Mitigate lost-time claims with return-to-work programs

A return-to-work or modified duty program helps owners get back to business after a worker is injured
Good return-to-work programs can reduce the cost of lost-time claims by as much as 40%. (Photo: Maxim Shebeko, Dreamstime.com)

Over the years, workers’ compensation insurance carriers and employers have realized that return-to-work or modified duty programs can be very successful in reducing the cost of work comp claims, improving productivity and morale, and improving the overall bottom line of the employer.

Simply put, a return-to-work program is a process designed to allow injured employees to continue working while recovering from a work-related injury. A good RTW program helps promote faster recovery while keeping the injured worker’s work pattern and income consistent. The employer benefits because it helps with continued productivity, allows your work comp carrier to provide additional premium credits, and ultimately helps with your NCCI experience mod by reducing the overall cost of claims recorded on the business loss history.

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Drafting a return-to-work strategy

The return-to-work or modified duty program brings your injured worker back to work as soon as practical after a lost-time injury. Typically, the worker will be performing a simpler job compared to the job duties they were performing prior to the injury. It is crucial to coordinate any modified duty tasks with your occupational medicine doctor and work comp claims adjuster to make sure the new tasks meet the doctor’s task restrictions such as how much an employee can lift or how long they can spend on their feet.

Say an electrician suffers a knee injury. Due to the type of injury, the worker can’t do their normal jobsite duties as an electrician, but they could very easily help with dispatch of the other electricians, work on setting up an inventory program for the warehouse, or help the sales team set appointments with clients and prospects. There are plenty of safe and creative modified duty options, and your doctor and claims adjuster should be able to help you identify tasks you could offer injured workers.

[Related: 5 strategies to retain construction workers in a competitive labor market]

Before you have any more injuries, ask your occupational medicine doctor at your preferred medical provider to come to your business and do a survey of all the tasks that your employees perform. This way, when you do have an injury, the doctor has a much better idea of what tasks a given employee may be asked to do, and how those tasks can be modified so the worker can safely return to work.

It has been proven that good return-to-work programs can reduce the cost of lost-time claims by as much as 40%. If injured employees are sitting on the couch at home trying to recover and nobody from their employer has reached out to them, they are more likely to call an injury attorney, which drives up the cost of a work comp claim significantly.

Troy D. Sibelius, FASLA, CIC, CRM, is an executive vice president and client advisor at The Buckner Company.

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