Why Workers’ Comp Professionals Are Linking Health and Safety Practices

Chia-Chia Chang, public health analyst for the CDC, sat down to discuss how linking health to safety practices cuts lost time and enhances worker well-being.
By: | November 30, 2018 • 2 min read

Have you heard of the Total Worker Health® (TWH) approach?

At this year’s National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo, held Dec. 5 through 7 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, presenters Chia-Chia Chang, public health analyst for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Sabrina Freewynn, total worker health consultant for SAIF, will be speaking on that very topic and how it applies in workers’ compensation.

Their session, “Total Worker Health®: Integrating Health as an Injury Prevention Strategy,” will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 10:45 a.m. in Room South Pacific D.

Chang and Freewynn said their goal is to relay what the TWH approach is and identify how it relies on policies, practices and environmental improvements integrating workplace safety, hazard reduction and illness prevention to enhance overall worker health. Essentially, they’ll be identifying how linking health and safety practices can cut lost time and enhance worker well-being.

Risk & Insurance® wanted to get the inside scoop for what was in store:

Risk & Insurance®: Where did the idea for this session stem from?

Chia-Chia Chang: Reducing risk of injury and reducing the severity of injury are crucial to the workers’ comp, risk management and insurance industries.


There is growing awareness of how health is intertwined with many relevant organizational policies, including benefits, safety and HR. Risk managers, insurance and workers’ comp professionals are now increasingly recognizing the importance of worker health. We wanted to share these ideas with people who can use them to improve their insurance and risk management practice, particularly in loss control.

In addition to these ideas, Sabrina will be sharing examples of companies that have applied a Total Worker Health® approach and found success.

R&I: What is the Total Worker Health® approach?

Chang: Total Worker Health® is defined as policies, programs and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.

This session will go in-depth on this approach and the growing recognition that health and safety are intertwined and can be addressed in ways that improve both.

R&I: What are some of the key points you will highlight during your talk?

Chia-Chia Chang, public health analyst, CDC/NIOSH

Chang: There are three main points:

  • Identify health and occupational safety challenges facing today’s workplace;
  • Describe how a systemic, integrated approach can help prevent injury and illness;
  • Understand how workers’ compensation providers can apply Total Worker Health® to improve worker safety and health.

R&I: Is there anything else you would like to share about the presentation?

Chang: It would be great to include links to additional information and resources: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/twh/default.html and www.saif.com/twh&

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

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]