Managing the risks associated with workplace injuries requires a comprehensive plan. Part of the planning process needs to include looking at how an injured employee will be accommodated while recovering from an injury that temporarily prevents a return to normal duties. By offering an injured employee light duty, employers may be able to control how the injury affects costs over the longer term.
What is light duty work?
When an employee is injured at work a physician may place restrictions on the type of work the individual can perform. If an injury prevents a worker from continuing his or her old responsibilities, but is not so severe as to make returning to work impossible, the employer may have the option to offer light duty work during the employee’s recovery.
The technicalities surrounding matters of disability, accommodation, employee rights, and employer responsibilities are all complex and depend on state rules.
In California, when an employee can still work but needs to avoid certain activities, the employer may have the option to offer the employee a temporary job doing a different type of work. An employee typically must accept the modified role to receive temporary disability benefits that make up for the employee’s lost wages.
How does an employer prepare for light duty restrictions?
Every injury needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. When designing and managing light duty accommodations, an employer must balance a number of sources of risk. A few ideas to keep in mind:
- Take the physician’s conclusions seriously. When an employee’s physician places restrictions on work duties, an employer must be careful to offer light duty that actually accommodates those restrictions for as long as the physician’s conclusion stands. Many employers make the mistake of underestimating the impact of an injury, especially once some time has passed. Managers who supervise recovering employees must treat the physician’s orders with seriousness to ensure the employee is not exposed to further injury.
- Light duty work can present new hazards. Give thought not only to how the employee’s light-duty work accommodates the existing injury, but also how it might lead to new ones. A construction worker who is placed at a desk with bad ergonomics could end up filing another claim.
- Make a plan for compliance. There are many layers to complying with the rules around temporary disability, light duty accommodations, and supporting an injured employee. An employer should have a written plan for how to deal with these situations before they arise.
Gunnin Insurance supports clients in all phases of their risk management and workers’ compensation programs. We can give your business the resources it needs to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and prepare for handling them when they happen. Give us a call today to talk about your business’s risk management challenges.