The Secret Success of Early Intervention Programs in Workers’ Comp

After implementing an early intervention program, one company brought its $2 million musculoskeletal discomfort bill down to under $500. Here's how they did it.
By: | October 29, 2018 • 3 min read

Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are a pain point in workers’ compensation. According to OSHA, MSDs are “among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.” Injured employees with MSD cases are said to account for 33 percent of all worker injury and illness cases, says one Bureau of Labor Statistics report.


These injuries — like carpal tunnel, tendinitis, muscle strain and lower back injuries — stem from lifting heavy items, bending or reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads and repetitive motion.

But these risk factors can be prevented through ergonomics. They can also be prevented through early intervention programs, which act as on-site, immediate assessments for workers the same day an injury or discomfort occurs. And these types of interventions are proving success.

Implementing An Early Intervention Program

Schenker Logistics, a global logistics company headquartered in Essen, Germany that manages large warehouses for Fortune 500 companies — some of these facilities as big as 4 million square feet — knew exactly how burdensome MSDs could be for  a workers’ comp program.

“There’s a lot of activities and exposures every day,” said Kevin Hollingshead, the health, safety and environmental director for Schenker in the U.S. He said with close to 100 distribution centers and freight-forwarding operations, “the company has over 14 million exposure hours each year.”

It’s no wonder, then, that there are this many MSD-related injuries and illnesses every year: “If you think about the landscape of the U.S., 20 years ago, it was a nation built on manufacturing and industry. Today, instead of making things, we move things around,” said Hollingshead. He added Schenker’s top injuries-turned-claims are MSDs and similar soft tissue injuries; followed by the misuse or mishandling of equipment; and then slips, trips and falls.

In 2007, Schenker saw nearly $2 million worth of strain and other muscle events reported in its workers’ compensation claims. The team knew there had to be a better way. So Schenker partnered with Atlas Injury Prevention Solutions.

“We work toward preventing injuries instead of waiting for them to happen,” said Curt DeWeese, director, Atlas. Together, the two companies established an early intervention program in which Atlas is able to assess injured workers on the spot, allowing these workers to learn and understand what is going on immediately with any strain they may feel. Atlas also works with employees to educate them on how to perform tasks in safer ways.

“We can go on site and watch workers do their job. Then we educate on how to do it safer,” DeWeese said.

“The early intervention gets injured workers the right care to the injury or discomfort as quick as possible,” he added. “Traditional medicine for work comp included medical management, time away from work and high costs. Someone in pain can [now] talk to someone the day injury occurs and get the reassurance something sinister isn’t going on.”

These joint efforts have brought that staggering $2 million MSD bill down to under $500.

“We have on average a 92 to 95 percent resolution without referral out,” said DeWeese of the Schenker personnel who consult with the on-site care.

With these kind of results, it’s no wonder both Hollingshead and DeWeese are looking to share their insights during the 2018 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® and Expo this December 5 through 7 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.


They will highlight the benefits of having an early intervention program in place during their presentation, “Properly Designed Early Intervention: A Workers’ Compensation MSD Speed Bump,” with a specific focus on medical management and ergonomics. The goal is to help other companies learn how to prevent MSDs from progressing into OSHA recordable injuries, and because of this, they will also be reviewing OSHA-allowable first aid, work site evaluation, job coaching and correcting of ergonomic stressors as well.

Hollingshead and DeWeese will further share the data from Schenker’s successes, using it as a prime example that early intervention works.

“Companies need to figure out these losses and this is a simple way to do so,” added DeWeese.

They will be speaking on Dec. 6 at 3pm. The session is MM5. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at

In the Fast-Paced World of Retail, This Risk Manager Strives to Mitigate Risks Proactively and Keep Senior Leaders Informed

Janine Kral works to identify and mitigate risks, building strong partnerships with leaders and ensuring they see her as support rather than a blocker. 
By: | October 29, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My very first paid job was working on my uncle’s ranch in British Columbia in the summers. He had cattle, horses and grapes — an unusual combo. But my first real job out of college was as a multi-line claims adjuster at Liberty Mutual.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Right out of college I applied for a job that turned out to be a claims adjuster at Liberty Mutual. I accepted because they were offering six weeks of training in Southern California, and at the time that sounded really fun. I spent about three years at Liberty Mutual and then I spent a short period of time at a smaller regional insurance company that hired me to start a workers’ compensation claims administration program.

I was hired at Nordstrom as the Washington Region Risk Manager, which was my first job in risk management. When I started at Nordstrom, the risk management department had about five people, and over the years it has grown to about 75. I’ve been vice president for 11 years.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I would say that technology has probably been the biggest change. When I started many years ago, it was all paper and no RMIS.


R&I: What risks does the retail industry face that are unique?

We deal with a lot of people — employees and customers. With physical brick and mortar settings, there are the unique exposures with people moving in and out in a public environment. And of course, with ecommerce, we have a lot of customer and employee data, which creates cyber risk — which is not necessarily a unique risk in today’s environment.

R&I: Can you describe your approach to working with senior leaders and front-line staff alike to further risk management initiatives?

It starts with keeping the pulse of what’s happening with the business. Retail moves really fast. In order to identify and mitigate risks proactively, we identify top risk areas and topics, and then we ensure that we have strong partnerships with the leaders responsible for those areas. Trust is critical, ensuring that leaders see us as a support rather than a blocker.

R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?

Janine Kral, claims adjuster, Nordstrom

We have an internal risk management information system that all of our locations report events into — every type of incident is reported, whether insured or uninsured. Most of these events are managed internally by risk management, and our guidelines require that prevention be analyzed on each one. Having all event data in one system allows us to use the data for trending and also helps us better predict what may happen in the future, and who we need to work with to mitigate risks.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?

My son is a sophomore in college, and I tell him and his friends all the time not to rule out insurance as a career opportunity. My advice is to cast a wide net and do your homework. Research all the different types of opportunities. Read a lot — articles, industry magazines, LinkedIn. Be proactive and reach out to people you find interesting and ask them about their careers. Don’t be shy and wait for people and opportunities to come to you. Ask questions. Build networks. Be curious and keep an open mind.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?

I have always been passionate about continuous improvement. I want to continue to find ways to add value to my company and to this industry.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

My favorite book is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a true story about a man who was in prison in Australia after being convicted of armed robbery, and he escaped to India. While in India, he passed himself off as a doctor in a slum. It’s a really interesting story, because this is a convicted criminal who ends up helping others. I am not always successful in getting others to read the book because it’s 1,000 pages and definitely a commitment.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Fiorella’s in Newton, Massachusetts. Great Italian food and a great overall experience.


R&I: What is your favorite drink?

“Sister Carol.” I have no idea what is in it, and I can only get it at a local bar in Seattle. It’s green but it’s delicious.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Skydiving. Not tandem and without any sort of communication from the ground. Scary standing on a wing of a plane, but very peaceful once the chute opened, slowly floating down by myself.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

I can’t think of one individual person. For me, the real heroes are people who have a positive attitude in the face of adversity. People who are resilient no matter what life brings them.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

It’s rewarding to help solve problems and help people. I am proud of the support that my team provides others. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at