This Retailer Cut Workers’ Comp Costs By 41 Percent With One Simple Method

When an athlete is injured, trainers rush in and assist the player to the bench for treatment. A large chain of discount stores, 99 Cents Only, implemented the same model for workplace injuries.
By: | October 17, 2018

When an athlete is injured, trainers rush in, make an assessment and assist the player to the bench for treatment.

A large chain of discount stores in the Southwest, 99 Cents Only, implemented the same model for workplace injuries. The pilot program has been highly successful, with a 41-percent reduction in lost-time claims in the first 12 months. The program has also accelerated employees’ return to work and has reduced insurance costs.

On-Site Triage for Injured Workers

“The idea was brought to us by our brokerage, Beecher Carlson,” said Alvina Garcia, senior manager of workers’ compensation and safety at 99 Cents Only.

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The company has almost 400 stores, primarily in California, but also Arizona, Nevada and Texas. Each store has about 30 to 40 employees, and like most employers, the company was struggling with rising claims and costs and lingering cases. In particular, Garcia cited the delays in initial treatments, further delays for specialists if needed and the lack of continuity in case management.

The pilot project, using the sports-trainer model, opened in September 2017 with two clinics in stores where there had been high occurrences of injuries. Clinicians were able to triage injuries immediately, and the company used a ride-hailing service to get injured workers to treatment quickly.

“We have seen great success,” said Garcia.

“Most workers are glad to get the immediate care, referrals, and transportation. The clinicians stay on top of the treatment plan and act like a second adjuster on the file. They also assist employees on light duty as they come back to work.” — Alvina Garcia, senior manager of workers’ compensation and safety, 99 Cents Only

“We have expedited referrals to the best providers and reduced lag time of referrals from seven days to one day or less. The clinics also provide the opportunity for employees to pop in any time for guidance on ergonomics, especially lifting.”

After a full year of the pilot project, a third, larger clinic is being installed at one of the California distribution centers. It will serve all three, as well as 33 retail stores in the immediate area. To be sure, there are costs to build and staff the facilities, but Garcia stated emphatically “those costs are significantly less than what our workers’ comp costs had been.”

The company is self insured but as a result of the program has been able to reduce the bonds that it has to post with the state.

Workers Benefit as Well

“Our clinicians give employees better care,” said Garcia. “That is far better than what they were getting at third-party occupational health clinics. They get personal attention to themselves and to their progress plan.”

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Clinicians are also gathering insight and data on injuries and are in the process of compiling recommendations for management on ways to reduce injuries and improve work practices.

Like most companies, 99 Cents Only sees the majority of injured workers eager to get better and get back to work, but invariably there is the occasional malingerer.

“We have seen it all,” said Garcia. “Most workers are glad to get the immediate care, referrals and transportation. The clinicians stay on top of the treatment plan and act like a second adjuster on the file. They also assist employees on light duty as they come back to work.”

As for those workers who are less diligent, “Our clinicians are very quick to pick up on a situation and investigate if it seems like someone is trying to take advantage.”

The mere presence of the clinics as a resource tends to encourage positive behavior and discourage the negative. &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in North Carolina with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]