Injuries are a common occurrence in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), injuries cost businesses $171 billion annually in lost productivity. While these costs are high, they can be reduced through proper training and prevention.
You need a return-to-work program to ensure that employees can resume their normal duties after an injury. The plan should include standards for communicating with the injured worker, providing information about the workplace, and plans in case the employee cannot resume their typical duties. You can prepare an effective return-to-work program by following these tips.
1. Promote the Return-to-Work Program
A Return-to-work program requires the support of every team member. A leader must communicate the program’s value and purpose, which is to help injured or sick employees find jobs again.
Inform everyone about the initiative using workplace publications, informational workshops, posters, and emails. Empathize with employees who are going through a difficult period and let them know you value their contributions.
2. Analyze All Jobs’ Responsibilities and Tasks
Understanding the specific job requirements and the expectations of a fully capable employee can help you identify modified job tasks. If such duties aren’t defined in the first place, it is difficult for a healthcare professional to determine if a patient can resume typical work activities.
The HR department and supervisors must collaborate to conduct an in-depth job analysis, including physical, sensory, cognitive, and environmental demands. They must also identify the frequency of use of common equipment and materials, such as weights and measurements.
A cornerstone of this approach should be finding the right medical provider to send injured employees to. We strongly recommend working with an Occupational Health Specialist for workplace injuries as they are familiar with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards and are better suited to handle workplace injuries than medical professionals without this knowledge. SafeWorks Illinois has extensive experience with workplace injuries and can navigate the workers’ compensation system because that’s all we do. We also understand complex return-to-work issues. The return-to-work evaluations that Dr. Fletcher conducts are done in compliance with regulatory guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as well as the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
3. Create a List of Light Work Duties
You can help participants find ways to contribute to the company as they recover so they can resume their full responsibilities. Employees’ jobs can change in many ways, from temporarily assigning them to a new department to modifying existing workstations. Other resources, like mechanical lifting aids or frequent breaks for injured workers to relax or receive medical treatment, are helpful to accomplish their tasks.
In addition, injured or disabled employees can perform light tasks that do not require heavy lifting or prolonged standing when they return to work. Inquire with supervisors, managers, and employees in the role about the types of light duty that continue to add value to the company.
A light-duty list might look like the following assignments:
- Take care of office paperwork, answer clients’ questions by phone or email, and enter data
- Order and restock first aid and company supplies
- Participate in professional development training as needed
- Conduct safety-related tasks such as fire extinguisher inspections
In their return-to-work policy, employers may specify that light duty can only last for a limited period of time or until the employee is fully medically fit to return to their normal work activities, with the exception of employees covered by the ADA and offered continuous reasonable accommodations.
4. Stay Compliant with Federal and State Regulations
Your return-to-work program must follow state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), OSHA standards, and your state’s workers’ compensation laws. If injured workers are unable to work, walk, lift, bend, and perform other tasks, they may be entitled to disability benefits, and employers cannot discriminate against them if they cannot accomplish their normal job duties. Under the ADA, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations.
5. Maintain Transparency with Your Injured Employee
Make sure the return-to-work program is in compliance with any changes and assign a representative to work closely with participants and your company’s preferred healthcare providers.
It is crucial to assist a worker who has been injured on the job by helping them file a workers’ compensation claim and guiding them through the benefits application procedure as soon as possible.
Maintain communication with the medical professional(s) treating your employee as well as the employee him/herself so that all parties are aware of the status of the employee’s injury and expectations for or possibility of returning to work.
6. Implement Workplace Safety Controls
It’s crucial to take steps to prevent workplace injuries from happening again when they occur. The best way to do so is to anticipate workplace dangers ahead of time and create rules and procedures to minimize the risk. When a company establishes a systematic safety program and establishes a safety culture, it reaps the benefits of a safer, more productive workplace.
Your Workers’ Health and Safety Affect Your Business
A well-implemented return to work program benefits both employers and employees. No matter what the industry, providing health and safety strategies to keep workers healthy and productive is beneficial to any company. You can work through any issues your employees may have regarding return to work using a return-to-work program and seize opportunities as they arise.