Injured Worker is Back on the Job – Now What?

By Bob Cogburn,

By Bob Cogburn, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist

In a previous series of post, I outlined the five steps in the return-to-work process. The last step, delivering a bona fide offer of employment to the injured worker, can be cathartic. In fact, I sometimes think once I cross it off my to-do list, the stars are aligned and all is perfect with the universe. I’ve saved my adjuster time and the policyholder a lot of money. But not so fast!

Our ultimate goal is to keep the employee at work, contributing as a productive team member.

I like what Mary S. said in response to my posts: “When my RN Case Managers are involved in these cases, we make sure the employer, the claimant and the doctor are all aware that we are monitoring everyone.”

Remember, we need to be cognizant of state workers’ comp rules. For example, the hours worked need to be specific, not “varied,” and distance traveled to the job site is a big deal, especially for the rural areas. 

Let’s face it. It takes work and diligent follow through, but here are some methods I use when the employee is back on the job:

Try everything  – I like what Brad Y did: He developed a form that specifically lists the injured worker’s modified duty restrictions, as well as the physical demand requirements of modified duty. Then, he had the worker check a “yes” or “no” box in response to the question: “Has any manager or supervisor asked you to work beyond your work restrictions?”   I initially begin to look to return the employee to the same job when possible. If not, I build on existing work experience and working relationships. This saves the worker the stress of adjusting to new tasks and surroundings. 

Make a visit – I don’t get to make many onsite visits, but they can be useful.  When the employee goes back to work, what can he REALLY do? What can’t he do? Which physical activities should he avoid? A physician statement is one thing, but seeing the employee work is quite another. And look around to identify possible light physical demand level job tasks.

Be an accomodation archivist – I am always thinking back on successful RTW experiences to share with employers. I keep a spreadsheet of as many modified jobs as I can accumulate. Past relevant modified offers from employers keep me on my toes and thinking. It may even help steer an employer away from having someone pull weeds in front of the company building just to get them back on the job. And it allows the employer to live out their commitment to putting people first.

Now we’re on track.

About the author

Bob Cogburn has nearly 25 years’ experience in vocational case management. Since 1997, he has been helping injured workers covered by a Texas Mutual® policy rehabilitate and return to productive employment. Prior to joining Texas Mutual, Bob served as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Department of Assistive Rehabilitation Services. He also spent time as a job placement counselor for Goodwill Industries and El Centro College. At El Centro, he managed a job club specializing in placing students with disabilities back into the workplace. Bob holds a bachelor’s in rehabilitation science from the University of Texas Health Science Center and a master’s in counseling from Amberton University.

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