What Really Is Light Duty?
Written by Eric Petersen, CIC
I’m sure you’ve heard your insurance agent talk about the importance of having a Light Duty or Return to Work policy in place at your company (if your agent hasn’t talked to you about this, you probably should call us at ArboRisk, wink wink), but what does that really mean?
In short, a Light Duty policy is a risk management tool designed to keep an injured employee at work and productive which minimizes the impact of the workplace injury for both the employee and the business. It is a written policy that outlines the responsibilities of the employer and the injured employee after an injury occurs.
There are many benefits to having a written Light Duty policy which include:
For the Employee
- Full Income – Even though the injured employee will not be doing tasks that they were hired for, they will retain the same level of pay that they were getting before the injury.
- Guaranteed Work – The employee does not have to worry if they will have a job after an injury. The Light Duty policy guarantees that they will still have the ability to work their normal hours.
- Remaining Part of the Team – The emotional aspect of an injury can definitely take a toll on someone. With a Light Duty policy in place the injured employee remains part of the team and can still feel productive.
- Faster Recovery Time – No one wants to be hurt for a long period of time, so if the injured employee follows the recommended restrictions and does not overstress their body during the recovery time, they will heal faster. Doing tasks at work that may not be their favorite activity helps the employee take recovery more seriously to heal faster.
For the Employer
- Reduced Work Comp Expense – If the employee stays at home and collects their wages from the Work Comp insurance company, that will obviously create a much larger claim and therefore increase the cost of the future Work Comp policies.
- Gain Back Some Productivity – While the employee may not be performing the exact duties they were doing before the injury, the employer can still get production out of that employee. Every tree care company has a list of things they want to accomplish on a rain day or a snow day. Many times these items just remain on the list that someday they’ll get to. Use the Light Duty policy to get those items taken care of.
- Faster Recovery Time – When an injured employee is doing tasks that they normally do not do, they typically will take their healing/recovery more seriously so they can get back out to work doing the job they love. Faster recovery time means a tremendous amount of savings to the employer.
The written policy should also include what happens to the employee if they reject the light or modified duty so that everyone knows what to expect when they are injured. This can be a very important piece if the injured employee is trying to stay at home and just collect from the Work Comp insurance company.
To make a Light Duty policy defensible in court, I recommend having each employee sign an acknowledgement form stating that they understand what is included in the policy and why it is important for them and the company.
Make sure that you have a copy of your Light Duty policy and a list of light duty activities in each truck right next to your injury reporting form so that the injured employee can take that policy and list with them to the very first doctor’s appointment. You want to make sure that the very first treating physician knows there is light duty available so they don’t needlessly issue a restriction prohibiting the employee from working at all for a designated period of time.
If you are struggling on coming up with a list of light duty activities start by thinking about your shop wish list or weather day list. From there start to get creative with what tasks an individual can do for themselves (think online training or volunteering) or for your company (assembling safety manuals, researching safety meeting topics, sharpening chainsaws, etc). Every tree care company has light duty available, you just have to put some conscious thought to it.
Of course, if you would like one-on-one help in creating a Light Duty Policy, please reach out to an ArboRisk team member or sign up directly for the Thrive Safety Package.