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Medical providers play an important part in returning injured workers to jobs


June 19, 2014
By Ryan Guppy

How can medical providers ensure the most successful recovery for injured worker patients?

Most occupational medicine specialists will say a successful outcome for recovery from a workplace injury includes maximum medical improvement and return to work.

Providers who treat injured workers are often the most crucial link to both a medical recovery and their patient’s economic well-being because they are:

  • The “first responders” in terms of patient contact during the time occupational health interventions have been shown to be the most effective.
  • Respected opinion leaders in the eyes of patients, and can help assure appropriate expectations and involvement of patients in their own recovery.
  • The first to become aware of recovery barriers and impediments in return to work.

Providers also play a pivotal role in setting the stage for teamwork with the worker, employer and the workers’ comp system to return the injured worker to a job.

Being off work costs an injured worker more than money.

Although time loss payments can offset lost wages while someone is off work, they do not replace them entirely.

A worker who earns $2500 per month could lose nearly $12,000 in wages during a year of time loss. A worker on time loss for 10 months could lose more than $22,300 in 2 years, compared to returning to their original job and salary.

These same workers, with the support of their medical provider, employer and resources from L&I, may have been working on a light-duty or transitional jobs over most of the the time loss period.

When added to the potential loss of employer benefits such as health insurance and retirement plan contributions, the economic cost to a worker can be staggering. The impact on a worker’s family, in addition to their sense of self-worth and mental state can be significant as well.

The good news is, there are 20,000 medical providers in L&I’s Medical Provider Network who can help. In just a few minutes, each of these providers can help get a patient back to work by asking the right questions and steering injured workers toward helpful resources.

For more information, order the free Attending Provider’s Return to Work Desk Reference.


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Message for young workers: A workplace injury can change your life forever


July 14, 2014
By Xenofon Moniodis

The recent tragic death of a 19-year-old worker, is an important reminder that young workers aged 16-24 are at much higher risk for injuries on the job than older workers.

L&I’s Injured Young Worker Speakers Program focuses on raising workplace safety awareness among young workers to help them avoid these types of injuries. The program brings speakers who were severely injured on the job as young workers to high schools and worksites around the state with the message that a workplace accident can change your life forever.

Speaker Matt Pomerinke of Longview, Washington, was just 21 and working at a paper mill when his arm was caught in an unguarded conveyer drive chain and ultimately amputated just below the elbow. Here’s a glimpse of Matt’s compelling story (includes graphic details).


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I meant to do that!


August 14, 2014
By Elaine Fischer

It can happen in an instant in any workplace or occupation. You’re walking along just thinking about things you need to do or places to be (or worse, looking at your phone) and suddenly you slip, trip or fall.

If you’re lucky, you get up, brush off and go on your way.

Or you might pull a Pee Wee Herman — get up, look around and say, “I meant to do that!”

If you’re not so lucky, you might suffer a sprain or strain, broken bones, a head injury or other serious injury.

We know you wouldn’t mean to do that, but it happens all the time. Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of serious injuries and worker hospitalizations in Washington State. And sadly, a number of workers die each year from a fall or complications of their injuries. Others are left permanently disabled.

That’s why L&I started the Eye on Safety video campaign – to raise awareness of slips, trips and falls.

At EyeOnSafety.info, you’ll find 1-minute video shorts that raise awareness about everyday safety hazards. These and many other online videos are great for safety meetings, tool-box talks or safety training in any workplace.

They’re free and available 24/7. Check out this great resource soon. New videos are added regularly, so visit often.

And now that we brought it up, you’re probably thinking about that famous Pee Wee Herman scene, so here it is: I meant to do that!


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Success story: Store manager finds new job with help from WorkSource


September 11, 2014
By Walter Hughes

Every day I work with injured workers looking for re-employment opportunities. Sometimes, we hit a home run right away. Other times, helping an injured worker find employment is like going from one base to another until getting home to a job.

Rebecca’s return-to-work story is a home run worth sharing.

In February 2013, Rebecca injured her wrists while working as a manager for a party store – a job she couldn’t return to after her injury.

As a Labor & Industries (L&I) customer without a job, Rebecca started working with a private vocational counselor, Autumn Henderson from People Systems. She also became a candidate for L&I’s Preferred Worker Program – a program that offers employers financial incentive to hire an injured worker.

Rebecca’s vocational counselor, Autumn, was on the ball and contacted me to set up a meeting. Together, we discussed how WorkSource could help Rebecca find employment that was similar to what she had when she was injured. We established an action plan that would help her find a new position.

While working with both her private vocational counselor and with the resources available through me at WorkSource, Rebecca attended the weekly Return-to-Work Job Club and drop-in computer labs regularly.

As a former-manager, helping others came naturally to Rebecca. While she worked through her own recovery and re-employment, she was always helping others in the computer lab and fully participated in the job clubs. She was always willing to try something new. Her motivation and upbeat attitude was infectious and a welcome quality in someone looking for work and recovering from an injury at the same time.

One day, Rebecca asked for help with an upcoming job interview as an Assistant Store Manager at Walmart. The Return-to-Work Job Club participants set up a mock-interview with Rebecca and offered her feedback. She was confident when she left for her interview that afternoon.

Two days later, Rebecca called me to say she got the job!

Rebecca credited the Return to Work Job Club Professional Panel for helping in her successful re-employment.

Later, when her employer needed to hire more staff, Rebecca wanted to connect as many preferred workers, like herself, to her store.

Knowing that the Preferred Worker Program had benefited her, Rebecca wanted to keep utilizing that program for the benefit of other injured workers and her employer.

Since meeting Rebecca, WorkSource Everett has held several hiring events for Walmart. Several people from The Return-to-Work Job Club have interviewed with Rebecca and other managers from Walmart.

Rebecca is staying in touch and will attend the WorkSource professional job panel set up for job club members in October. This time, Rebecca will attend as a panelist, not a job seeker. She wants to help inspire and encourage people who are facing the same challenges she faced.

With the help of Rebecca’s private vocational counselor, the Preferred Worker Program, and the resources of WorkSource-Everett, we worked together to assist Rebecca in recovering from her injury to find re-employment.

Between 130 and 150 injured workers are involved in the Preferred Worker Program at any given time. At WorkSource-Everett, in our first program year, we supported 101 injured workers looking for jobs. Nearly 47% of those have returned to work, and after working with us, 93% of people exiting this program became employed within two-to-three months.

Our goal is to help injured workers back to work quickly and safety so they can continue living their lives after an injury with full productivity. The ideal is to have them stay with their employer of injury, but if that is not possible, we’ll work to find them employment with another employer.


Walter Hughes is a re-employment specialist at WorkSource-Everett. He is under contract with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries on a return-to-work pilot project established in partnership with the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD). Hughes is one of three ESD re-employment specialists who have been helping L&I customers find re-employment after a workplace injury – a benefit provided to injured workers through the Washington Worker’s Compensation Program.


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