09/25/2006

Prompt and Safe Return

When workers incur injuries or illnesses from the workplace, the costs - both
human and financial - are high. The financial impact on the employer when one
employee gets injured as well as the whole society and its social security
system is one side.

On the other side employees, too, pay a hefty price. A serious injury may
result in anxiety or depression, strained relationships with co-workers, and a
disrupted life at home. Injured workers suddenly find themselves on a reduced
income and often with wait times for compensation payments.

The obvious solution to minimizing the impact of workplace injuries is to
eliminate the incidents that cause injuries to workers. However when injuries
do occur, a safe and timely return to work for the injured employee - as soon
as medically possible - can greatly reduce the financial and emotional burdens.

Studies show that early intervention is critical. At six months post-injury, an
injured person's likelihood of returning to work falls below 50%. At one year,
the rate is 20% and at 2 years, less than 2%. The loss continues to be costly
as the employer must hire and train replacement workers and reschedule jobs.


Both the employer and the employee benefit from a timely and safe return to
work. The injured worker earns an income again and remains active and
productive, both of which are important to the healing and recovery process.
The employer benefits by retaining the employee and his/her accumulated
knowledge and experience.


Under both provincial and federal Human Rights legislation, employers have a
duty to make every reasonable effort to accommodate an employee covered by a
protected ground of discrimination within human rights legislation, which
includes physical or mental disability.

While the specific steps may vary from place to place, under occupational
health and safety law, employers, employees and their compensation boards all
have certain legal obligations that support a safe and early return to work.
Employers are required to contact the worker as soon as possible after the
injury and maintain communication while the worker is recovering. They must
also attempt to provide suitable employment that's consistent with the worker's
functional abilities and restores, if possible, the worker's pre-injury
earnings. The compensation board must receive all of this information.
Compensation boards may also have other or varying requirements

The employee, too, must maintain contact with the employer after the injury,
assist in the process of identifying suitable employment, and keep the
compensation board informed as required.

After an injury, it's a good idea for the employer to complete a Physical
Demands form, with input from the employee and other people who are familiar
with the job and what it entails. This form should go to the employee's doctor.
Once the doctor has reviewed the job's physical demands, he or she can complete
a Functional Abilities form to state exactly what tasks the injured employee
can or cannot perform. At this stage, it's time to establish a Return to Work
Plan to outline the individual's goals, timelines, and clearly defined
responsibilities.

These are just the initial steps of a Return to Work program. Ongoing
monitoring of the worker, and addressing any issues as soon as they arise,
require diligence and a well-structured plan.

Return to Work is a shared responsibility. Everyone working together towards a
common goal of early and safe return to productive work for the employee can
help reduce the human and economic impact of workplace injuries and illness.

More info


AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety