Our surveys to PSWCT Trustees, and claims, fiscal, and safety contacts focused on the stakeholder experience targeting three main areas: Pool Administration (November 2018), Claims Management (March 2019), and Risk Management (May 2019).
Satisfaction with staff services rating professionalism, knowledge base, prompt response time, respectful treatment, subject matter understanding, and flexibility in having needs met all rated at 90% to 100%.
Even matters relating to rates (notifications, transparency, methodology, and benchmarking) surpassed industry averages by reaching 94% to 100% approval in WCT service.
With claims management processes, (first contact, reporting process, access to staff, clarity of written communications, and staff familiarity with our claims), only our hours rated below just 100%.
Risk Management responses scored a solid 100% approval rating on ease of access to staff, value of service to the school district, knowledge on loss control and industrial hygiene, and thoroughness in assisting toward resolution of concerns.
Cool ideas surfaced through the survey feedback tool recommending, for instance, expanding our interpretation services and providing more staff training opportunities such as SafeSchools Online Training. And of course, pats on the back to staff are extremely welcome.
Thank you, Trustees and school district contacts for sharing thoughtful insights that will help the WCT serve you better.
The start of the new school year is the perfect opportunity to act to improve student and staff health at your school. It is a proven fact that healthy indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools helps students and staff to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity and test scores. Schools are now clean, well-organized; lot of buildings have been fixed or improved during the summer. Now it is the incoming staff’s turn to keep thing in good shape, learn about basic IAQ facts, increase awareness and contribute personally to a healthy indoor environment that support education.
There is a tremendous amount of information available on the net, but some of it is not high quality, can be misleading or focuses on advertising services. It is better to focus on scientifically proven info and education provided by the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Tools for Schools” program (https://www.epa.gov/iaq-schools) and the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) School Environmental Health and Safety and Indoor Air Quality program
(https://www.doh.wa.gov/AboutUs/ProgramsandServices/EnvironmentalPublicHealth/EnvironmentalHealthandSafety/Schools). DOH provides short, concise info sheets on how to achieve and maintain a good indoor environment in schools. We very much recommend that our member districts distribute IAQ information received from the DOH and from us to all staff, so everyone has the necessary awareness and guidance.
The Worker’s Compensation Trust supports our districts in the quest to create and promote a healthy indoor environment and improve student and staff health. We assist with evaluation of your particular situation, provide consultation and generate feedback reports with recommendations. By using our services in a timely manner, you will be able to fix problems and address staff needs before they turn into crisis situations or claims. Our indoor air quality (IAQ) assistance program is based on the EPA’s Tools for Schools program and information from the State DOH, modified to address your very own needs. For assistance please Contact the WCT Industrial Hygiene Consultant at firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-917-7640 or 206-200-4463.
We are pleased to announce the next virtual roundtable learning opportunity – Return to Work Best Practices: Documentation and the Stories Behind Them. Wednesday, September 25 from 9:30am-10am. RSVP when you see the flyer circulating.
Our virtual roundtables are designed to discuss and explore specific topics related to workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits in 30-minute segments. The inaugural roundtable brought together a wonderful assortment of members to hear a brief overview on reforms coming this summer from Labor & Industries. We’re excited to share these professional development ideas that allow you to participate from the comfort of your own office or conference room.
We have taken the first steps to develop a place for school district members to learn and communicate on various topics, the Virtual Forum. Exclusive to our members, we’ll utilize this space in future to announce events, host documents you and future staff may download, and share other media offered during our roundtable discussions. Look for an email soon about your membership!
Our plan to conduct guided discussions on topics of interest to our members is dependent on your feedback. We have identified a few topics and will want to hear about your experience, so please do respond to our surveys and share with us what is important to you. Respond to the invitation to become a member of the Virtual Roundtable Forum when you see it, and then click the Contact button to offer feedback about what works or doesn’t work to help us improve the site.
We hope you will virtually join us September 25 at 9:30am!
Welcome back to our Cheers to Peers column – a space to recognize some of the excellent work being done in our member districts. Today we are saying “cheers” to Snohomish School District’s Custodial and Maintenance division.
Snohomish district is making good progress by disposing of approximately 350 pounds of hazardous wastes.
