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Return to Work Tips Apr 13th, 2014
 


Returning injured workers to work is simply the right thing to do. Return to work is as humane as providing immediate appropriate medical care because workers who do not return to the job face lower salary potential in the future. There are several reasons for this. Working is good for us both physically and mentally, and the longer workers are away from the job and feel disconnected from their employer, the harder returning to work becomes. At a basic level, successful employers maintain contact with injured employees and believe that finding work for them during recovery is important. They prepare for return to work before an injury occurs, set clear expectations, consistently monitor employees on modified duty and more.

Here’s more ideas from the experts:

Consider taking the long view. Since workers who spend years loading and unloading heavy objects are more likely to sustain an injury, consider developing career paths for blue-collar workers. Potential career progression jobs include fork life operator or inspector.

Create a Suitable Duties Registry before an injury occurs. Approach each department of your organization to find out what work can be done by someone on limited duty. Constantly update the job list. Each job should include the position’s physical demands to appropriately match the injured employee to the job.

Have a formal written early return-to-work policy. A 'written' injury management sytem is legislatively required in WA. Consider including language limiting the time frames for the light duty as well as cautioning how transitional duty must meet relevant medical restrictions.

Clearly communicate to employees about workers’ compensation. This is most clearly and transperantly done by a formal Injury Managment Policy.

After injury, contact the injured worker as soon as possible. When the immediate supervisor and Injury Management Co-ordinator learn of the incident or the claim, he or she should contact the injured worker within 24 hours. Assistthe employee with filing a workers’ compensation claim forms and tell workers they are missed and that accommodations will be made for a transitional job as soon as possible.

Involve the injured worker’s doctor when developing a modified duty job with multiple restrictions. Rather than merely telling the worker about the modified job, put together a team that includes human resources, the supervisor, engineer and employee to work together to anticipate potential glitches. 

Informally gather the crew, supervisor, and the employee before putting him or her on transitional duty. This will make it easier to follow the doctor’s orders when everyone is aware of the worker’s restrictions as the employee works up to their MMI.

Ensure supervisors are accommodating rehabilitation plans by granting injured workers permission to elevate their feet, stretch and walk as recommended by the doctor.

To discourage re-injury, require managers to record workers’ activities when they return to the job. Include not only workers’ accomplishments but also tasks that they refuse. A detailed record of abilities and accomplishments could deter non-compliance and discrimination claims.

Encourage workers on modified duty jobs to spend their free time practicing safety exercises instead of sending workers home when they finish their work early. Injured workers can also get more safety training by watching videos or taking safety quizzes.  Perhaps they can share what they learned at a safety meeting.

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