A better ombudsman resource for Arizona workers

Hand with a brace using a laptop
Industrial Commission
Problem Statement

The Industrial Commission of Arizona administers and enforces state laws relating to the protection of life, health, safety and welfare of Arizona workers. This includes laws relating to workers' compensation, occupational safety and health, payment of wages and child labor. 

When workers need to utilize the resources available to them, the systems can be difficult to navigate. That’s why the Ombudsman’s Office at the Industrial Commission of Arizona was established, to provide information and assistance about the workers' compensation system and help clarify the methods used to determine a person's workers' compensation benefits. 

Industrial Commission staff received feedback that calls to the Ombudsman’s Office would often be routed to voicemail or routed throughout the agency with no response to the caller. So the agency decided to focus on an effort to improve responsiveness for stakeholders who were calling for assistance.


Action Taken

An improvement effort launched in November 2022, starting with developing protocols and standard work. Within four months, a team made up of two ombudsman and one support staff member were running full steam using methods of problem solving and experimentation, visual management and Gemba walks to improve ombudsman services for Arizonans. 

Ultimately, the team size expanded to three ombudsman and two support staff, and there are plans to add an additional ombudsman in the Tucson office. 

As part of this improvement effort, the ombudsman staff were also moved from the claims division to the legal division. Over time because of staff shortages, the ombudsman duties expanded to providing support to the claims division while it was housed there. The office’s move to the legal division brings more transparency and definition to the ombudsman role on behalf of Arizonans. The ombudsman’s office may also in the future be a standalone division within the Industrial Commission of Arizona.


Results & Impact

As of January 2024, the ombudsman team now handles approximately 300 new inquiries per month, and 95% are resolved within one day. The team fields questions such as how to file a workers’ compensation claim, how hearings are conducted, how to change doctors and what options are available if treatments aren’t authorized, among many more inquiries. More trained and qualified people are now available to assist Arizonans interacting with the Industrial Commission of Arizona.