Award-winning employers’ successful workers’ comp strategies

Risk & Insurance’s Teddy Awards recognize excellence in workers’ compensation risk management that reduces the number and cost of injuries to workers in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. This year’s winners include:

Hampton Roads Transit – a public transportation agency

Problem: driver accidents, passenger violence, and overexertion. Claims system had been doubling annually with little accountability built into it. There was a pressing need to change the safety perception among workers.

Solution: a complete overhaul of their workers’ compensation and safety programs.

  • Surveyed employees and learned they did not feel they could talk openly about safety issues.
  • Conducted meetings with safety departments, mechanics, supervisors and union representatives and, ultimately, created a task force. Established new policies and procedures, including safety videos, to reinforce the safety message. Trained supervisors how to communicate the safety message.
  • Marketed the light duty program to managers. Made managers aware of how light-duty works and the variety of positions available to them. For example, since the bus drivers know the routes, they could help with customer service.
  • Hosts an annual workers’ compensation open house with case managers, doctors and workers’ comp attorneys to show them the work environment and provide them with a binder of all positions, including a list of all the restrictions they can accommodate.
  • Saw a 98 percent decrease in lost-time claims frequency, a 94 percent decrease in average number of days lost per lost-time claim, a 48 percent decrease in frequency of injuries and a 78 percent decrease in total incurred costs per claim.


Harder Mechanical Contractors – a specialty mechanical contractor

Problem: injured workers were getting lost in the mix among their multiple locations without receiving the proper attention. Exposures include dangerous equipment and changing environments.


  • Involved workers to help create return-to-work duties. Performed a review involving the employees to help determine their employees’ skills that would match them to modified duty jobs. This helped to build trust and also helped the company better understand their workforce.
  • Used sparingly, employees write a letter to their families about their commitment to safety when the company sees indications of safety concerns.
  • Created an atmosphere of trust. Communicate openly to employees why it benefits them to remain on modified duty. Empower workers to stop work when they feel the environment has become unsafe.
  • Have logged 17 million hours without a lost-time claim.


Excela Health – health care network

Problem: Blood-borne pathogens, combative patients and lift injuries. Injured hospital workers were going to their co-workers in the emergency room for care.


  • Decreased use of emergency room for employee injuries that do not require emergency care. Created a nurse on-call program to replace the costly habit. This took a lot of time and effort to change behaviors, but has become the most cost-effective program.
  • De-escalated workplace violence through training. Created a video teaching mental mapping, using the run, hide, fight method, which is hard for healthcare workers, who want to stick around and care for people. Showed employees where they would run, where they would hide or what they would use to fight. This is made part of new-hire orientation and is also reinforced on a monthly basis to the entire workforce.
  • Started a continuous improvement focus on safety. The first thing employees discuss in their employee meetings is safety. Employees are empowered to address the safety problems immediately through a “just do it” form. Once the project has been completed to fix the safety concern, they communicate the solution company-wide. They measure results and have received over 3,000 safety suggestions.
  • Excela Health reduced workers’ comp claims costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past eight years.


Target – major retailer and distributor

Problem: a company-wide reorganization in March 2015 left the risk management department with fewer team members, not utilizing its third-party vendors in the most efficient way, and broad safety and work comp challenges due to size and logistics.


  • Rebuild the expertise of the safety and workers’ comp team by cross-training so everyone had a well-rounded understanding of risks on both the retail and the distribution side. Made greater use of predictive analytics to streamline and expedite its processes. Dove deeper into claims data to pinpoint where injuries are happening.
  • Turned to professional associations like the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Minnesota Safety Council to stay updated on the latest guidelines and training.
  • Training programs for powered equipment were simplified and adjusted to allow trainers and supervisors to control when an employee is ready to be certified and move on to independent work.
  • Developed a formal advocacy-based program, The Workers’ Comp Assistance Center. A Center employee, not the claims adjuster, contacts injured employees to say we care and we’re there for them, to familiarize them with the workers’ comp process and answer questions. Return-to-work coordinators are another critical component of the advocacy approach, and the retailer’s return-to-work program is a differentiator in the industry.


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