During the last two years, David Wells, Custodial Supervisor and District Chemical Hygiene Officer for science lab safety and Indoor Air Quality began collaborating with Elizabeth Jakab, WCT’s Industrial Hygiene Consultant. Although he has no science background, he does have a logical approach and invited Elizabeth to assess all high school and middle school labs last summer. One of the results of those visits, and the follow-up consult, is the safe and legal disposal of approximately 350 pounds of hazardous chemical wastes just from one of their high schools!
David and his awesome associate, Maintenance Secretary, Inez Garcia are tracking which schools or buildings the waste derives from and David even has transported the waste to the county himself. The Snohomish High School, with one or two small batches from Glacier Peak are the main contributors thus far.
Thank you, David and Inez for your initiative and drive to ensure safe and legal waste disposal.
Megan Walker, 6-12 Science Facilitator for Federal Way Public Schools reports a delivery to the drop-off site in Bellevue last year of a total of 20 5-gal buckets of science lab hazardous waste.
They are also taking advantage of the King County Small Quantity Generator Voucher Incentive Program (VIP) that provides up to $600 reimbursement per site.
Thank you to Megan and her team who are currently working on delivering more from area schools.
Executive Director’s Corner: Pathway to Change
Clairmonte Cappelle, Executive Director
As summer winds down and the beginning of the school year approaches, we at the Puget Sound Workers’ Compensation Trust and Unemployment Pool (PSWCT/UP) look forward to our continuing collaboration with you to make school districts the safest possible working and learning environment. We remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver unsurpassed claims and risk management solutions to minimize total cost of risk while maximizing injured worker outcomes.
How we deliver on our commitment is just as important as realizing that commitment. We have become intentional about our risk management approach and how it aligns with our Agency’s mission – Success for Each Child and Eliminate the Opportunity Gap by Leading with Racial Equity. How do we deliver risk management services with an equity lens? This edition of Executive Director’s Corner introduces our Pathway to Change, our journey to its adoption, and the outcomes we aspire.
Our Pathway to Change was developed out of a desire to strengthen alignment of our risk management work with our Agency’s mission. In our pursuit of becoming an antiracist, multicultural organization, the way we do our work is just as critical as goal achievement. Towards that end, agency-wide competencies were established to guide the manner in which we do our work.
Our Pathway to Change consists of four (4) overarching strategic areas. I’ll touch individually on each of the four (4) strategic areas in subsequent editions of Sound Advice. But here is a description of each area:
Stakeholder Experience – To create a consistent, quality experience for school districts, injured workers, and providers.
Educational Continuity – Support school district staffing consistency and stability through injury/illness prevention and averting unnecessary disability duration.
Responsible Stewardship – Protect and make prudent use of entrusted resources.
Employee Experience – Cultivate a culture that fosters staff engagement and encourages best work.
We became intentional about how we can deliver services with an equity focus and in a culturally responsive manner. When the Return-To-Work incentive program was developed, an equity lens was applied to ensure that small school districts were not disadvantaged because of size. The result was the launch this past March of an incentive program that provided meaningful financial opportunity for all school districts to participate in, regardless of size, with each school district allotted a pool of funds to offset wage loss expense.
Another intentional effort towards alignment with our equity pursuits is associated with our conversion a few years ago to a new claims system. Given the increasing diversity of the workforce, as well as the composition of English language learners in the workforce, careful thought was given to capturing voluntarily-submitted heritage information from injured workers that can proactively inform the delivery of culturally-relevant services. This includes interpreter and translation services and access to providers of same heritage, if desired. Research shows that patients of color tend to be more compliant with their treatment plan, and hence have quicker recovery time when treated by providers who share racial identity. Other research, soon to be released by Portland University Library, demonstrates the disparity present within workers’ compensation systems where racial, ethnic, and linguistic minority workers suffer higher rates of work-related injuries and illnesses in the United States compared to their White counterparts. Our goal is to deliver services in a manner that eliminates that disparity.
Lastly, because services delivered by our vendor partners are an extension of the risk management services that we deliver to school districts and injured workers, we’ve requested of them, as part of their performance expectations, to use best efforts to ensure that service delivery aligns and is consistent with our equity focus.
We will continue to be intentional about the way we deliver services. Pursuing risk management initiatives to maximize injured worker outcomes while minimizing total cost of risk in a manner that aligns with our Agency’s goal of Success for Each Child and Eliminate the Opportunity Gap by Leading with Racial Equity is our focus. That goal encompasses injury/illness prevention as well. We aspire to collaborate with our school districts to offer safety and training information in the preferred language of employees who are English language learners to ensure that safety information is understood. We are eager to continue our work with you and your staff to cultivate the safest possible working and learning environment.
