Handling injury-related work restrictions

Date Posted: 07/08/2019

injury-related work restrictionsIf an employee gets hurt on the job and is given restrictions, the employee's work might not actually be restricted. If that sounds crazy, remember that an injury must limit an employee's routine job functions to be recordable on the 300 Log as a restricted work case.

Routine functions are activities an employee regularly performs at least once per week. Depending on the injured employee's job duties, an injury-related restriction might not affect the routine functions. For example, if an employee is restricted from lifting more than 20 pounds, but the job does not require lifting that much, the restriction does not affect his routine job functions. Therefore, the case need not be recorded as a restricted work case (although it may still be recordable because of medical treatment or other reasons).

The doctor says…

Generally, a doctor treating an injured employee should describe restrictions rather than claiming that an employee "cannot work." You may provide a job description and allow the doctor to make recommendations regarding specific duties, but only you know whether those duties are routine functions of the job.

For example, the doctor might tell an employee to avoid using his left arm for a week. Based on that, you should decide whether the employee can perform all routine job functions without violating that restriction. If the employee can still perform all duties, the injury is not a restricted work case, even though the doctor imposed limitations.

Employee and employer choices

Only you (the employer) or a health care professional can affect whether a case must be recorded as restricted work. An employee's choices do not affect the case. For example:

  • If a doctor recommends restrictions, but the employee chooses to stay home, you may record the days as restricted work rather than lost days.
  • If a doctor recommends restrictions that would limit the employee's job duties, but the employee ignores them and does his regular tasks anyway, you must still record the days as restricted work.

Restrictions are usually imposed by a health care professional, but employers may impose restrictions as well. For example, if you limit an injured employee from performing a routine function to prevent an injury from getting worse, you must record the injury as a restricted work case — even if the employee could physically perform all job functions. Restrictions imposed by the employer are still restrictions. Similarly, if you cannot accommodate restrictions and send the employee home, you must record the time as days away.

However, if an employee reports minor musculoskeletal discomfort (but no injury occurred), you could restrict the worker’s duties as a precaution without creating a restricted work case. In this example, there is no underlying injury. A change in job duties cannot make a case recordable if there is no actual injury.

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