Bringing Injured Employees Back to Work
When employees are injured on the job, it’s usually best if you can get them back to work as soon as they are medically able to return. This may seem challenging if their injury presents lingering restrictions that keep them from doing their normal job, however you can easily manage the process with these tips.
Start With a Return to Work ProgramA return to work program is essentially a plan for how you’ll bring injured employees back to work. Don’t be intimidated–EMC has lots of resources to help you get started, including a sample policy statement, a program template, and a variety of forms and checklists you can customize to meet your needs. For a quick rundown of the process, check out Four Steps for Implementing a Return to Work Program. Once your program is in place, make sure all employees know that they will be expected to return to work as soon as they are medically able to do so.
Find a Healthcare PartnerIf your state laws allow, consider designating a preferred medical provider to handle your organization’s injured workers. Forming a relationship with a medical provider means your employees get better, more specialized care and claims are handled more efficiently. Get the details from this article, Control Costs While Providing Great Medical Care.
Work with the medical provider to get specific information regarding any medical restrictions for employees returning to work. Avoid terms like “light duty,” and instead get objective information like weight limits on lifting or number of working hours allowed. Provide the physician with a written job description outlining the physical demands of the employee’s job so he or she can identify which tasks are still acceptable.
Modify Existing JobsIf medically able, return employees to their normal job with modified duties that meet their medical restrictions. You may need to provide a chair for standing restrictions, or adjust schedules for limits on working hours. Check out the Job Accommodation Network website for ideas on accommodating a variety of restrictions.
Find Other Transitional WorkIf your injured employees’ restrictions don’t allow them to complete their normal job duties, it’s easy to come up with other meaningful work they can do until their restrictions are lifted. Some employers even see it as an opportunity to complete those “rainy day” or seasonal tasks that never seem to get done.
Returning employees can do safety-related tasks like completing a safety checklist for your facility, collecting information for an upcoming safety meeting, or testing and repairing safety equipment such as smoke detectors and first aid kits. It’s also a great time for them to complete any upcoming continuing education or certification requirements.
Ask employees to help you come up with ideas for transitional duties and maintain a running list so you are prepared when you need it. Other possible transitional tasks:
- Training new employees
- Completing a tool/equipment inventory
- Answering phones
- Ordering supplies
- Inspecting traffic signs
- Auditing sidewalks
- Auditing municipal playgrounds