the injured employee would perform some of his/her regular job duties as well as duties from other positions.  Job descriptions are an essential tool in the development of a modified duty position.

Working with you MCO experts to develop a modified duty position will not only help shave those lost days from your workers’ compensation experience, it will also help keep your premiums low.  Lost time claims are the most expensive claims for employers.  Reducing lost days or keeping them to a minimum will have a direct impact on claims cost.

Utilize the Programs Available

In Ohio, there are many programs available to employers to facilitate return to work for injured employees.  Your MCO can assist you with these programs, such as:

  • Creating a modified duty position.
  • Developing and implementing a Transitional Work Program.
  • Utilizing a Non-Profit Organization for return to work when you are unable to accommodate restrictions.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation especially when the injured employee is unable to return to their normal position.

Lost time/days is the one factor that has the most impact on Ohio workers’ compensation premiums.  Therefore, it is essential that all the tools and strategies available are used as quickly and as often as possible.

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1 very important task Ohio public employers need to do before Nov. 21st

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) transition to prospective billing is nearly complete. By default, you will automatically be placed on a monthly billing schedule with your first invoice mailed on Dec. 1, 2016 (due by Dec. 31st) for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2017. However, between Oct. 17 and Nov. 21, you have the opportunity to choose your payment schedule.

Your payment options are bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, annually, or a Deferred Payment Program. New with prospective billing, the BWC is offering the Deferred Payment Program in which your first payment will be deferred to April 30, 2017. You will be required to pay premium covering January through May by April 30th, and then your remaining payments will be set to a monthly schedule. BWC will charge a deferment fee based on the discount rate assumed.

Important notes:

  • If you choose to pay your full premium by Jan. 3, 2017 you will get a 2% premium refund.
  • The option to choose your payment plan does not apply for those who only pay the minimum ($120).
  • The BWC website will be down for maintenance Nov. 10-14.

If you have any questions, or need assistance choosing your payment schedule, call Sheakley at 800.877.2053 ext. 2090.

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Categories: Human Resources, Strategy & Industry Insights,
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Three things every small business owner needs to know about PEOs.

As a business owner, you’ve likely already found out that as your business has grown, you’ve been in the “business of employment” rather than focusing your time and energy on  what you opened your business to do. You’re constantly put in a position where you have to choose between doing what’s needed for compliance or dedicating your time to clients and letting compliance and benefits fall by the wayside. When you see this happening, a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) could be a good option for you. Here are three things you should know about PEOs.

  1. What does a PEO do?
    A PEO provides comprehensive Human Resources (HR) service solutions for businesses. While the exact mix of services may vary, you can expect payroll, benefits, tax administration, and regulatory compliance assistance. This means they do all the administrative, paper-pushing, form filing, “the government requires what?!?!” and “I don’t have time to deal with this” stuff.
  1. Why should I care about PEOs?
    If you didn’t go into the HR business, and you want to grow your business, you should care because what you don’t know can hurt your business. Most owners simply do not have the necessary human resource training, payroll and accounting skills, knowledge of regulatory compliance, or a background in risk management, insurance, and employee benefit programs to meet the demands of being an employer.PEOs fill this knowledge gap and let you focus on growing your business. As an employer today, you face more laws and regulations than ever before. A PEO can provide the assurance that you won’t be blindsided with fines or penalties for a compliance issue. For example, each violation on an I-9, the form that confirms each employee is allowed to work in the US, can range from $110 to $1,100 for each mistake or missing item on a form.
  1. What makes a PEO better than any other payroll or HR vendor? 

    The added value with a PEO is the shared liability for compliance issues. Under a PEO, taxes and employer liability becomes shared between the PEO and the client. This means the PEO has “skin in the game” when providing service. If you look at the fine print of a payroll report, it says something like , “The employer is ultimately responsible for the payment and tax liability even if a third party payroll vendor is making the deposits.” Even if they make a mistake, you are solely responsible.

