Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island

Work Disability Prevention

Employers pay premiums to protect against liability associated with workplace accidents and to fund the system that compensates workers who are injured.

Employers are responsible to maintain a safe workplace and to work in partnership with workers to prevent workplace injuries from occurring. The Occupational Health and Safety Act lays out these responsibilities.

If a workplace injury does occur, employers must report this to the WCB (within 3 days of being informed of an accident) and provide support to workers in their recovery and to prevent unnecessary work disability. The Workers Compensation Act lays out these responsibilities.

What is Work Disability Prevention?

Work Disability Prevention is any workplace activity or organizational program or policy designed to support workers remaining at work. It is about much more than workplace injuries.

Effective work disability prevention strategies can help reduce time missed from work and costs related to this.

An important defense against work disability is to create an organizational culture that promotes a healthy workplace.

The Case for Work Disability Prevention

Workplace injuries hurt both workers and employers. Best evidence shows that the most effective way to reduce the impact of workplace injuries is to develop a practical and comprehensive Work Disability Prevention Program (WDPP). This program can provide your worker with the support they need for a healthy recovery and return to work.

Work is an important part of life. Many people believe that being away from work after an injury decreases stress and promotes healing. Actually, medical evidence proves that recovering at work is better for most workers.

Working in some capacity while recovering from an injury, is the best option for most people. Work is good for physical and mental health and maintaining the connection to work following an injury can help the healing process.

The longer an injured worker is out of the workplace, the more complex recovery can become. Work is one of the biggest contributing factors to recovery. Work is about much more than a pay cheque. It contributes to a sense of identity, self-worth and provides income relied upon by workers and their families.

Beyond the personal impact, work is an essential element of society. It is the glue that holds our community and our economy together.

Workers, who stay at work doing modified or transitional work, following a workplace injury, recover more quickly. They also avoid the unnecessary consequences that can develop when away from employment for prolonged periods. Studies show that the longer workers are off work, the less likely they are to return to work in any capacity. Being away from work increases the physical and psychological impact of workplace injury.

Of course, some people do need a period of time away from work as part of their recovery. They may have serious injuries requiring hospitalization, psychological injury as a result of exposure to trauma or a need for frequent and complex medical treatments. Even in these cases, returning to work in some capacity, as soon as possible helps with recovery and overall health and wellness.

Providing safe and suitable work arrangements for recovering workers takes teamwork. Workers, employers, and health care providers (HCP’s) all have important contributions to this process.

Work Disability Prevention Programs (WDDP)

A WDPP is a strategic and proactive approach to helping injured workers stay at work or return to safe and productive work as soon as possible following a workplace injury. A WDPP enables employers to be prepared and ensures that modified or transitional duties and/or graduated work schedules are available to help injured workers continue to be at work while they are recovering from injury.

The goals of a WDPP are to enable safe and timely return to work, prevent or reduce the physical and psychological impact of workplace injuries and to optimize worker recovery. The best approach is to have a WDPP in place before a workplace injury occurs – but it’s never too late to start.

A WDPP helps you:

  • Promote and enhance your total worker wellness strategy
  • Keep experienced workers connected to the workplace
  • Reduce the costs of recruiting and training replacement staff
  • Maintain productivity and team dynamics
  • Improve workplace morale
  • Reduce the direct and indirect cost of workplace injuries
  • Meet the legal requirements related to human rights and workers compensation legislation

Return to Work Plans (RTWP)

RTWP’s are an important part of a WDPP. Within a WDPP, generic plans are developed based on the key job functions for each job or group of jobs. These are a solid starting point that can be individualized to meet the needs of a recovering worker, based on limitations and restrictions. Having these generic plans in place helps you to meet the return to work requirements in the Workers Compensation Act.

If your worker cannot perform regular job duties because of an injury, WCB will work with employers, workers, and treating HCP’s to finalize a RTWP. The plan will outline how the worker can safely return to meaningful work.

Some options for RTWP’s include a gradual increase in hours over a period of time, transitional or modified duties, identification of other suitable work, or work conditioning or multi-disciplinary programming to build strength and stamina in conjunction with a transitional return to work plan. The plan is individualized and unique to each worker. Using a team approach, RTWP’s are designed specifically around the workers abilities and the kind of work that is available. This process can be enhanced by an employer having an existing WDDP and can make return to work safer and more timely. The most successful RTWP’s involve the worker remaining at work or losing as little time away from work as possible.

Employers, workers and HCP’s have a responsibility to facilitate safe and timely return to suitable and available work. Return to work planning is a team effort!

Focus on Abilities

For many workers recovering at work means doing different tasks or working a modified schedule for a period of time. Focusing on what a worker can do rather that what they can’t do makes it easier to determine appropriate modified and transitional duties.

Health care providers will provide information about a worker’s abilities which will assist in determining what a worker can do at work, during their recovery.

The Benefits to Employers of Having a Work Disability Prevention Program

Having a Work Disability Prevention Program means that you can strategically support workers in their recovery at work which is good for them and it’s good for your business. Having workers perform some duties while they recover keeps them connected to the workplace and can prevent unnecessary work disability.

By helping workers stay at work as they recover, your business can realize many benefits. These may include:

  • Retention of a skilled and experienced worker, which in turn reduces recruitment and retraining functions and cost.
  • Enhanced worker and employer relationships: keeping injured workers connected to work demonstrates that you value your workers because you are supporting an injured worker and reducing the impact of workplace injury on co-workers.
  • Reduced productivity losses and workflow interruptions which in turn maintain the quality of the service or products that you provide.
  • Improved overall worker wellness which contributes to the health and wellness of the broader community.
  • Reduced WCB premiums.

By having a WDDP, an employer is contributing to the economic stability By having a WDDP, an employer is contributing to the economic stability of the community.

We can help you develop a WDPP. More information for employers on developing a Work Disability Prevention Program can be found here or by contacting us at (902) 368-5680.

Additional important resources can be found on the Healthy Workplaces webpage, Working to Well webpage and in the WCB Returning to Work Makes Sense for Employers brochure.

Working to Well