by DAVE BASPALY
Journal of Commerce ~ Jun 2, 2015
The longer an injured worker stays off work, the higher your WorkSafeBC (WSBC) costs and the lower the chances that the worker will ever return to work. This column contains specific steps to assist with a safe, prompt return to work.
Two myths first need to be dispelled:
Myth #1: WSBC will look after the worker’s return to work so the employer need not bother. The fact is that WSBC can only co-ordinate and arrange a safe and lasting job return with the support and co-operation of the employer.
From the employer perspective, you need to remember: No one knows your business as well as you do. No one will look after your financial interests with as much attention to results.
Myth #2: Workers should only come back to work when they are 100 per cent fit. The fact is that after an injury, no one returns to work 100 per cent fit. People need to go through a work hardening process, getting used to activities again. The best way to do this is through a modified, graduated return-to-work program.
There are some basic actions to take for establishing and maintaining your company’s program. These can be modified to work for large or small contractors. As a first step, someone knowledgeable should be put in charge of managing your disability and return-to-work programs.
In a small company, this would be the same person overseeing WSBC claims. They should look at the general duties of the disabled worker and figure out how that worker can continue to do lighter duty on a temporary basis. Consulting with the worker is an important part of this plan.
The worker’s doctor and the WorkSafeBC case manager should all be advised about your plan.
They should also be part of the feedback loop.
The worker’s immediate supervisor should also be aware of the plan and its purpose – safe and prompt return to work – because the supervisor will be asked for feedback about the worker’s progress.
Keeping WorkSafeBC up to date is also the best way to have a smooth, effective and safe return to work.
Most return-to-work programs are based on a transition back to regular duties. In the short term, you may need to consider worksite modifications to accommodate the worker. This could take the form of limiting lifting or twisting, reducing periods of standing, changing duties or other modifications.
Making the injured worker a part of the return to work process is also important. For many situations, it will be helpful to do a task analysis for return to work.
A task analysis is basically a checklist that helps you to work through the process of modifying the job.
The goal is to encourage the worker to return-to-work without risk of re-injury. To accomplish this, you need to identify the specific tasks that the worker can safely perform. This requires the co-operation of WorkSafeBC, the worker and the worker’s doctor.
Providing your cellular phone number to all parties will make it easier for people to get back to you concerning the return to work. If clarity is needed, create a written job description. This helps everyone to understand the limitations of the specific work. It also helps the worker, the supervisor and others to avoid actions, which may exceed the limitations and risk further harm.
A good task analysis would begin with identifying the sequence of actions that are done to perform the task.
Then list the tools and equipment used, bearing in mind that the worker may have physical limitations concerning weight and movement.
Next, consider the physical demands and working conditions – uneven surfaces, stairs, the weight of tools and so on. If the job changes significantly, ensure that the proper safety practices are taught, demonstrated and understood.
Follow up frequently to ensure that all is going well.
This column is part of a series on WorkSafeBC claims. Dave Baspaly is the president of the Council of Construction Associations (COCA) and a member of the JOC Editorial Advisory Board. Grant McMillan was the strategic advisor for this column. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun 2, 2015