Download our whitepaper, PEOs; What is a PEO? And how can my business benefit from joining one? to learn about the PEO industry, why more businesses are choosing to hire PEOs, and discover if this option is worth looking into further for your business.

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Overtime Rule for Salaried Employees Explained

In 2014, President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update the overtime regulations to reflect the original intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to simplify and modernize the rules so they’re easier for workers and businesses to understand and apply. The department has issued a final rule that will put more money in the pockets of middle class workers – or give them more free time.

What is the purpose of the Overtime Final Rule?

This Final Rule updates the regulations for determining whether white collar salaried employees are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime pay protections.

  • Raise the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to 4.2 million workers.
  • Automatically update the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability.;
  • Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime.
  • Provide greater clarity for workers and employers.

The final rule will become effective on December 1, 2016

Employers have a wide range of options for responding to the changes to the salary level. Employers can choose the one that works best for them.

Options include:

overtime-rule-pictures

  • Raise salary and keep the employee exempt from overtimeEmployers may choose to raise the salaries of employees to at or above the salary level to maintain their exempt status, if those employees meet the duties test (that is, the duties are truly those of an executive, administrative or professional employee). This option works for employees who have salaries close to the new salary level and regularly work overtime.
  • Pay overtime in addition to the employee’s current salary when necessaryEmployers also can continue to pay their newly overtime-eligible employees the same salary, and pay them overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a week. This approach works for employees who work 40 hours or fewer in a typical workweek, but have occasional spikes that require overtime for which employers can plan and budget the extra pay during those periods. Remember that there is no requirement to convert employees from salaried to hourly in order to calculate their overtime pay!
  • Evaluate and realign hours and staff workload: Employers can ensure that workload distribution; time and staffing levels are all managed appropriately for their white-collar workers who earn below the salary threshold. For example, employers may hire additional workers.
  • Bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions: The final rule will allow up to 10 percent of the salary threshold for non-HCE (Highly Compensated Employees) employees to be met by non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, or commissions, provided these payments are made on at least a quarterly basis. This recognizes the importance these forms of pay have in many companies’ compensation arrangements, particularly for managerial employees affected by the final rule. This is a new policy that responds to robust comments received from the business community on this matter.

For more information regarding bonuses please click here

Further Consideration for Sales, Higher Education, Doctors, Lawyers, Business Owners:

Certain white collar employees, such as some of those in sales, bonafide teachers, doctors, lawyers, and business owners, were not subject to the same (or any) minimum salary threshold previously, and that has not changed. All other employees classified under a White Collar Exemption must make at least $913 per week, or $47,476 per year, when the new rule goes into effect.

The salary threshold will not fluctuate based on the number of hours worked, nor is there any pro-rating, so part-time and full-time employees will be subject to the same rule.

As a reminder, to qualify as exempt, employees who meet the minimum salary threshold must also be paid on a salary basis – meaning their pay doesn’t fluctuate based on number of hours worked or the quantity or quality of their work – and they must pass the duties test for at least one of the FLSA’s exemption categories.

Generally, three requirements must be met for an employee to be exempt from overtime and minimum wage:

  • Employee is considered an executive, administrator, professional, or outside salesperson
  • Employee is paid on a salary or fee basis (except for outside-sales employees)
  • Employee is paid at a minimum rate (this rule is what is changing)

Here are two options for employers:

  1. Increase impacted employees’ wages to meet the new threshhold
  2. Change the FLSA status to nonexempt for impacted employees and start paying overtime

The Final Rule also raises the compensation level for highly compensated employees subject to a more minimal duties test from $120,000 to $134,004 annually.

The Final Rule also establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years, with the first update (after this year) to take place in 2020.

For further information, read more here

View the full published government document here

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Transitional Work – What is it and why is it important?

Transitional Work is a return to work tool available for employers to use when an employee is injured on the job and has restrictions preventing him/her from returning to their full duty/regular position of employment.

