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No one likes to see a valued employee get injured on the job or experience an illness. And while everyone wants to see the employee return to work healthy as soon as possible, sometimes an employee’s recovery means taking it slow and returning to work in stages.

A company’s Return to Work (RTW) program helps establish guidelines and protocols for employees to work in a temporary, limited or light duty capacity until they are able to resume normal activities.

A good RTW program benefits both the employee and the employer. It boosts employee morale and provides financial security to injured workers and organizations retain skilled employees and see a reduction in short- and long-term disability claims.

The following tips can help you build and establish an effective RTW program.

1. Foster a Receptive Culture

A RTW program needs the support of every team member from the top down. Leadership needs to create buy-in by communicating the importance of the program and its main purpose, which is to help injured or ill workers get back on their feet. Tell everyone about the program through company newsletters, informational sessions, posters and emails. Show sincere empathy, concern and care for workers who face difficult times and let them know their roles and contributions to the team are valued.

2. Write Detailed Job Descriptions

To determine modified job duties, it’s important to first establish the requirements of a position and the expectations of a fully able-bodied employee. Imagine the difficulty for a healthcare provider to determine when someone can return to normal job duties if those duties aren’t established in the first place.

HR and supervisors should work together to conduct a full job analysis for every position in the company, including the physical, sensory and cognitive demands and how often they are required, common tools and materials handled (including weights and measures) as well as environmental exposures.

The types of job modifications can vary widely, from temporarily assigning someone to another area or offering opportunities to work from home on a revised schedule. It could also include providing additional resources for carrying out duties, such as mechanical assistance for lifting or breaks that allow a worker to rest or receive treatments. The key is to help participants make meaningful contributions until they are able to return to their full duties.

Common Workplace Compliance Requirements Infographic3. Stay Compliant

Any RTW program must adhere to rules and regulations set by state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards and workers’ compensation mandates. Injured workers may legally qualify for disability if they are limited in their abilities to work or walk, lift, bend, etc., and an employer cannot discriminate against them if they can’t perform their normal job duties. The ADA requires that the employer provide reasonable accommodations.

4. Communicate

Establish who will oversee the RTW program and stay up to date on compliance changes. The company should also designate someone to work closely with participants and their healthcare providers to determine modifications and coordinate their transitions.

If an injury occurred on the job, it’s important to contact the worker to help file a workers’ compensation claim and go through the process for obtaining benefits without allowing too much time to pass.

Show care and reassure the person that his or her job is secure, and that he or she can return to work once medically able. Discuss options and a potential time frame for returning. Once a worker returns, continue offering support and check in on his or her progress.

5. Implement a Safety Program

When an injury happens at work, it’s imperative that measures are taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The best way to do that is by proactively addressing workplace hazards and implementing policies and procedures to mitigate safety risks. This shouldn’t be a one-time project, but instead an ongoing commitment to workplace safety.

Many organizations reap the benefits of a safer, more productive workplace when they establish a structured safety program and promote a culture of safety.

Worker Safety & Health Impacts Your Bottom Line

Every company, regardless of industry, benefits from paying attention to employees’ health and safety and providing ways to keep workers healthy and productive.

If you would like help defining what an effective Workplace Safety Program or Return to Work Program might look like for your organization, our strategic risk advisors can perform a complimentary risk assessment, explore various ways to reduce your risks and provide custom recommendations. Contact us today!

If you work in construction or manufacturing and your workers’ comp costs are growing at unreasonable rates, you might also want to check out our Work Comp Cost Containment Guide. It offers tips for reducing the costs associated with workplace injury. Download it today.

Work Comp Cost Containment Guide

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A collection of articles from the McClone team with the helpful knowledge and insights to ensure your organization is well protected.