So you have decided to provide some light duty or transitional work for injured workers to decrease wage loss expense. First of all, congratulations! This is the first step in decreasing claims costs. The wage expense in a comp claim is most usually the biggest cost, and any chance you have of decreasing that cost should be taken. But what should the workers do? What if they do not follow the rules and get hurt again? What if this light duty work hinders the rehab and recovery?
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These are all common issues and concerns. But there are ways to work around them with jobs that already in the workplace for these workers to do. Jobs that are no more or less strenuous than anything else they do on a daily basis while out of work. If stumped for ideas as to where to start, use this information, and then further customize your jobs based on the building blocks we list below. These will not apply to all areas of every employer, but at least it offers possible job ideas.
Although not glamorous, janitorial tasks are a much-needed function of the workplace. A broom is not heavy so sweeping the floor and back storage areas are not only sanitary but can also reduce risks for slips and falls due to debris. Maybe wiping down machines and making sure they are in proper working order is a job the injured party can do based on their level of experience. With winter looming, salting entryways and making sure rugs and mats are in good shape and in good working order is a must to prevent falls. Mopping could also be done, but it can involve lifting and twisting with a wet, heavy mop, so make sure your worker is capable of that before you assign that task to them. The goal is to have them working with light materials and prevent exertion that can cause further injury.
There may be a lot of jobs around the shop that are not done on a regular basis. Oiling machinery will increase the performance of the machine, as will changing belts, cleaning guards, checking saw blades, or cutting surfaces.
The tasks are not limited to only machinery. Light painting can freshen and improve the look of the work floor. Replacing broken faucets, light bulbs, cracked mirrors, or repairing/caulking windows that may be not closing properly can also help. Checking outlets for proper power wattage is another one. Go out on the floor and ask workers what needs to be done or what is not working properly and make the injured worker a “to-do” list. There may not be enough work for them to last weeks, but at least it gets them back to work and doing something while in recovery mode.
These jobs can include answering the phone, taking sales orders from clients, copying materials for files, or scanning paperwork for example. Ask the office staff about any upcoming projects and what needs to be done they have been putting off for a while. Chances are there are some sedentary work tasks available and needed, and this is a perfect task for your injured worker to do. That way a fully functional worker without work restrictions can focus on more important tasks, or jobs that are more strenuous in nature.
A lot of employers carry a certain level of inventory for workplace needs. Obviously, the amount of inventory being carried depends on the type of workplace. But if you have the need, this is another light task the injured worker can do. Taking proper inventory and ordering more supplies is also another task to cross off your own to-do list. Have the injured worker tally up what is currently in stock, what needs to be ordered, and when it should arrive before supply runs low. This is also a good time to have the worker shop and price supplies. You might be able to find another vendor that can provide a better supply for a lower price. This way not only gets the injured worker back to work, but the employee is also saving you money in the long-term.
Job supervision and reporting
If the injured worker is unable to do the normal job, maybe the employee can still go out on job sites and help the other workers. Not only supervise the overall job, but the worker could also assist in gathering light materials needed for the job. If the work involves ladders and scaffolding, have someone on the ground to help the other workers, so they do not have to go up and down the ladders repeatedly to fetch materials or tools.
The injured worker also can report back like how the job is going so far, and recommend any changes or needed materials for the job site. This will keep the job running on time for completion, and it is just another task that nobody thinks of until the issue arises. You stay on top of the job status, and if certain recommendations are suggested and implemented, maybe that job is completed sooner than expected, resulting in a happier client.
If there is a management member out of work due to a claim, maybe now is a good time to bring them in to do annual performance reviews. This way they can pull all the personnel files on the workforce, review them, get updated feedback from other supervisors on what the current performance is like, and then sit down with the employee to conduct a review and suggest improvements. Again this may not supply the injured workers with weeks and weeks of work, but at least it is something that needed to be done. And if you have the right candidate to do it then it makes sense to have that person complete the task.
A lot of larger employers, such as grocery stores and retail businesses, have in-house surveillance cameras. The injured worker can monitor the day to day surveillance, clean up messes or spills, rotate product, place shelf signs, or any other light task that may need to be done. Theft prevention can also be addressed; however, you do not want the injured worker trying to apprehend anyone and get injured again.
Another sedentary job is shifting the injured worker over to helping with accounts receivable/payable. Your business probably has vendors to pay, and you also may have clients that have outstanding invoices. Have the worker take over the books, and see if they can collect payment on some of the invoices that have not been paid. Sometimes a faxed invoice to a client followed up by a phone call is all it takes to get the invoice paid. This task will clean the books up, and make the company current with payments that are coming in and going out all the time.
Assign a helper
If the injured party has restrictions but can still do most of the job, assign an entry-level helper to go along and do the tasks that they cannot do. This provides the newer employee a chance to learn more about the business and job duties, and it allows the injured worker to keep doing the normal job, now with the assistance of a helper
Reach out to the injured party for ideas
When you just cannot think of anything for the injured worker to do, reach out to them and see what ideas the employee has. The incentive for the worker is the chance to return to work, and maybe make the normal pay instead of collecting reduced wages on workers comp. Sometimes great ideas are suggested. So keep an open mind, solicit some ideas from them, and try to do what you can to implement those job ideas.
Trying to create jobs for injured workers can be a difficult task. But with an open mind and some creativity, get injured workers back to work. Not only does this cut down on the workers’ comp expense but it also can complete some overdue tasks. Put some thought into it, and ask others around the workplace for ideas. Together you should be able to come up with a list of tasks that need to be done. Every dollar saved on wage loss will count in the end. Keep track of the cost of having these workers come back to light duty work, and weigh it against the cost of keeping them out of work, only returning at full duty. You will be surprised at the cost savings of implementing a light duty work program.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.
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