EMS human resource specialist Scott A. Moore, Esq., delivered a session titled Managing Stress-Related Employee Claims: Balancing Your Obligation to the Employees and Your Company, at the American Ambulance Association 2016 conference in Las Vegas, Nev.
With reported stress levels in EMS at 10 times higher than the general population, Moore examined the impact of such stress and noted how it can disrupt physical body functions and negatively impact the overall health in EMS providers.
- 83% of Americans say they are stressed at work
- Millennials have some of the highest stress levels
- Women’s stress levels are twice as high as men
- 39% reported overeating unhealthy foods, alcohol and tobacco
After identifying several common causes of employee stress in EMS, Moore cited landmark legal cases that were among the first to recognize stress-related worker’s compensation claims. In one, the employee had a traumatic event that led to a mental breakdown, causing physical disability and inability to work. In another, a worker was continually hounded by the supervisor for not keeping up with the demands of the job.
Moore noted that there needs to be a nexus between the psychological disorder or disability and the work performed for the employer in order to sustain a stress-related claim. Each state has its own rules governing worker’s comp claims. One state, for example, requires the employee to “objectively verify job-related stress.” Moore noted that such requirements can be difficult to verify and stated that EMS is, by its nature, objectively stressful—beyond what most people experience in the daily performance of their job.
Moore’s recommendations to employers:
- Get your people care
- File a claim with the worker’s compensation insurer
- Work with selected occupational health providers
- Provide every position with a job description, including psychological aspects of the job
- Actively manage claims
- Immediately call the employee
- Talk to them about the worker’s compensation process
- Instruct employees on what to expect
- Get and require regular updates
- Call the employee every week while they are out
- Assign that employee to alternative duties
- Seek an independent medical exam (IME)
- Monitor your “reserves” for each claim
- Subrogation, or going after someone who caused the claim (i.e., a hospital that did not take care of slippery spots in their driveway)
Additional steps for agencies to take:
- Review your injury data
- Identify trends
- Identify common issues such as lack of training, lack of services and unnecessary risk
Conduct a workplace assessment:
- To identify recognized hazards (you have an obligation to mitigate them)
- EAP use
- Look at absenteeism, physical injuries and morale
- Develop a sentinel events/calls protocol
- Watch for behavioral problems
- Watch for longitudinal response
- Talk to the staff about mental health/wellness
- Include your executive and supervisory team in stress training
- Consider resiliency training
- Communicate mental health service availability to the staff
- Permit access to EAP while on duty
About Scott Moore
Scott A. Moore, Esq. has been in EMS over 26 years and has held various executive positions at several ambulance services in Massachusetts. He specializes in human resources, employment and labor law, employee benefits, and corporate compliance matters. Moore is also a site reviewer for the Commission on the Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS).