For many injured workers, time off work after an injury can lead to a downward spiral that includes long-term unemployment and a significant loss of lifetime earnings. Employers, workers and providers can partner to help offset the consequences of a workplace injury and improve the outcome for both the worker and employer. 

For many injured workers, time off work after an injury can lead to a downward spiral that includes long-term unemployment and a significant loss of lifetime earnings. Employers, workers and providers can partner to help offset the consequences of a workplace injury and improve the outcome for both the worker and employer.                  

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) offers actionable solutions to support injured workers and control workers’ comp costs for employers:

• Create light-duty jobs.

• Encourage injured workers to file a report of accident online.

These return-to-work best-practice strategies speed the claims process to get a worker care and benefits more quickly. Keeping a work connection for the injured worker is part of the recovery process and considered an occupational medicine best practice.  

Employers who support this best practice can get reimbursed for half the base wages of a worker given a light-duty or transitional job after an injury. In addition, the sooner the worker returns to work, the less time-loss payments on a claim affect the employer’s future workers’ comp premiums.

Light-duty jobs pay now and later

As an incentive to employers who support light-duty jobs for injured workers during recovery, the 2011 Washington State Legislature created a new program called Stay at Work.  L&I began the program in January 2012.  

Stay at Work reimburses qualified employers half the base wages of an injured worker given a light-duty or transitional job during recovery.  The program will pay up to $10,000 or 66 days of wages per claim, whichever comes first. Additionally, employers can get reimbursed up to $2,500 for tools and equipment, $1,000 for training fees and materials, and $400 for clothing per claim if those items are needed to support the worker in a light-duty job.

The Stay at Work program has reimbursed over 1,800 employers over $13 million in wages and expenses to support more than 5,800 injured workers in medically approved light-duty jobs. L&I’s goal is to grow the program to help 8,000 injured workers and save $32 million in annual workers’ costs.

Filing a report of accident online saves five critical days

L&I data shows that the longer an injured worker misses work, the less he or she will make over their lifetime. Ten years after an injury, workers who miss over three years of work make only two-thirds as much as those who were able to return to work in a few days.

Additionally, L&I’s new online accident report, called FileFast, is replacing the paper process as the filing method of choice. 

Filing online at www.FileFast.Lni.wa.gov improves claim receipt by five critical days, and early information leads to better communication and return-to-work options before the worker is eligible for time loss benefits.

Health care providers and injured workers receive immediate confirmation that the claim has been filed, another improvement over the paper application.

More information available

For more information on these actionable solutions to workplace safety and controlling workers’ comp costs, go to www.WorkingSolutions.Lni.wa.gov.

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