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Safety Matters: The Importance of a Light Duty Return to Work Program

Increasing workers’ compensation insurance and related medical costs can adversely affect the bottom line of any business. Workers’ compensation insurance premiums are determined by not only dollar costs, but employee injury frequency. It is in an employer’s best interest to reduce the likelihood and the costs of employee injuries.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to develop and implement a Light Duty Program.


Why Start a Light Duty Program?

A Light Duty Program minimizes the length and costs of temporary total disability (lost time benefits) associated with a work-related injury. The Program allows an employer to provide an injured employee who cannot perform the normal duties of his/her pre-injury job classification with work that can be completed with limited physical requirements.


Guidelines for Developing a Light/Modified Duty Program

Employee participation should be limited to those individuals having temporary physical restrictions which are the result of a work-related injury. Restrictions should be specified in writing by the authorized physician on the claim. Periods of restricted activity should be clearly specified and should be followed by a medical exam for the purposes of reevaluation. Indefinite periods are not acceptable under workers' compensation. Supervisors should be innovative regarding work assignments, in order to make effective use of the employee, while at the same time observing the specified restrictions. Returning an employee to light duty does not mean they have to return to a specific job. It just entails allowing the employee to contribute to the employer in a different way – through assignment of individual tasks that are in alignment with their doctor provided restrictions.


Develop a list of potential light duty tasks before an injury occurs, for example:

  • Equipment Cleaning

  • Filing and Clerical Work

  • Reception/Answering Phones etc.

  • General Housekeeping

  • Inventory

  • Security /Fire Watch

  • Tool Room Attendant


 Appoint a Program Coordinator

The Light Duty Program Coordinator should assure that basic program parameters are observed and are consistent for every employee. They should also serve as a point of contact to both injured employees and workers’ compensation insurance carrier claims representatives if needed.

Are you looking to inquire more about light duty tasks and create a successful Light Duty Program or are you starting from the ground up? Give Ryan Willis, Risk Manager, a call to discuss.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For further information, please consult a risk management professional.



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