Wishing you the best school year ever!
Cheers to Peers
Welcome back to our Cheers to Peers column – a space to recognize some of the excellent work being done in our member districts. Today we are saying “cheers” to Issaquah School District’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Group.
This group has worked for years to build a high-functioning team consisting of staff, administrators and unions with consistent roles and responsibilities.
In terms of IAQ, they have incorporated all best practices, including school-board-approved policies and procedures. And they can address IAQ concerns in-house. Even more impressive is the guidance poster they have developed which will be adopted by the Department of Health.
Our hats off to Issaquah for tackling such a big project with so much success!
An RTW Kudo Award goes to Mukilteo School District. They created three light duty positions that support the entire district!
- Touch Point Cleaning – allowing flexibility, duties can be as broad or as detailed as the worker’s restrictions require.
- Print Shop Helper – supporting the in-house publications department with a variety of stationary work.
- Science Kit Position – creating counting and other science-oriented packets to support K-8 science and math curriculum.
These positions allow 5 – 10 people to return to work in a light duty capacity and the district can meet injured workers where they are in their recovery.
This is good for the district and great motivation for the injured worker because it acknowledges their importance and value to the district.
Our highest incidence of on-the-job injuries occur due to trips, slips, and falls, and the end of the school year is a peak period for these types of injuries due to the increase in cleanup and furniture relocation tasks.
Careful thought and planning are needed to develop safe and efficient ways to perform these activities.
Overloading of garbage cans during the end-of-year cleanup presents a major risk of strain and sprain injury for staff moving the bins. Back and shoulder injuries are common due to pushing, pulling, and emptying of heavy wheeled bins.
Here are some strategies to minimize the risk of injury to custodial staff:
- Spread heavy loads equally between bins.
- Consider other waste disposal strategies such as taking garbage directly to industrial bins in manageable loads.
Classroom teachers can play a role in keeping custodians safe during end-of-year cleanup by remembering a few simple tips:
- Undertake a progressive cleanup over the last few weeks of school rather than leaving it to the final days of the school year.
- Do not overfill waste paper bins—remember small baskets are expected to be light when lifted. Placing heavy books or items in these bins increases the risk of injury for the person emptying the bin.
- Place waste paper bins on chairs or desks at the end of each day—this saves the custodian from repetitive bending.
Relocation of Furniture and Equipment
At the end of the school year teachers are frequently asked to ‘relocate’ classroom furniture. Teachers are not furniture movers and often do not have appropriate equipment, assistance, time, or training to complete these tasks safely.
Any tasks involving heavy or awkward loads should only be carried out after thoughtful planning and assessment of risks. The risk of injury can be minimized by:
- Eliminating movement of furniture and equipment when possible.
- Leaving full filing cabinets where they are – only move files in small bundles.
- Moving personal items with the assistance of others. Think about moving only personal items rather than desks and filing cabinets.
- Using professionals to move heavy items. This is efficient and inexpensive when compared to the human and financial costs of an injury to a staff member.
- Planning moving activities like any other major project. The people involved such as the school officer and custodian, need to be consulted.
It is important to ensure an adequate number of staff are available to assist on moving days. Necessary moving equipment must be available and staff must be trained on how to use it.
Simple Safety Tips
Staff should be reminded that their own safety is important, especially toward the end of the school year when there is an even greater temptation to rush to achieve deadlines.
- Work with colleagues and administrators whenever possible to manage major tasks such as relocation of classrooms.
- Plan the task. Take five minutes to think about the best and safest way to do the job: organize assistance, get the right equipment, and clear pathways.
- Ask for help; there is a big difference between what you can lift and what you can safely lift.
- Use the right equipment for the job. This equipment must be easily accessible and in good working order. For example: use a small step ladder to reach items, do not stand on a chair or desk.
- Spread physical tasks over a number of days and allow your body to “warm up” in the morning before starting any heavy lifting tasks.
- Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the job: bring spare “work” clothes and suitable footwear for moving or “cleanup” days.
- Don’t rush; spending the school holidays recovering from an injury will not be worth the five minutes you might save.
Follow these tips to ensure a safe end to your year!
