LATEST NEWS O H & S
October 24, 2012
Developing a Return to Work program
View from the Board | Grant McMillan
When the worker is injured badly enough that a Stay at Work program is not possible, then you need to put energy into a Return to Work program.
Sooner is better for starting – especially when you think the recovery may be slow.
The first thing you or your supervisor should do is to express your sympathy for the worker.
The worker should know that he or she is a valuable part of a team.
When a team member is missing, the entire team cannot function as well.
The best plans are those that have a particular objective in mind.
In the case of a WorkSafeBC claim, the objective is to encourage a return to work as soon as the worker is physically able to do so, without risk of injury.
The longer the worker is away from work, the less strong are the ties to the workplace and the greater are the chances that the worker will not make a smooth transition back to work.
Studies have shown that when a worker is off work for six months or longer, there is only a 50 per cent chance that the worker will ever return to work.
Working with the Construction Nurse Adviser (CNA) from WorkSafeBC, you can plan on a Graduated Return to Work and/or a Modified Return to Work.
In a Graduated Plan, you reduce the hours that the worker will work when he or she first returns.
This is part of a “work hardening” process and it greatly reduces the risk of re-injury.
Always arrange the work to begin at the normal start time, so the worker does not get caught up in the habit of sleeping in.
Going back to work gradually will maintain the essential work contact for the worker, keep them aware of any changes in the workplace and speed up their eventual return to full time work.
In a Modified Plan, physical demands of the job are reduced, while the worker is getting used to the work effort.
Consider worksite modifications to ease the return to work. The worker may be able to safely perform 75 per cent of the work, but the other 25 per cent of the duties may be unsafe. Or, the worker may be able to lift or bend or stand within certain safe guidelines.
The worker’s physician and the CNA should be able to define these limits. Then you as the employer must make sure that the limits are not exceeded.
Use a written description of duties to help the worker’s doctor understand the nature of the work modification.
Any return to work plan should be carefully discussed with the worker and the WorkSafeBC CNA.
The CNA can identify modified duties, facilitate return to work and overcome return to work obstacles.
To reach the Construction Nurse Line, call 604-279-8155 or 1-877-633-6233.
This is the sixth part of series on claims management. To read the other parts of this series visit www.journalofcommerce.com.
Grant McMillan is the president of the Council of Construction Associations (COCA), which represents the interests of 16 construction associations in B.C. on WorkSafeBC matters. Grant is also a member of the Journal of Commerce Editorial Advisory Board. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.
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