EHS OutLoud Blog

Why Return-to-Work Programs Work

1_injuredworker.jpgIn today’s professional landscape, it is not uncommon for EHS professionals to also don the risk manager hat. While managing risk has much to do with mitigating risks, the risk manager’s responsibilities do not stop there.

In addition to risk mitigation, a successful risk manager also effectively manages loss cases to minimize the magnitude of the loss. One of the most beneficial tools in accomplishing this is a comprehensive return-to-work program, commonly referred to in industry as an RTW program.

What is a Return-to-Work Program?

An RTW program is an employer-implemented program that allows employees who have medically assigned work restrictions the opportunity to return to work under modified or restricted work assignments (commonly referred to as a light-duty assignment) in accordance with the prescribed work restrictions. The RTW program is done under the direction of the employee’s treating physician.

The Benefits of RTW Programs

RTW programs are mutually beneficial to both the affected employee and the company. Employees benefit by being expedited back to work and provided modified work assignments rather than being placed on disability pay (which often is only a percentage of the full wage) or worse, laid off (which has historically been a concern in some industries). In many cases, RTW programs also accelerate physical recovery – the opportunity for re-injury is minimized since employees are required to adhere to their medical restrictions while at work.

Employers stand to reap several benefits from an RTW program, including: the fruits of fostering good faith and loyalty towards their respective employees (a well taken care of employee is more likely to readily return to full duty as soon as medically feasible), controlling worker compensation costs (which in turn controls experience modification ratings and insurance premiums) and preventing and/or limiting lost work day cases.

RTW programs also help maintain the line of communication between the injured employee and the company. If an employee is not promptly returned to work, that communication usually is severed, which almost always eliminates effective case management opportunities.

A Return to Loyalty

Successful business leaders tend to identify human capital as a company’s greatest asset, and RTW programs safeguard those assets. RTW programs are a must for companies interested in ethical employee relations and productive risk management techniques.

In short, RTW programs are not only the right thing to do both ethically and professionally, but they go a long way in establishing a stable, loyal work force. That's a return any employer would want.

EHS Today guest blogger Jason Townsell, CSP, was named the 2010 Future Leader in EHS. He works for AECOM as a program safety manager at San Diego International Airport.

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