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Getting Injured Workers Back to Work….even Contractors


You have heard about the benefits and cost savings if you bring an injured contractor back to modified duty. But, how can an injured worker bring any value to a construction site?

Before we examine ideas on return to work, first we need to recognize that "RTW" is beneficial for both the employee and employer. Statistics show that workers who remain in their regular routine recover quicker then those that don't! In fact, the majority of injured workers who are out of work for 12 weeks or more never return to their original jobs. The benefit to the employer? Why reduced workers comp claim costs of course and therefore, a positive impact on your experience mod and the morale of your work force!

Your employee handbook should include your "RTW" policy. This policy should clearly state that modified duty will be provided when possible, for a limited time period. The limited time period is important as you most likely do not have a modified duty position that can be a permanent position.

So, now that we have covered the benefits of returning injured workers and the importance of having a statement in your employee handbook, you are still saying "but we don't have anything for him/her to do". When it comes to modified duty you should first look at what can be temporarily changed in the worker's usual job - can someone else do the heavier lifting? But if there is absolutely no way to modify the current job, you may need to be a bit creative in providing meaningful and productive work. Is it time for an inventory review? Can the person (within their restrictions) be a safety or traffic person at the Construction Site? Do you have paperwork to be done in the jobsite trailer? Did you know that you can even pay your employee while they work at the local soup kitchen, library, or retirement home? As long as the employer is providing modified work within the medical restrictions and the employee gives their consent, the employee and the employer are both benefiting!

The next time you have an injured worker released to modified duty don't immediately say "We're a Construction Company, what can they possibly be thinking". Instead, think outside the box and help the injured worker recover quicker and help you to save workers compensation claim dollars.


I think you missed an important point which is to give them paperwork that they hate. This will help them heal much faster as emotionally they need to be back at their old job. If they aren't working light duty for you, they are doing their regular work for someone else and you're getting scammed. 
PS You have to manage light duty & return to full duty as the doctors only get paid by extending time out of work, and many contractors have learned to play the system.
Posted @ Wednesday, June 02, 2010 6:29 AM by Tina Gleisner
We are a concrete contractor and have been doing "light-duty" for approx. 5 years. The injured party comes to the office to do his/her light duty. The employee does any of the jobs we have set for their particular injury; best for light-duty is after completing the specified job have them relax and sit and watch safety videos, very good motivator!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 02, 2010 11:12 AM by Jan Dlugokinski
Tina - We appreciate you reading the blog and commenting on it! I too agree that the injured worker needs to be back at their old job as soon as possible. We work with our clients to generally offer a modified duty position that is meaningful and productive to both the injured work and the employer.  
You hit the nail on the head when you said you have to manage it! Managing the entire claim process, modified duty, and working to get the worker back to their original job is the bottom line! Thanks again for your input.  
Posted @ Friday, June 04, 2010 2:14 PM by Debbi Kuhne
What about the injured worker that can not return to his/her job? The doctor's orders. All contractors should retrain them to be a vital part of construction management or saftey. It's my experience work comp insurance compaines just want to get them out of their system and not seriously give them the right training. Maybe my case is special but I got worked.
Posted @ Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:16 AM by Marvin Belk
Marvin - good point, but I would have to ask the question of why the Dr. isn't willing to return to employee at all. Does the Dr. have a copy of the employee's job description which should provide the essential (including physical) duties of the job, or is the Dr. just listening to the employee? Has the employer provided the Dr. with a list of alternative duties? That's not to say that every once in awhile we hit a total brick wall and can not get an employee back to work. But if we can the majority of the time -it helps both the employee and the employer. I like your idea about the employer retraining - hope more employers start to think this way! Thank you for your comments.
Posted @ Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:54 AM by Debbi Kuhne
The injury was a no brainer, serious back, neck and thorasic trauma. My employer was from out of town and had state w/c insurance. Why is the state of california in the insurance business? If compaines can't afford the rates from insurance compaines there is probably a good reason. Every trade should have their own saftey officer. It should decrease their cost for insurance but increase the cost of doing business but we need to assess the price for saftey and peoples health or life. My injury changed my life and the life of my wife and children, not for the better.
Posted @ Thursday, June 17, 2010 2:54 PM by Marvin Belk
I guess my point is in the state of california you cannot sue your employer. The owners son did not tie off a 400lb panel that was lifted on end by a forklift, he leaned it aginst the mast and lifted it over my head while I was welding on a manlift. no common sence on his part and a life changer for mine. With saftey officers watching over the jobs everywhere people will not take shortcuts buy getting the jobs done faster to make more money. For instance look at the gulf right now.
Posted @ Thursday, June 17, 2010 3:05 PM by Marvin Belk
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Posted @ Wednesday, August 10, 2011 2:50 AM by Canada Goose
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