Few know this better than Gary Crowder, president and chief financial officer of Smith Frozen Foods in Weston, Oregon.
“The sooner you can get them back to work, the better it is for the employee and the company,” Gary says.
TIP | “Even if you discount the proven benefit of using return to work to help manage claims costs, there is the very real value of keeping that employee engaged with their employer.” —Debbie Clark, RTW consultant at SAIF
It is with this mindset that Smith Frozen Foods implemented light-duty jobs using funds from Oregon’s Employer-at-Injury Program (EAIP) a few years ago. EAIP encourages timely return to work (RTW) of injured workers by helping lower an employer’s costs.
Smith Frozen Foods’ first RTW program involved installing cameras around the plant and placing light-duty employees at a monitoring station near the personnel office. The camera monitors are trained to look for several issues, including mechanical breakdowns in low-traffic areas. They have spotted belt spills and immediately alerted supervisors, saving thousands of dollars in lost product.
“We’re a very big plant and it’s difficult to have eyes everywhere,” explains Mike Lesko, human resources manager.
The camera monitoring workstation can be set up to accommodate standing, lifting, and one-handed work restrictions, says Debbie Clark, RTW consultant at SAIF, who helped Smith Frozen Foods submit a proposal to secure EAIP benefits. The team of EAIP specialists at SAIF also worked closely with the company to understand the program and facilitate benefits.
“The employees continue to receive their full wages while doing a job that is well within their medical restrictions,” Debbie says.
Light-duty workers at the plant also assist with inventory, speeding up the process of getting machines and parts back on the line.
While implementing RTW programs can seem daunting at first, SAIF experts are here to help. “When you look at how much benefit this one account has received from bringing people back to modified work while using EAIP, it’s hard to understand why more companies don’t [take advantage of the program],” Debbie says.
To learn more about Smith Frozen Foods, visit smithfrozenfoods.com