The program is designed to transition the injured worker back to their full duty position and is tailored to fit your needs.  This program can be created internally or the employer can utilize a professional to create and develop the Transitional Work Program (TWP).

How does the program work?

You will use your TWP when you have an employee that is injured on the job that cannot return to their full duty position, but can return to work with restrictions or in a modified duty position.  You will then follow the program that has been developed for your organization.  Sheakley UniComp, as your Managed Care Organization (MCO) will assist in the use of your TWP.

Benefits of a Transitional Work Program

Statistics have shown that employers will incur indirect costs from a workers’ compensation claim. These costs can reach four times more than the actual claim costs.  Some of the indirect costs are due to:

  • limited/decreased productivity
  • increased hiring and training costs
  • higher overtime expenses
  • increased legal costs
  • lowered morale
  • loss of business
  • a loss of customer goodwill.

The Transitional Work Program can assist injured workers’ return to work safely and timely.  This will help reduce the indirect costs mentioned above, as well as the direct cost charged to the claim.

If you choose to have a professional develop a TWP for you, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) provides funding through the Transitional Work Grant.  The BWC will pay 75% of the cost for development, up to the maximum amount based on employee count.  (It is important to know that if an employer has previously received a grant from the BWC for transitional work plan development, that employer is not eligible to receive another one.  Only state fund private employer and public employer taxing district employers are eligible for such a grant.)  Sheakley UniComp has established relationships with Professional Grant Developers that can create your TWP and assist with the application or the grant funding.  Our Client Relations Managers can facilitate the necessary steps to complete the development of your program.

For more information regarding a Transitional Work Program or the Transitional Work Grant, please contact a Client Relations Manager at 888-743-2559 ext. 7.

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Can Ohio Workers’ Compensation Provide a Competitive Edge for Your Business?

To be successful in today’s business world, companies need to find every competitive edge possible. Some might be surprised to find that Ohio workers’ compensation could be one of those competitive edges. But how would you know?

The world just recently witnessed the 2016 Summer Olympics. The athletes that competed in these games trained for hours each day in preparation of this one event. In doing so, the swimmers competed against other swimmers, runners against other runners and so on. This seems obvious within the sports arena. But why don’t we do this within the workers’ compensation arena? In order to know how your company is really performing regarding your workers’ compensation, you need to compare your company with other companies in your specific industry, like athletes do in their specific sports.

In gaining a competitive edge over the competition, athletes will try different methods of training, evaluate their diets and even find new ways of recovery. These athletes never stop looking for that competitive edge. Neither should you. The following are some questions you should ask about your business and your workers’ compensation program:

• How do you compare within your industry?
• What is your lost time ratio compared to like businesses?
• How does your average claims cost compare to your competitors?
• Do you experience more severe workplace accidents than other companies in Ohio?
• Are you getting the appropriate discount on the medical bills according to the fee schedule?

If your organization is in the manufacturing business, the answers to these questions will probably be different than a company who is in an office setting. That is why it is important to know how you stack up again your competition. For example, if your average claims costs are less than your industry average, that could mean that you are spending less on workers’ compensation than your competitors allowing you to use those funds for other resources. Another example is if your lost time ratio is lower than your industry average, that might help your company get the winning bid for a job. Your Managed Care Organization (MCO) should be able to help you gather and evaluate this data.

Comparing your organization with others in your specific industry can help you determine if you have any of those competitive edges within workers’ compensation.

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Categories: Policy & Regulation, Unemployment,
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Potential tax hike for employers & employees in Ohio unemployment fund proposal

In order to provide support for Ohio’s unemployment-compensation fund, lawmakers have proposed raising taxes for employers and employees. It’s a five-part proposal that would allow the fund to become solvent by 2025, and could allow more unemployed, low-wage workers to become eligible for benefits.

