RTW Works for the Bottom Line
September 17, 2012 2 Comments
No matter how safe your workplace is, accidents can happen. If they do, they affect productivity, morale and the bottom line. A good return-to-work program can minimize the effects and get injured workers back on the job as soon as medically reasonable.
Some employers hesitate to bring injured workers back until they are ready for full duty because they are afraid they may re-injure themselves. Actually, studies show that injured workers who return to work sooner usually recover faster.
The return-to-work process starts before a work-related injury, and it continues until the injured worker is back on the job. Here are five small steps that will help you and your injured workers get there.
Step 1. Put your program in writing
Write a policy that confirms your commitment to returning injured workers to productive work as soon as medically reasonable. Document the steps involved in the return-to-work process, and define the procedures for getting prompt medical care for injured workers. Introduce new workers to the program, and periodically remind them in company newsletters, payroll envelopes and safety meetings.
Step 2. Assess job tasks
Create a detailed list of all the activities involved in every job at your company. List all postures, lifting and carrying, actions and motions, equipment and environmental conditions associated with the job.
Step 3. Identify modified duty
Collaborate with workers and supervisors to identify tasks that injured workers may be able to perform. Look for tasks that injured workers could do that would free up their co-workers to do other tasks. Make sure injured workers’ treating doctors approve all modified duty assignments before you allow them to come back to work.
Step 4. Communicate with…
- Injured workers. Call them periodically to see how they are doing. Invite them to company functions, and send them the company newsletter. Ask them if they have any questions about their coverage or need help with their treatment. In short, let them know you care.
- Health care providers. Make sure injured workers’ doctors know that you have a return-to-work program that offers modified duty. Explain that you will work with them to meet your injured workers’ work restrictions. The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) created DWC Form-73 to help doctors communicate work restrictions to employers.
- Your insurance company. Report all workplace injuries as soon as possible. Prompt injury reporting can make a big difference in total claim cost. Your adjuster can coordinate with injured workers and their doctors to help get injured workers back on the job.
Step 5. Make a bona fide offer of employment
Once you identify modified duty assignments that meet the injured worker’s restrictions, make a bona fide offer of employment. Bona fide offers must be in writing and meet the requirements in DWC Rule 129.6. If an injured worker refuses a bona fide offer, he or she may lose income benefits.
Get workers’ support
Return-to-work is an easy sell for employers who understand how on-the-job injuries affect the bottom line. Your program will only succeed, however, when your workers commit to it, too.
Present your return-to-work program as part of your benefits package. Explain that the program’s goal is to protect injured workers from the stress, boredom, depression, loss of job skills, loss of wages, loss of benefits and other negative consequences of being off work. When your workers understand what is in it for them, they are more likely to embrace the program and help you develop it.
Check next week’s blog post for more information on getting workers’ buy-in.
Visit the Texas Department of Insurance at http://www.tdi.texas.gov/wc/rtw/index.html for more information on return-to-work programs.