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Return to Work Programs, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 969

Essay

The incidence of injuries at workplace is often inevitable, and employees who appear temporarily disabled often experience problems with returning to work. These challenges may derive from the physical or psychological problems, but in any case assistance and early intervention to encourage return to work is essential. There are a great number of return-to-work programs that are both governmental- and employer-sponsored. They are intended to provide intervention procedures for employees who suffer workplace injury resulting in temporary or permanent disability. Such programs help identify the nature and severity of an injury, and to assess the potential of the employee to return to his/her previous work or obtain an alternative workplace with the proper regard of his/her disability. The official definition of return-to-work (RTW) programs is as follows:

“A return to work (RTW) program is a company-wide program that outlines the policy, processes, and procedures that will be used to help a worker safely return to work following an injury or illness. Ideally a RTW program should link with an employer’s health and safety program” (HSA 1).

More specifically, RTW programs address an extended range of issues concerning the workplace injury or trauma. Such goals of RTW programs include the reduction of working days lost as a result of an injury, reduction of employer costs associated with the injury, prevention of further injury or complication of the illness, and increase of employee awareness of potential workplace injuries to reduce their incidence (HSA 1). RTW programs are acquiring increased significance on the background of annual expenditures of over $50 billion on worker compensation costs annually (Chandler 1). The statistics is even less promising if the percentage of coverage is considered: only 28% of costs refer to the direct cost of the disability, while the remaining 72% represent the indirect costs resulting from the injury (Chandler 1).

Cost reduction and provision of safe conditions for work are the prime goals of RTW programs, so proper attention has to be paid to the elements they should include, as well as the steps needed to be undertaken to ensure their effectiveness and propriety for the particular workplace. According to the manual of HAS, there are eight steps to design an efficient RTW program: first of all, commitment to employee health and safety should become the employer’s number one priority. Then the work on establishing an RTW committee and choosing its coordinator should be undertaken, with the proper assessment of needs of the particular working environment concerned. Later on, development of RTW policies and procedures and identification of duties and physical demands of employees is done. Finally, the RTW program is marketed though community and educational resources, and evaluation together with improvement are conducted at the workplace (HAS 1-5). As for the elements a successful RTW program should include, Chandler proposes the following ones: the day-of-injury reporting, the early intervention response (1 day within an injury), the event-information trafficking facilities, the problem/case staffing (Chandler 6-8)

One of the key US organizations responsible for generating efficient and cost-effective RTW programs is the Social Security Administration (SSA). According to Bertoni, there is much effort dedicated by SSA to establish and run efficient RTW programs, but the statistical result of their activity are not promising at all: the author’s estimate for 2004 shows that only 0.5% beneficiaries of the SSA disability programs return to work after the injury (Bertoni 15). The author states that the prime reason for such statistics is that the success of return to work depends on the time when SSA services on rehabilitation and returning to work are offered. If these services are provided at the early intervention stage, the success of RTW programs may be guaranteed (Bertoni 15). In addition, the problem with SSA return to work provision is that the key to success lies within offering healthcare services both during the rehabilitation process and after the employee’s return to work, which is often neglected by SSA programs (Bertoni 15).

The problem with RTW programs has also been detected by the DIANE Publishing Company, as it states in its report that the SSA sets a high priority for TRW programs but overlooks the fundamental legislative changes required for their effective functioning (DIANE Publishing Company 75). The challenge for SSA programs’ success is seen in the wrong design of RTW programs; they should be initially intended to help the individual return to work. The SSA programs, instead, place much effort to assess the disability of the individual, and only in case of the satisfactory results rehabilitation services are offered. However, RTW programs have to be focused on identifying the individual’s functional ability to work, with early intervention encouraging the individual to make optimistic assessments of his/her capabilities (DIANE Publishing Company 76).

Making a conclusion from the present overview of RTW programs, one should admit that the modern state of affairs in the provision of RTW opportunities is rather neglected and imperfect. More attention from the legislative point of view is needed, with the fundamental redesign of existing RTW programs and more financial support from employers and the federal government. RTW programs have to include as early intervention procedures as possible, and should have the employee’s return to work and not cutting costs for his/her treatment as the primary focus. In this case the provision of RTW programs will become more constructive and will contribute to the formation of a much securer workplace environment.

Works Cited

Bertoni, Daniel. Federal Disability Programs: More Strategic Coordination Could Help Overcome Challenges to Needed Transformation. Darby, PA: DIANE Publishing, 2009.

Chandler, L. Dennis. Constructing Return to Work Programs: Building for Better Returns. Workers’ Compensation: Containing Costs and Managing Outcomes – A PERI Symposium, n.d. 14 November 2010. <http://www.riskinstitute.org/ peri/images/file/ReturntoWorkPERISymposiumPaper.pdf

DIANE Publishing Company. SSA Disability: Return-to-Work Strategies from Other Systems May Improve Federal Programs. Darby, PA: DIANE Publishing, 1996.

HSA. Introduction to Return to Work Programs, n.d. 14 November 2010. <http://www.csao.org/UploadFiles/news/Intro_to_RTW_Programs.pdf>

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