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Light Duty Return to Work Issues – NWCDC 2021 – Breakout Session


Good Basic Session on Light Duty Return to Work Issues and Challenges

I attended and took notes on this NWCDC breakout session concerning light duty return to work.   This was a good basic session from two national employers.  One of the challenges, as we all know, is each state is unto itself in Workers Comp – including light duty return to work after an on-the-job injury.

pic of light duty return to work casted arm
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Click the title below to see more about the session and to download the presentation slides.  This session involved a ton of forms.  I recommended obtaining the slides.  They are free and open to the general public.   You may run out of time.  I am not sure how long they will be up on the website.

The session description from the website – 

During the COVID pandemic, light duty work for injured workers has been a challenge for many employers. In this session, you’ll learn strategies to locate light duty work within your organization and review alternative light duty options you can bring onsite. You will also pick up the tools to write a successful return to work policy that incorporates onsite and offsite transitional light duty opportunities. Roto Rooter, a large national plumbing company, will review how their company struggled with RTW and the changes they implemented internally to accommodate almost 99% of their field employees work restrictions. Presenters will share case studies showing the impact early RTW has on your workers’ compensation premiums.

Break Down RTW Obstacles and Build Light Duty That Works

I liked the angle that these two presenters had on their presentations.   They both had to deal with multiple states – likely all 50.  Sheakley and Roto Rooter cover most of the US.

Light Duty Return to Work Issues

0% chance of returning someone to work after they have been out for two years or longer.  I agree with that one totally.  I think the needle has moved closer to 18 months nowadays.

Both presenters covered the 1.0 Mod conundrum.   If you have above a 1.0 Mod, you may be left out of bidding on many projects.  Governmental organization risk managers look at Mods very extensively.  The contractor may want you to add them on as an additional insured.

Some of the great light duty return to work recommendations were:

  1. Include onsite and offsite alternatives
  2. Specify the duration
  3. Ability to change job aspects
  4. Specifics on temporary light duty assignment
  5. Return to work committee
  6. A sample light duty return to work policy is in their slides, (see link above)
  7. Job Analysis – formerly called Job Bank 
Apple Laptop and tablet light duty return to work in the working table
Public Domain – ruthson_zimmerman

The one unique area the presenters covered involved onsite or offsite light duty work for non-profit organizations.

The light duty offer letter cannot be general, must be specific.

The states that require physician approval include:

  • CO
  • GA
  • NC
  • OR
  • WA

Do not forget CDC requirements in the job letter.

A comparison of reserves – a nationwide study:

  • $4,568.93 with light duty return to work job
  • $$21,625.50 without

Those two numbers were startling.  I had performed two massive studies between claims without a return to work program and with a return to work program including light duty.   Employers with return to work programs cut their reserves by 75%.   Dividing out the two numbers above comes close to that figure.  I wrote the Six Keys to Workers Comp Savings manual in the 1990s.  Some things never change.


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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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