Keeping employees safe delivers cost savings

“Prevention is the best cure” might sound like a cliché but it’s an important part of keeping King County employees safe at work and decreasing injury-related costs.

King County’s Safety and Claims section is implementing a multifaceted approach to reduce costs on workers compensation claims and lost work days as a result of occupational injuries and illnesses, and their efforts are delivering an estimated $7 million in annual savings in liabilities – funds that can go to providing services to more customers.

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“It’s not any one thing in isolation that is moving the needle for us but a combination of several different programs and strategies,” said Manager of Safety and Claims Tim Drangsholt.

Safety & Health, Claims and Disabilities Services are three main groups that Tim manages that provide confidential assistance to employees both at work and at home – all part of the County’s Investing in You strategy. Their work ranges from ergonomic evaluations to fraud prevention to return-to-work programs for employees recovering from injuries.

“Return-to-work light duty programs create cost-savings for the County and also benefit the injured workers,” Tim said. “All the studies show they recover faster when they get back to work sooner.”

Safety and Claims has also reduced workers’ compensation rates for administrative positions within the County through a robust Ergonomic Evaluation program. Currently, the Safety & Health administrators receive 300-400 requests per year and are an important preventative measure in mitigating injuries and reducing rates among those that work at computer station or office environment.

The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Program has also played a tremendous part in saving King County unnecessary payouts. “Fraud prevention saves King County one to two million dollars,” Tim said.

disabilityservices_767In addition, Safety and Claims has recently migrated to an electronic claims management system. This has increased team collaboration within the unit as the members are now able to access and update workers’ compensation cases, building a sense of “team effort” in between cases.

Tim credits his team’s head-on approach to reducing costs in workers’ compensation and lost work days in part to King County Executive Dow Constantine’s best-run government mindset.

“I have found that Dow’s leadership in government and Lean thinking have been instrumental,” Tim said. “Once Dow challenged us to become the best-run government, every department – including ours – got the message that we need to do more to become better.”

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