Jason Parker, president and senior work disability consultant of CentriX Disability Management Services, Inc., says there are a number of factors that can affect an injured worker’s recovery and possible return to work. Work disability is one of the biggest social and labor market challenges that hinders economic growth and reduces effective labor supply, according to an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study. Work disability costs organizations 9-15 percent of payroll, and the employer’s response at the time of injury can reduce duration by up to 26 percent. Parker offers tangible tips for how we can help foster a successful return to work for these employees. Workers on disability often feel forced back to work, leading them to demonstrate greater disability than they have because the system does not believe they are still too injured to return to full-time work, he says. Injury prevention efforts have increased over the last few decades and reduced the number of injuries, but duration of injury and costs have risen over that same period. Most claims exceed expected duration because of the compensation system and psychosocial factors, like feeling pressured to come back to work or a lack of support from a supervisor when following work restrictions. Parker advises that supervisors maintain an engaged workforce even when they are on disability. This means touching base about how the worker is feeling and reassuring them that their job is still there for them, but not talking about when the injured worker is coming back to work. He says employers need to not only have primary preventions, including procedures and policies, to prevent on-the-job injuries, but also train managers on how to engage employees in that process of preventing injuries and offer accessible and critical checklists to reinforce those policies and procedures. If an injury occurs, it will be easier for employers to stay in touch with injured workers about how they feel post-injury and reassure them about their jobs. Employers need a day zero reporting procedure in which any and all injuries are reported so employees know that their injury is not a problem but a sign that prevention measures need to be tweaked. Should an injury occur, employers should work with employees on their return to work plans, offering a path from injury and recovery to modified work and a complete return to work. Employers need to remember that engaged workers need little incentive to return to work, but disengaged workers need many more motivators to return to work.
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