1. Sandy Cerimele Fralich, Senior
JWF Specialty Company
Working within the Indiana Worker’s
Compensation Community for more than 20
years, Sandy Fralich currently consults with public
and private employers in Indiana and Illinois to
establish self-insured claim administration for
claims involving worker’s compensation, disability,
property and casualty and FMLA. She previously
served 13 years with the Indiana Worker’s
Compensation Board dealing with dispute resolution, community education,
public policy, agency administration and legislative affairs.
“Thinking big in these times-where budgets are tightening and costs are rising-
is the first step in creating change, one that is sustainable over the long haul in
a changing economy.”
The Human Aspect of Worker’s Compensation
There is value in having an integrated approach in all aspects of human
resource and risk management. Truly understanding employers and
employees is key to setting up effective programs pre and post injury.
I honestly believe there is a mutual desire for injuries not to happen. But, when
injuries happen-a person is hurt and an employer is left without an employee,
which brings challenges for all. Quality care must be delivered promptly and
it must be at a reasonable cost and for a reasonable timeframe.
How do we do this in Indiana?
Indiana employers enjoy one of the lowest litigation rates in the country.
With everyone at the table, and generally not arguing, worker’s compensation
professionals foster great relationships that support employers in achieving
positive outcomes. All effective programs start(s) with the employer’s
commitment. My initial experience at the Worker’s Compensation board
formed my passion for what I do today. Years back, when I read letters from
injured workers looking for assistance, I understood how severely their lives
were impacted by occupational injuries. Fueled with curiosity about what
could be done to improve those sad situations, I began to also learn what
employers face in dealing with these same injuries. I understood rather
quickly that managing worker’s compensation programs is a complex task that
often presents very difficult challenges for employers. But, what also emerged
from that experience was a crystal clear view of one common element of all
efficiently run worker’s compensation programs - employer’s who walked the
walk in dedication to and understanding of the people on the job. Today,
I look for those employers as clients who want to take on these challenges
and provide creative solutions. I enjoy quantifying their successes in real
cost savings and in significant injury reduction, and I enjoy talking about
employees who are back to work after injuries that might otherwise have
been more debilitating. Celebrating these successes is important and
rewarding to everyone involved.
Advocacy and Guiding Philosophy
I am an advocate for influencing systems in companies that work properly.
I am an advocate for my clients who face challenges in keeping their doors
open and meeting critical responsibilities in challenging times. I am an
advocate not only for getting people to return-to-work, but also for treating
people well in the process. I am an advocate for new and exciting ideas that
keep people at work and uninjured - like implementing on-site biometrics
from athletic trainers, and integrating wellness into occupational side of
managing insurance programs. This advocacy was reinforced on my first
day on the job as newly promoted Executive Secretary of the Worker’s
Compensation Board nearly 20 years ago. My boss and mentor, Terry
Coriden, former Hearing Officer and Chairman of the Board for more than 30
years, handed me a jar of honey, and said, “You will get further with honey
than you ever will with vinegar.” I have kept that jar of honey in every desk I
have had since, because I believe the most effective way to problem solve is to
put yourself in someone else’s position. It softens your resolve to your own view
and allows you stay open minded. It has been most helpful in learning how to
impact a desired result in nearly every aspect of life, which is why it is equally
effective when listening to employees and employers in worker’s compensation
Spotlight: Employers Who Think Big Enjoy Big Results
While it is not news that injury prevention is essential, there are new ways
employers are tackling it. Biometric assessment and correction is the new wave
in injury prevention. This strategy allows employees to fix physical weaknesses
and prevent injuries. It is wellness in action in worker’s compensation. Wellness
programs were born out of alarming concern over rising health premiums. The
cornerstone of a wellness program is prevention. Healthy people need less
care, and therefore cost less to insure. The same analytics hold true in worker’s
compensation programs. Stronger bodies are more likely to avoid injury, and
stronger bodies suffer less severe injuries in general.
The program, which is gaining traction in Indiana by ATI Worksite Solutions,
involves hiring athletic trainers to visit employees on site. There, the trainers
view the physical demands and working environment in direct correlation
to the individual employee’s physical abilities. In addition, a bio-metric
evaluation is conducted for each employee that results in a personal
strength score. Athletic trainers then give each employee a road-map for
improvement. Armed with this road-map, and supported by their employers,
employees are able to work harder, stronger and smarter and they appreciate
their employers for the personal attention and investment in their well being.
The key result for employers is fewer claims and claims at lower overall incurred
cost, which lie directly in the prevention and severity reduction of soft tissue
injuries. A back or shoulder strain can range in direct costs from $400 to
$275,000 in Indiana, with costs varying only slightly from state to state in the
rest of the region. The severity of a given soft tissue claim appears to be directly
linked to the physical conditioning of the patient pre-injury. Stronger patients
have less severe injuries of shorter duration and respond to treatment willingly.
What becomes tricky is convincing employers to spend money to save money.
But those who have made the leap, report direct returns on that investment at
a much greater rate than they anticipated. Consider that at a median range
of roughly $140,000 for a soft tissue injury that requires surgery, preventing
just one injury will generally more than cover the costs of these programs up
front. Some employers even encourage healthy competition between workers
to improve their bio-metric numbers over an established period of time,
yielding morale boosts in a healthy employee culture.
Workers’ Comp Professional Insider
Insights, opinions and resources from our expert in the field.
Previously published as
“The Guest Guru” on