Column: Workers' Comp

A Microdose of Common Sense

By: | February 20, 2017 • 3 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

Sorry, but if you are still focused on how the growing legalization of marijuana might impact your workers’ comp claims, you are woefully behind the times. LSD is allegedly the new drug of choice at work, fueled by stories of silicon techies experimenting with microdoses of the hallucinogen to enhance creativity and productivity.

“Microdosing” adherents believe LSD improves cognitive function and focus, if taken in such small doses that the usual hallucinogenic effect associated with the drug doesn’t occur, so the stories report.

I first found myself thinking there might be some logic to this. But I quickly settled on the opinion that consuming LSD at work is way too stupid for way too many reasons.

For one, I don’t want my editors tripping and laughing hysterically while deciding which parts of my column deserve the delete button. Regular old coffee should keep them productive enough for the task.

I can only imagine a risk manager’s thoughts, “It was bad enough worrying about workers operating machinery while rendered inattentive from smoking legal weed the night before. Now I have to worry about operators plowing down co-workers while fleeing from giant paisley-colored monsters chasing them?”

In theory, the effects of microdosing are supposed to be almost imperceptible; you wouldn’t notice anything different about the microdoser next to you, other than their annoying tendency to be more productive than you.

I can only imagine a risk manager’s thoughts, “It was bad enough worrying about workers operating machinery while rendered inattentive from smoking legal weed the night before. Now I have to worry about operators plowing down co-workers while fleeing from giant paisley-colored monsters chasing them?”

But a reality check raises several questions. How does the user control dose amounts of LSD, an illegal street drug? What if the user decides to take take more — enough to crash a vehicle when a traffic light turns from red to blue and lavender on their way home from work?

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Would they argue that the employer is responsible for workers’ comp because the hallucinogenic was used in the scope of employment? After all, they were attempting to be more productive in the workplace.

The dozens of stories written about LSD microdosing in the workplace may be more media hype than actual trend. But microdosing does have real proponents, if not for workplace productivity, then for general performance enhancement.

No doubt some people will read those stories about enhancing workplace productivity and decide it sounds like a great idea.

This all points to two intersecting trends that might interest the risk manager. Along with increased acceptance for legalizing weed, I think we are seeing growing acceptance of other substances, coupled with greater interest in performance enhancement.

As I sit writing this column while slurping my morning Joe, I just hope that there isn’t some other workers’ comp journalist with an LSD-fueled competitive edge that, by comparison, renders my work colorless. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

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.

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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.

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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]