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Your workers, including drivers, are your most valuable assets. When they sustain injuries, it can have a significant impact on productivity, overall morale and your company’s bottom line. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 50 percent of employees who are off work for more than six months ever return to employment. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have injured workers return to work as soon as possible. Return-to-work programs facilitate this transition while benefitting both you and your workers.

Return-to-work programs, sometimes referred to as light duty, provide alternative tasks for injured employees during their recovery until they are approved by a doctor to return to their regular job responsibilities. These programs are typically low cost to implement. According to the Job Accommodation Network, more than half of the accommodations cost employers no money. Of those that do cost, the average typical one-time expenditure is $600. Additionally, return-to-work programs can reduce claims costs by up to 70 percent.

You benefit from return-to-work programs in several ways. These programs decrease the likelihood of lingering or false workers’ compensation claims and can minimize prolonged disability expenses by speeding up worker recovery through the physical and mental stimulation of light duty. Return-to-work programs also retain the use of valued workers, and minimize the cost of hiring and training replacement employees. You also benefit from the productivity of workers who otherwise would not be doing any work while out due to an injury.

Return-to-work programs help workers because they are useful, contributing members of the team. They stay mentally and physically conditioned to a regular work schedule and maintain social contact with their fellow employees, which can encourage a faster return to full duty. Return-to-work programs also minimize financial losses often incurred due to time lost while recovering.

Establish a written policy before implementing a return-to-work program. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has a toolkit for creating a policy and implementing a return-to-work program, available at ODEP also has a list of relevant employment laws, which vary by state, available at

As part of your policy, include modified job descriptions that list light duty tasks injured workers will be asked to perform during the return-to-work program. Ask injured workers’ doctors to review job descriptions and approve tasks the workers can complete based on the severity of their injuries. Be careful to adhere to doctors’ restrictions to avoid re-injury and prolonged recovery.

So what light duty tasks can workers perform while recovering from an injury?

  • Sweep floors
  • Check inventory and order supplies
  • Sort mail
  • Answer phones
  • Inspect trucks
  • Check driver logs
  • Wash windows
  • Dust office furniture
  • Clean tools for mechanics
  • Paint
  • Attend orientation again
  • Check paperwork of drivers entering and exiting the lot
  • Watch safety videos and create quiz questions
  • Create an injury prevention presentation or handout based on the injury they sustained

Be sure to consult with the workers’ physicians first to determine the extent and type of work they can safely perform.

Companies without an office or those that have workers who live far away from the office should look into having workers perform light duty at a charitable organization. The company would pay workers for the hours they work at a selected charity. Companies could also make arrangements at a local motel for workers who live too far away. This would permit company management to monitor the injured worker and still give the worker an opportunity to perform light duty work.

Keep in mind that return-to-work policies will be implemented differently based on the state you are in and the types of injuries your workers sustain. Be proactive and put a return-to-work policy in place to facilitate the recovery of injured workers, maintain productivity, boost morale and protect your bottom line.

To request more information on how other companies have implemented return-to-work programs, contact us at

  • Categorized in:
  • Transportation Safety
  • Driver Management
  • Return to Work