In the disability management world, returning an injured employee back to work has presented many challenges for the HR departments of industrial companies. Often the jobs are physically demanding and offering modified or light duties can create friction between employees who continue to do the hard work and the injured employees who get to do “the easy stuff”.
Pressure to accommodate injured workers from Workers Compensation Boards, and threats of being fined by Provincial Workplace Safety and Health, keep disability management staff motivated to create jobs that injured workers can return safely to.
Unfortunately, these modified duties may include tasks that do not contribute to maintaining or improving the productivity of the workplace. In addtion, often these injured employees are conducting these duties for an undefined amount of time. Moreover, the cost of the WCB claims and bringing in other employees to cover the injured worker’s job tasks may negatively affect productivity and have a financial impact on the company.
Disability Managers should be challenging physician’s to clearly define the physical restrictions of the injured workers by having them review the job demands analysis of the target job and checking off the duties that the patient should be able to safely conduct. Most importantly, they should be encouraged to stipulate exactly how long the injured employee is restricted so they don’t end up in modified duty wasteland.
Where appropriate, the employer can order a Functional Capacity Evaluation to objectively and functional test which tasks the injured employee is safely able to perform.
If the Disability Manager is getting frustrated with return to work options, creating modified duties for injured employees or having trouble getting injured workers off modified duties, they could invite their Workers Compensation Adjuster to discuss options for accommodation within reason and have independent medical assessments conducted to challenge the employee's physican's note.
Marnie Courage, OT Reg. (MB)