The new proposal includes features such as a decline in employer tax rates once the fund becomes solvent, and a low-rate employee tax. According to Zach Schiller, Policy Matters research director, the plan is a balanced approach in comparison with previously proposed bills.

To read more about the proposed unemployment fund bill and how it may affect your business, click here. 

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PERRP Quiz for Schools & Libraries (and all public employers)

Yes, we said PERRP, not POP.

Every public employer within the state of Ohio must meet the Public Employment Risk Reduction Program (PERRP) recordkeeping rules and regulations. PERRP uses records of injuries and illnesses to determine the effectiveness of existing safety and health standards.

PERRP QUIZ! Answer these questions with a yes or no:

  1. I am confident I am correctly documenting all key information on our 300P Log.
  2. I know if our incident reports tie directly into our 300P Log.
  3. Our 300P Log is kept securely in an electronic format.
  4. I know the difference between restricted duty and lost time.
  5. I know what constitutes a reportable injury and illness (hint: not all BWC workers’ comp claims are PERRP Log recordable, and not all emergency room visits are either).

If you have answered “No” to any of the above, you may not pass a PERRP audit.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) requires that all public employers submit injury/illness recordkeeping summaries by February 1st of each year. At a minimum, proper PERRP records include:

  • Retain the current year record plus records from the previous five years.
  • Entry for all recordable injuries into your personal PERRP log file.
  • Maintain all PERRP 300P, 300AP, and 301P forms.
  • Annual submission of the 300AP summary to the BWC by the annual deadline.

Oops! Didn’t submit your summary? The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), PERRP Division has sent out enforcement notices for failure to submit the Summary of Work-Related Injuries/Illnesses (300AP). Any public employer who received this notice now has until September 12, 2016 to submit their PERRP log. Failure to submit the 300AP form will result in an unannounced, onsite enforcement inspection. If these employers cannot make records available at this visit, the BWC’s PERRP Division will issue citations pursuant to Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4167.11.

Note: If you received an enforcement notice, Sheakley’s Health and Safety Services offers full development, maintenance, and BWC reporting of your recordkeeping forms. Contact the safety team at safety@sheakley.com today to satisfy this notice from the PERRP Division to avoid an inspection that could result in a citation. You’ll be confident that your records are correct, current, and in order if the PERRP Auditor walks through your door!

Accident reporting is absolutely necessary. There is no such thing as a minor incident when the health and safety of your personnel are affected. And, accurate recordkeeping can help drive better decision making and ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line.

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Injury Reporting in Ohio; the Sooner the Better

Early injury reporting for your Ohio workers’ compensation claims can not only save days away from work for your employees, but can also save you money on your premiums.

In the State of Ohio, a claim is a medical only claim for the first seven days. During these early stages of the claim, it is crucial for your Managed Care Organization (MCO) to have as much data about the claim as possible. This allows quicker access to relevant medical information which helps our professional staff to review and determine best ways to manage the claim going forward. It also allows for strategic planning regarding return to work options in an attempt to prevent the claim from turning into a lost time claim, which will happen when the injured employee misses 8 or more days from work. Once a claim moves into a lost time status, it becomes much more costly for employers.

Employee Benefits from Early Reporting
Early injury reporting also ensures your injured employee has the support they need to feel confident in their care. Your MCO can reach out to them right away to address any concerns or questions they may have and help coordinate treatment.

Employer Benefits from Early Reporting
You, the employer, also will have the assistance and support you need through the claims process. Your MCO will be able to coordinate return to work planning, update you regarding the medical treatment and the status of your injured worker while helping you understand the process.

Methods of Injury Reporting
There are several different methods available to report an Ohio workers’ compensation claim (e.g., telephonic, electronic/email or on-line submission). It is important that you work with your MCO to determine the best fit for your company so the injuries can be reported immediately.

Any delay in reporting an injury can turn a simple injury into a claim that is much more involved and cost your company more in premiums.

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