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4:37:33 AM CDT
Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Helping an Injured Worker Return to Work

One of the most important things you can do to help your worker recover and hold down your workers’ compensation costs is to help your worker return to work after a work-related injury. The worker benefits by being productive again and receiving a salary, and you benefit by having an experienced and productive worker back on the job instead of drawing disability (wage replacement) benefits.

The Importance of Teamwork:

Planning for a worker’s recovery and return to work is very important. You, as the employer, are one member of the Claims Management Team - whose coordinated efforts help assure that the worker receives appropriate medical care and a safe return to work.

Below are the members of the Claims Management Team and their responsibilities:

  • Worker
    Responsibilities: Report all injuries promptly; stay in contact with the employer, doctor, and WSI claims adjuster; attend all medical appointments and cooperate with medical care; follow medical restrictions (if imposed) both on and off the job; and accept transitional work (modified or alternate work duties) as provided by the employer if the worker is unable to return to their preinjury job.
  • Employer
    Responsibilities: Investigate the accident promptly; develop a transitional work plan for returning the worker safely to work; maintain positive communication with the worker to let them know that they are important to the company. If the worker experiences lost work time, continued medical treatment, or work restrictions, visit with the doctor to obtain the worker’s work abilities and assess their medical status. Stay in contact with WSI and the return-to-work services provider so the worker’s abilities can be monitored and updated and the work duties adjusted accordingly.
  • Medical Provider
    Responsibilities: Provide prompt and appropriate care to the worker; provide prompt medical reports; communicate with the worker, employer, and WSI; and develop a treatment plan which identifies physical abilities and includes using work as part of the recovery process.
  • Claims Adjuster
    Responsibilities: Investigate, determine liability, and process the claim; determine wage replacement benefits and issue checks; participate in coordinating medical treatment; and assist in coordinating transitional work.
  • Return-to-Work Services
    Responsibilities: Assist in returning the worker to substantial gainful employment with a minimum of retraining as soon as possible after an injury occurs. The emphasis is placed on substantial employment with the preinjury employer in the worker’s preinjury capacity by utilizing transitional (modified or alternate) work.

How Return-to-Work Services Will Assist Your Worker:

Depending upon the needs of the worker, there are four different types of return-to-work services to assist an injured worker in returning to work:

  • On-Site Return-to-Work Case Manager
    WSI teamed up with six of the larger medical facilities across North Dakota to have registered nurses in place to assist workers who seek medical attention at their facilities and designated satellite clinics. These contracted registered nurses assist with coordinating care and restrictions for medical necessity and appropriateness; provide recommendations (they do not make decisions regarding claim compensability); act as a liaison between the worker, employer, medical provider, and claims adjuster at WSI; and coordinate transitional work.
  • Medical Case Manager
    WSI has registered nurses on staff who are medical case managers. These case managers are assigned to claims that involve potentially catastrophic or medically complex injuries. These individuals work with the worker, employer, claims adjuster, and medical provider to assess, plan, coordinate, and implement the options and services needed to support the worker in the recovery process and help them return to work.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
    If early intervention is not successful in returning the worker to work with the preinjury employer, vocational rehabilitation will be assigned. Vocational rehabilitation is a service not provided by staff at WSI, but rather by an independent contracted company. Vocational rehabilitation utilizes a worker’s functional capabilities, education, employment history, work experience, and transferable skills to develop a return-to-work plan.
  • Preferred Worker Program
    The Preferred Worker Program is designed to encourage the re-employment of North Dakota’s workers. The program offers cost-saving incentives to North Dakota employers who hire preferred workers while, at the same time, assisting workers in obtaining gainful employment after a work-related injury.

Offering Transitional Work:

If the doctor restricts the work that your worker can perform, you should provide them with transitional work (modified or alternate work duties) to get them back on the job.

Transitional work is work that allows an injured worker to remain safely in the workplace (with the employer where the injury occurred) but in a modified or alternate work capacity until they have recovered sufficiently to return to their regular job.

  • Modified work: The injured worker’s regular job that is modified to accommodate work restrictions imposed by the doctor.
  • Alternate work: A temporary work assignment when the worker is unable to return to their regular job.

When offering transitional work to your worker, provide the worker with a WRITTEN transitional job offer that outlines the proposed job, work hours, and effective date. Please remember that transitional work should be work that the employee can perform with an acceptable degree of efficiency without endangering their own health and safety or that of others.

If you have questions regarding transitional work, please contact your claims adjuster. For ideas on job accommodations and how to request or implement them, you can call the Job Accommodation Network for assistance. Their services are free of charge, and they can be reached at 1-800-526-7234.

Resource link:

Transitional Work: An Important Return-to-Work Tool

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