RTW Step 3 – Identifying Modified Duty

Imagine this: You own a construction company, and one of your employees falls 10 feet off a scaffold, breaking his ankle. Of course, he cannot immediately do many of the physical aspects of his normal job. But what can he do that contributes to productivity?

Special accommodations such as ergonomic keyboards can make it easier for injured workers to return to the job while they recover.

Special accommodations such as ergonomic keyboards can make it easier for injured workers to return to the job while they recover.

In the last installment of our return-to-work series, we learned the importance of documenting the physical requirements of every job at your company. Now, let’s see how to identify modified-duty assignments injured workers can do while they recover.

Before an injury happens, ask yourself these questions:

  • What skills and experience do your employees have?
  • Which tasks are not being performed now?
  • Which tasks are performed occasionally?
  • Which tasks could an injured employee do that would free other employees to do their jobs more efficiently?

For example, maybe our hypothetical injured construction worker could help out in the office or deliver materials to the job site.

Remember that modified duty should not be “busy work.” It should be meaningful work that contributes to productivity.

A meaningful, productive work assignment contributes to injured workers’ recoveries by keeping them socially involved and active. In short, work becomes an important part of their treatment.

Your employees can help you identify modified duty. After all, they know their jobs better than anyone. Ask them how they think they could contribute to productivity while they recover from their injuries.

Sometimes, you can make the modified duty transition easier by providing accommodations for injured workers. For example, perhaps an ergonomic keyboard would relieve pain for workers who have wrist injuries. This type of reasonable accommodation is typically simple and cost-effective.

It is critical that modified duty assignments comply with injured workers’ restrictions as designated by their doctors. In our next installment, we will learn the importance of communication among employers, doctors, injured workers and insurance carriers.

Dig deeper

Texas Mutual offers a free, downloadable Return-to-Work Kit. See page 22 for details about identifying modified duty. You can also visit Texas Mutual and the Texas Department of Insurance online for free rtw resources.


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