In agriculture, we do everything that we can to keep our workers safe. We are constantly reminding our workers to have a safety first mindset, and yet some accidents still occur. But are we working just as hard to get injured workers back to work? Employees that do not return to work after 3 days are less likely to return to full time employment. In this article we'll explore the light duty jobs on your farm that can keep an injured employee productive and on payroll!
Stay at Work Program
Many of you may already take part in the Washington L&I Stay at Work Program. This program is one of L&I’s financial incentive programs. L&I may reimburse employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for workers recovering from an injury. Offering your employee light duty work could help you avoid a compensable claim and unnecessary work disability. Reimbursements can be as high as 50% of the worker's base wages, with a maximum of up to $10,000. That's no joke!
Pro-tip: Follow this link to learn more about the Stay at Work Program.
How to Create a Light Duty Farm Job Offer
Once you have decided to take part in the Stay at Work Program, the steps of making a light duty offer are as follows:
1. Read the Activity Prescription Form or medical records for medical restrictions provided by the attending provider due to accepted conditions.
2. Complete the Employers Job Description Form based on given restrictions using job duties or tasks you have available.
3. Send the job description to the provider for their approval.
4. Offer the light-duty job to your employee.
5. Apply for wage and expense reimbursements online.
It is important to keep the original injury in mind as you build your light duty offer. You wouldn't want to offer a standing light duty job to someone who twisted their ankle. We suggest identifying light duty jobs on your farm at the beginning of every season. Don't forget to get your managers involved in this as well. Ask all managers if they have any odd jobs that are waiting to be done. Be sure to get specific information about how and where the job will get done. Is it an urgent job? Are there are any restrictions on the employee to complete the job (eg. license or training requirements, if any)? Answers to these questions will help prepare you for completing all necessary paperwork.
Pro-tip: Some employees may decline a light duty job offer. Their refusal could result in a loss of workers' compensation payments.
Why Offer Light Duty Jobs?
Light duty job offers can save farms a lot of money, but it is also beneficial to the employee as well. Injured farm workers are often afraid that if they report an accident that they could lose their job, or maybe not invited back for future work. This can create a large time gap in the employer notification process. If a farm worker is injured on our farm, we want them to notify us immediately. Education and relationship building is the best way to achieve this. Notify employees about your accident and injury protocols. Let them know about the stay at work program and how it can benefit them by keeping them working and accommodating for the injury.
Light Duty Job Ideas For Farms
Now let's take a look around the farm. What light duty jobs can you create this growing season? Here are some common examples we have seen:
Clerical work - Let's face it: even if you are using a farm HR software system like Harvust, chances are you have some paperwork floating around the office. Shredding documents, taking inventory and organizing documents can all be done from a seated position. This kind of very light duty clerical work may be appropriate, even for employees recovering from fairly serious injuries.
Sanitation - When is the last time you sanitized common touch points (eg. door knobs, handles) in the office? Could the bathroom sinks and toilets use a good clean? These jobs don't require both hands and can be a good option for employees recovering from a (single) shoulder or arm injury.
Tool sharpening - Have any of the tools or farm implements become a little dull? An employee with a foot or leg injury can be trained to safely sharpen tools from a seated position. This has the added benefit of protecting others from injury as well!
Managers assistant - Your managers on Harvust are basically HR superheroes. But even the best superheroes sometimes have to call on a sidekick. Injured employees can assist managers by answering phone calls, taking messages and taking notes. Simply shadowing a manager for a day can be a great way to expose your employees to future managerial roles on the farm.
Pro-tip: Ask your foremen! What jobs need to get done but keep getting pushed to the side? This could be your chance to take care of some low-hanging fruit.