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Manufacturers’ Guide to a Successful Return-to-Work Program

Manufacturers’ Guide to a Successful Return-to-Work Program

Of the 10,000 severe injuries that occur annually in the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor cites the highest proportion is in the manufacturing sector – forcing many manufacturing workers to leave the workplace for extended periods of time to recover. And with this number on the rise from previous years, manufacturers no longer have the option of whether or not to implement return-to-work programs. It is a necessary element of today’s manufacturing workplace.

Even so, manufacturers might not see the direct benefits of return-to-work programs. Sure, it helps ease workers back into their jobs after an injury, but employers might question why these employees can’t just recover at home and come back to work when they’re ready. The answer is twofold: Not only do these programs address workers’ fears about not being able to perform their jobs, and help them regain financial security and job stability, but employers also see huge payouts from these programs, including limiting the rising costs of lost productivity and workers compensation fees.

For manufacturers beginning to realize the benefits of implementing return-to-work programs (or even for those making updates to their existing initiatives), consider the following key elements to include in your program:

  • Clear job descriptions: Every job description should include a summary of the physical limitations of that job to help employees better understand what’s required of them. This will provide boundaries and help ensure that employees don’t exert themselves beyond the regulations of their role.

  • Steps to follow post-injury: After an injury has occurred, how should the affected employee proceed? Make sure to include next steps for communicating with managers, healthcare providers, and the union if appropriate.

  • Opportunities for light duty: Help injured employees ease back into the workplace by offering temporary modified options that are physically less demanding until they’ve healed.

  • Frequent communication: A common obstacle to full recovery is fear – of either re-injury or unfair treatment from the employer. To combat this, make sure to communicate often with injured employees, making it clear that you don’t expect them to be fully recovered immediately and that you’re willing to work with them through the transition.

Studies show there’s roughly a 50 percent chance that an injured employee will return to work following six months out for recovery, and this percentage dwindles the more time the employee is out. Offering employees a seamless and comprehensive return-to-work program with options for easing back into the workplace on light duty can make or break whether injured employees come back to work.