Employee Injuries & Return to Work Programs

When you think about workplace injuries and workers compensation insurance, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? Perhaps the cost for medical care and rehab? Compensation for lost wages? Legal services related to a claim?

Have you ever thought of the hidden costs associated with workplace injuries? Consider the following:

  • Lost productivity from an experienced employee
  • Equipment or product damage
  • Lost efficiency among employees
  • Time spent completing forms and communicating with medical providers and insurance adjusters

Hidden costs are those costs that are not immediately recognized, but take a toll on business profitability. These hidden costs are not typically covered under a workers compensation policy and drain from a business’s bottom line. This is why a Return to Work (RTW) Program should be implemented to help control costs.

What is a Return to Work Program?

A return to work program gets an injured employee back to work in a productive position when they are physically capable; not necessarily the position they had at the time of injury. There are studies show that the longer an injured employee is off work, the more difficult it becomes to get them back into the workplace. A return to work program keeps the employee engaged in a work based routine, interacting with fellow employees and contributing productively to the business.

For a Return To Work Program to be effective, communication must occur. Prompt notification of the injury to your insurance carrier allows the carrier to work with the injured employee and medical provider to assess the employee’s physical capabilities after the injury. From there, your carrier and provider can work with you to develop a plan to return the employee to work.

Benefits of Returning Employees To Work

Accepting an injured employee into the workplace can help your business:

  • Regain lost productivity.
  • Avoid temporary or new employee hiring and training costs.
  • Reduce or avoid litigation and discourage malingering.
  • Increase awareness of safe work practices.

How to Develop a Return To Work Program

  1. Identify the physical demands of jobs or tasks. Involve key employees to help with this task. Evaluation forms are available from the Safety and Health Department.
  2. Identify transitional jobs that an injured employee could perform. Full time work is not required. Injured employees may work fewer hours and at a lower wage and be eligible to receive compensation benefits. This reduces insurance costs which may affect your insurance rates for several years.
  3. Tell existing and new employees during orientation that your company has a RTW Program and at time of hire. Let employees know that if they are injured on job, the company will attempt to find modified work for them.
  4. Before an injury occurs, speak with your designated medical provider or doctor. Tell them that you have a RTW Program, and that you have jobs to accommodate an employee who has physical limitations.

A RTW program can help control workers’ compensation costs after an injury occurs; however, the best method to control these costs is to prevent injuries through an effective Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP) Program. Contact the Safety & Health Department for a model IIP program.


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About Jimmy Kinmartin - Business Insurance & Risk Management Broker

Jimmy is a California licensed Property & Casualty AND Accident & Health insurance agent working at the ISU - Olson Duncan Insurance brokerage in Torrance, CA. He grew up in Fullerton, CA and graduated from Servite High School in Anaheim and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and currently lives in Tustin, CA. Have questions? Just ask! Or, follow Jim on Twitter at @JimKinmartin

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