Innovance wins award for workers’ comp innovations

Published 9:00 am Monday, May 31, 2010

Three Minnesota businesses — including one based in Albert Lea — have earned the Governor’s Award for Innovative Measures in Workers’ Compensation from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) and the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council.

This first-ever award recognizes the employers — Innovance Inc. of Albert Lea, Mayo Clinic of Rochester and Starkey Laboratories, Inc. of Eden Prairie — for implementation of programs and strategies that make their workers’ compensation system, management and approach outstanding.

“I want to congratulate these three organizations for their workers’ compensation efforts, innovation and performance,” said Steve Sviggum, DLI Commissioner. “Our system needs to continually focus on the two most important stakeholders:  the injured worker and the business that pays the premium.”

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The awards will be presented during the second annual Workers’ Compensation Policy Summit June 14. At the summit, these three employers will be given the opportunity to speak about their outstanding practices in workers’ compensation. Following is a brief description of the companies and their innovative measures; more information is available online at

Innovance Inc.

Innovance Inc., with 337 employees, is a multi-location manufacturing operation with processes including sheet metal fabrication, metal stamping, grinding, sanding, painting, welding, aluminum extrusion, assembly, rolling, bending and installation. Through effective safety and health programs supported by management and employees, the number of workers’ compensation injuries at Innovance has dropped from 74 in 2005 to 18 in 2009; its total cost incurred per claim has also dropped from $7,578 in 2005 to $934 in 2009.

“We have an active safety committee and the total support of middle and upper management,” said LaVerne Schroeder, Innovance safety/environmental coordinator, “without this teamwork approach, none of this would be possible. Innovance also would not have been able to accomplish this great achievement without the assistance and participation of our partners and — most of all — our employees.”

Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic, with 31,955 employees, is a multi-specialty medical clinic and hospital providing medical care, education and research. Among its many safety and health programs and strategies, it has focused on eliminating situations that could lead to musculoskeletal injuries in direct patient care, material handling and computer/office-related tasks, the major cause of workers’ compensation injuries at Mayo Clinic. It also provides an extensive return-to-work program that has been expanded to include any employee affected by personal injury or illness, regardless of the nature or cause. In 2009, the Mayo Clinic Return to Work section realized a $1.4 million annual cost savings while serving 1,270 employees with work and nonwork-related injuries resulting in vocational restrictions.

“Mayo Clinic is thrilled to receive this award recognizing its workers’ compensation program,” said Laura A. Mundt, claims section head, recovery and claims services, Mayo Clinic. “We are proud of the integrated approach from many areas within Mayo Clinic that make this program a success. Thank you for this special honor.”

Starkey Laboratories Inc.

Starkey Laboratories Inc., with 22 facilities in more than 18 countries and 1,760 U.S. employees, is a world leader in the design, development and distribution of comprehensive hearing solutions. To combat the rising number of repetitive stress injuries that were common in the light electronic assembly and administrative work of the company, Starkey incorporated conventional approaches for eliminating musculoskeletal injuries, such as encouraging stretching exercises, increasing job rotation and providing adjustable, ergonomic workstations. It also went beyond such approaches by securing the services of a certified Rolfer, a form of massage therapy. Since introducing the measures 15 years ago, carpal tunnel syndrome cases have been virtually eliminated from the workplace — there have been six carpal tunnel claims since 1999, with an estimated savings of up to $20 million.

“On behalf of all the employees of Starkey, we are honored to accept this award,” said Larry Miller, vice president, human resources, Starkey Laboratories Inc. “We take great pride in protecting our employees from workplace injuries. It is exciting to get recognition for our long-standing efforts to make sure we can do everything possible to provide a safe workplace. Aside from experiencing greatly reduced workers’ compensation costs, our efforts help make Starkey a great place to work for 1,500 Minnesotans.”

The policy and education conference in June will feature multiple breakout sessions led by experts and stakeholders in workers’ compensation and occupational safety and health. The conference will examine current issues that affect employers, employees, insurers, medical providers, legislators, attorneys and others who comprise Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system. No taxpayer dollars will be used to fund this conference.

The Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council advises the Department of Labor and Industry commissioner about matters of workers’ compensation and submits its recommendations for proposed changes to the workers’ compensation statutes to the proper legislative committees.