The moment a worker reports symptoms that they feel may be work related is the most important moment of the claim. There are 3 questions to ask an injured worker that will get the information you need to effectively manage and appeal a WCB claim.
I will go over:
- The 3 questions you MUST ask an injured worker when they report symptoms
- What questions to avoid
- Why this is important
A video can be found in this article that will also discuss why these questions are important.
Why is asking questions of an injured worker important?
How you question an injured worker is important because it provides you with context. Meaning a story of what happened that led to the situation you’re facing now.
A question can help you determine if:
- The story makes sense
- If there is information missing that you need to get
- How to conduct your investigation
A WCB claim can start by first being told that a possible WCB injury / illness occurred.
What you want to avoid when questioning an injured worker!
Too often instead of becoming Sherlock Holmes, we choose to be: the judge, jury, and executioner. Automatically deciding if the claim is real or fake and reacting accordingly.
The reason you WANT TO AVOID this is because it will limit:
- Your thinking
Scientists have proven that when we are under stress, anger, or fear we lose clarity in our thoughts.
This is why you want to become curious and just like my friend Sherlock Holmes.
You MUST reserve judgement at this stage of the claim. You want to ask questions that will provide you with key information to manage the WCB claim.
3 Questions you want to ask an injured worker.
The first thing you need to decide when you are faced with a WCB claim is:
Am I managing or appealing a claim?”
At the very beginning it’s too early to tell.
My recommendation is always start thinking of management and collect information as if you’ll need to appeal later on.
This will protect you and your company from claims costs.
Which is why asking an injured worker the right question can flush out key details to help you decide.
For WCB to accept a claim as work related it needs to have these critical components:
- The worker had to be in the course of employment at the time
- There had to be a hazard of the job that caused the symptoms
- The symptoms are related to the duties of the work and the hazard at the job
If any of these are in question or missing you could be looking at an appeal, but remember this is not a guarantee so still manage to mitigate claims costs.
Is the Structure of a Question Important When Speaking with an Injured Worker?
I will share with you the 3 questions I use when I first learn of a claim, but the key is HOW you structure your questions can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful outcome.
You want to create questions for the injured worker that avoid “yes” or “no” responses wherever possible. You will note that question 3 could be a yes or no response, but that it is set up to create further exploration.
We will discuss this more later on.
Choose questions that encourage the person to give a story or description. This forces them to recall the events and “think.”
While most of us are not human lie detectors, asking these types of questions can give you a feel for whether or not the person you’re dealing with is being truthful or not.
Read also: Why did my WCB Alberta premiums increase?
Question #1 to ask an injured worker: When did you first notice your symptoms?
This question is so the worker must tell you WHEN they first noticed their symptoms.
At this stage we don’t care about the “why.”
We want to know WHEN something happened. It naturally and indirectly should give you a “why.”
If it doesn’t, the second question will clarify this further.
Your goal is to create a timeline of events from when something could have caused the symptoms to when they first felt their symptoms.
After you ask this question pay attention to:
- The time of day they experienced the symptoms
- The environment when they felt their symptoms
- The day of the week or shift cycle
- Anyone that was around them at the time
This kind of information will help you in establishing whether or not there is a relationship between their symptoms and work.
If they said:
My symptoms started when I tripped over a power cord and fell hurting my knee.”
It’s likely this could be work related.
If however they said:
I felt them just before bed around 10:00 p.m.”
This could be non-work related if their shift ended at 4:30.
I will want to know what they did from the time they left work to when they first felt their symptoms.
Question #2 to ask the injured worker: What were you doing when you first felt your symptoms?
If this wasn’t answered from Question #1, then I want to know what they were doing when they felt their symptoms.
The example I use in the video is:
The worker reported shoveling at 9:00 am, but didn’t feel symptoms until 8:00 p.m.”
The shoveling could be contributing to their symptoms, but if they only did it for 5 minutes in the morning and spent the rest of the day standing and supervising, there are more questions to be had.
Especially if they didn’t feel an immediate onset of symptoms.
Also, if they mentioned doing things at home that could be contributing factors you want to record this as well.
Remember when I mentioned context earlier?
This is where this question opens things up. Using the example in Questions #1, the worker reported symptoms after they tripped over a power cord.
This question will help you identify:
- Why they were in the area where the power cord is present
- It can give ideas as to why they would have tripped over the power cord
- This helps to see if it could have been avoided by health and safety measures
- Provide insight if they were in the course of employment at the time of the symptoms.
Each provincial WCB has a slightly different description of being in the course of employment. Before you decide they were NOT in the course of employment, make sure you check your provincial WCB Policy and Legislation to get the proper explanation.
Question #3 to ask an injured worker: Have you sought medical attention for your symptoms?
This question is really important if a worker reports symptoms to you late.
“Late” means that they are telling you any time after the original shift concluded. You want to know this because:
- If they did see a doctor it could have already triggered a WCB claim
- You want to confirm if they have work restrictions
- If they have restrictions, a company must accommodate unless it can show undue hardship
- Do they require any other medical follow-up?
- Treatment like: Physio, chiro, massage, etc.
- Medical Imaging like MRI’s or Ultra Sound
- Prescriptions: will they impair the worker?
- Estimated recovery date
- You can get the medical professional’s information and provide to WCB to help them get medical reporting quicker.
This is all information you want to know.
In some industries whether or not the worker saw a medical professional and received treatment could impact safety statistics and the company’s ability to bid work.
If the worker was taken off of work completely, you’ll want to see if they would be open to seeing another doctor for modified.
Perhaps even provide information to their doctor about your modified work plan in order to assist with minimizing time loss claims.
Finally, you’ll also want to find out if this is the worker’s family doctor. Sometimes they will see other doctors and this can cause delays in reporting and decisions by WCB if they don’t get the reports in time.
Questions You Want to Avoid Asking an Injured Worker
Here are questions I avoid and the reasons it’s best to stay away from them.
Q1. Did this happen at work?
What do you think they’re going to say? Of course it did.
This allows the worker time to create information that would support it’s work related and prevents you from digging deeper.
This is by far the most common question safety people and business owners ask workers.
Recommendation: Ask Question #1 instead.
Q2. What did you do at work to cause this?
This question assumes that the symptoms are work related and limits the opportunity for you to investigate other factors.
The question I ask is: “What were you doing when you first felt your symptoms?”
This is different because I am not saying it’s work related. I am only acknowledging that they have symptoms and curious where they were and what they were doing when they first noticed them.
The way we ask our questions indirectly will get this response from them.
Q3. Do you want to go on workers’ compensation (WCB)?
Regardless of the province you’re in, the WCB has strict guidelines of when to report a workplace injury or illness to them and failure to comply could lead to significant penalties and fines.
It’s your responsibility to report WCB claims as required by law regardless of what a worker decides to do.
In addition, if you have a solid claims management program, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to WCB claims because you will be properly equipped to protect your company from increased premiums and negative statistics.