Excellence Award Recipient Spotlight
About 10 miles east of Austin on Highway 290, just past a twisting network of toll roads, sits the once-rural community of Manor. Since 2000, attractive home prices have fueled a 650 percent population surge and transformed this blink-and-you-missed-it outpost into one of the country’s fastest-growing suburbs.
To keep pace with unprecedented growth, our friends at Manor ISD need skilled, dedicated employees at work and contributing to productivity. With that in mind, the district launched a return-to-work program in 2017.
The program helps injured employees return to the team under modified duty while they heal. With two years of claim data as evidence, Manor ISD Risk Management Coordinator Victoria Henderson has a message for her peers.
“Return-to-work contributes to the bottom line,” Henderson said. “By helping employees get well and back on the job, we’ve taken steps to control claim costs, as well as the costs of hiring substitutes and temporary employees. Return-to-work also promotes productivity because we get our experienced workers back on the job sooner.”
A recent workplace injury at Manor ISD serves as a case study for any organization that wants to cash in on the benefits of return-to-work.
Putting the program to work
Approximately 10,000 students—and counting—rely on buses to deliver them to Manor ISD’s 18 campuses. When a driver suffered a recent on-the-job injury, the district’s risk management team implemented the return-to-work program.
Henderson provided the injured employee’s doctor with a copy of the First Report of Injury (FROI). The form includes details about the accident and the employee’s injuries. Included with the FROI was a completed form DWC-74, Description of Injured Employee’s Employment.
After examining the injured employee and reviewing her job description, the doctor determined she could not immediately return to her normal duties as a driver. Still, Henderson knew the injured employee could contribute to the team’s productivity.
Manor ISD’s transportation director collaborated with Henderson and the human resources department to identify a modified-duty assignment the injured employee could do while she recovered. Modified-duty assignments should be meaningful, and they must comply with the injured employee’s medical restrictions.
Guided by those two principles, the team agreed to offer the injured employee a temporary position as a bus monitor.
“She enthusiastically accepted the offer,” Henderson said. “Her pay was slightly reduced, but she didn’t mind. She was so excited to be back with her peers and on the bus with the students.”
In the interim, the transportation department assigned CDL-qualified office staff to drive the injured employee’s route. Two weeks later, the doctor lifted her restrictions, and she returned to her normal job as a driver
“The entire process, from the initial doctor’s visit to her return to work without restrictions, was a collaborative effort,” Henderson said.
5 tips for return-to-work success
Every organization should design its return-to-work program to meet its unique needs. Still, successful programs have a handful of things in common. Manor ISD shares these five tips for return-to-work success.
1. Collaborate and communicate
At Manor ISD, every workplace injury sets in motion a collaborative process that thrives on communication among injured employees, their doctors, and their TASB adjusters. By maintaining communication, the district ensures everyone understands their role in the return-to-work process and has the information they need to fulfill their responsibilities. Regular communication with injured employees also sends a strong message that leadership cares about their well-being and values their contributions.
2. Set expectations
Every injured employee should understand that the organization’s goal is to bring them back to work safely and quickly. Incorporate the return-to-work program into your employee onboarding process. Consider hosting brown bag return-to-work meetings as a follow-up. You can also include FAQs and timely articles about the program in your employee newsletter.
3. Write detailed job descriptions
Henderson recommends maintaining detailed job descriptions that include the physical demands of every position. The information makes it easy to complete Form DWC-74, which helps doctors evaluate whether injured employees can return to their normal job duties. Manor ISD department directors include job descriptions in their annual review of the safety program.
4. Commit to continuous improvement
Is your organization serving more students than it was just a few years ago, like Manor ISD? Have you created positions that introduced new workplace injury risks? Organizations evolve and return-to-work programs must evolve, too. Henderson works with supervisors to identify and eliminate gaps in the return-to-work program. The team uses the district’s online loss run reports to zero in on injury and claim trends that drive costs up and productivity down.
5. Focus on safety
The best way to reduce claim costs is to prevent accidents. Manor ISD takes advantage of online safety training through the Fund. The online modules are powerful tools for proactively training employees and refreshing the training when accidents happen. The district also benefits from in-person training by their risk solutions consultant, as well as position-specific employee handbooks.
Expert help from the Fund
The Fund’s return-to-work (RTW) guide provides step-by-step instructions on creating an RTW program customized for Fund Workers’ Compensation program members. Resources include a modified duty job bank tailored for administrative, maintenance, custodial, and food service personnel. Workers’ Compensation program members can access the guide by visiting myTASB and entering their login credentials.
Even a simple idea can make a difference
The Fund’s Excellence Award program recognizes members who implement exemplary solutions to risk management challenges. Manor ISD and our other winners earn a $1,000 honorarium to apply toward their risk management initiatives. We also recognize them in front of their peers during our Members’ Conference. The Excellence Awards application opens every year, November through January.