Last month I had the opportunity to meet with many of our school district partners at PSWCT’s Annual Trustee Meeting to discuss how to best position our members to achieve sustainably excellent workers’ compensation program performance. As an organization that focuses on risk reduction, we are constantly working to reduce our member districts’ exposure to costly workers’ compensation claims, and the impact that exposure has on your budgets and staff stability.
When we look at program performance, we look at our trends in terms of exposure, frequency, and severity. Our exposure is measured by worker hours, meaning that as your staff increases, so does your exposure to risk. Total worker hours have steadily increased over the past six fiscal years by 15%, and claim counts have followed more dramatically by 21%.
To help reduce your exposure, we look at causation trends. Recent data tells us that the highest incidence of claims occurs with injuries due to falls, slips, and trips, followed by injuries caused by strains. With this information in hand, we will be working to provide school district-specific advice on how to reduce your risk for these types of injuries.
In addition to providing good opportunities for meaningful conversations between our claims staff and their district counterparts, our Annual Meeting is also an opportunity for our Trustees to gather and make decisions that impact the direction of our collective work. At this year’s meeting, our Trustees voted to approve the Executive Advisory Board’s recommendation to increase base rates by 2%. These small, gradual increases in rates help to build a buffer in our fund balance against potential catastrophic claims or economic downturns.
Our Trustees also voted on expiring and vacant positions on our Executive Advisory Board. We are excited to welcome new Board member Tyrell Bergstrom of Mercer Island School District and returning Board member Joanne Dickinson of Monroe School District, as well as continuing Board members Kathy Kemp of Bethel School District and Tammy Bigelow of Franklin Pierce School District.
As an additional resource for members at our Annual Trustee meeting, we were pleased to offer our first panel discussion on the topic of minimizing exposure, featuring some of our valued external business partners, such as Ed Davis of Arthur Gallagher & Co., Kevin Wick of PwC, and Kelly Woolhouse of Absentia Solutions. The theme of this panel was, “Small Actions for Big Impact: Minimize Your Exposure.” In addition to our external partners, this panel also featured the expertise of two new PSWCT staff members – Bradley Jones, Claims Attorney, and Aliza Hauser, our Return-to-Work Manager. School district staff in attendance were invited to submit questions to our panel, so that our experts could provide guidance that directly addressed our members’ needs.
Questions raised by our members addressed topics such as progressive discipline for employees who do not follow safety procedures on a repeated basis, and the benefits of reporting incidents early. Panelists also focused in on small actions that can have a big impact. Aliza Hauser, our Return-to-Work Manager, highlighted how something as seemingly insignificant as a phone call to an injured worker to check in can have a big impact on that worker’s perception of their importance to the district, and have long-term impacts on claim outcomes. It is easy to become focused on policies and paperwork and lose sight of the importance of personal connections that help our employees feel connected to their work.
I encourage all our members to think about what small steps you can take towards risk reduction in your respective school districts, including participation in our Return-to-Work Incentive Program, where school districts can be reimbursed anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 for bringing injured workers back to work on transitional duty. I hope that you reach out to our experienced staff for support in your efforts towards risk reduction.
We typically receive workers’ compensation claims via an injured worker completing our online SIF-2 form.
However, sometimes we are first notified of a workers’ compensation claim when we receive a document from the injured worker’s medical provider called the Provider’s Initial Report (PIR).
We are required to open a claim using the information on this form within 3 business days of receiving a PIR, even if the injured worker has not yet completed the SIF-2 online. While it is our practice to attempt to get in touch with the worker to have them file a claim, sometimes they are not responsive, even after we have made multiple attempts to contact them by phone.
The PIR form does not contain all the information we need to open a claim and does not provide the worker with a claim number for billing purposes. This is an area where we need help from our school district counterparts to enable the worker to file a claim in a timely manner.
If the worker has not filed a claim after 3 business days, we will need to file a dummy claim. This is a claim completed with basic information by one of our claims specialists to get the claim set up in our system. To file a dummy claim we require the worker’s email address, job title, and job location. We may also need other information from you if the PIR is missing information such as the worker’s Social Security Number, date of birth, or mailing address.
It is important that you respond to requests for this type of information within 24 hours, so that we can ensure your injured workers’ claims are filed within the required timeframe. Not doing so can result in penalties being assessed by LNI.
We appreciate your assistance. Please reach out to us if you have any questions by emailing email@example.com or calling (425) 917-7638.