How to identify suitable duties after a workplace injury
Returning to work safely as soon as possible after a work-related injury is the best outcome for an injured worker. Research has shown that ‘doing’ promotes recovery as the worker is able to return to their normal life.
However, returning to work may not mean returning to the worker’s usual duties. Depending on the nature and severity of their injury, a worker may need a graduated approach to return to work and alternative duties, otherwise known as ‘suitable duties’.
WorkCover Queensland Customer Group Executive Jane Stevens explains that a suitable duties plan is a critical part of the return to work process.
“Suitable duties mean that the worker can return to work safely without the risk of aggravating their injury,” Jane said.
“For example, if a truck driver has a fractured leg and is unable to drive, they may be more suited to office duties as they recover.
“Finding the right suitable duties for each worker involves communication between the worker, their employer, WorkCover, their treating allied health practitioner and their treating medical practitioner to determine what they are capable of doing.
“It helps to think outside the square to find solutions that are safe and welcome the worker back to the workplace with the appropriate level of support and meaningful work.”
How to identify suitable duties
- Building a bank of duties that can be matched against a worker’s capacity is a proactive way that employers can start to prepare a list of potential suitable duties. Employers can use a suitable duties register (this can be found in WorkCover’s Injury information pack) to compile a list of duties under the categories of:
- no lifting required
- lifting less than 5kg
- lifting 6-10kg
- lifting 11-15kg
- no bending/twisting
- driving or operating machinery.
- You can also use our online resources to find job task analyses of particular roles, e.g. bricklayer or childcare worker, and return to work checklists that the treating medical practitioner can complete to help determine the worker’s capacity for work.
- The medical practitioner is required to complete a Work capacity certificate, detailing the worker’s treatment plan, functional ability and capacity for work, and any workplace modifications that are required to facilitate return to work. Providing the medical practitioner with a list of available duties can help them to make a more informed decision about work capacity for your worker.
- WorkCover can arrange a return to work services provider to conduct an assessment of your workplace to help identify suitable duties if necessary.
“Where possible, adjust workplace procedures and rosters to facilitate the suitable duties plan,” Jane said.
“By allowing flexibility in the worker’s role and making modifications where necessary, you’re increasing the likelihood of the worker’s steady road to recovery and a sustainable return to work.
“If no suitable duties can be found in the worker’s existing workplace, a host employer may be able to offer duties during the worker’s recovery.
“Talk to WorkCover about this possibility if no suitable duties are available in your workplace as we can help you to find a host employer to allow your worker to get back to some form of work and start building their work fitness.”
Resources to learn more about suitable duties planning:
- What is a suitable duties plan?
- Suitable duties program template
- Suitable duties register – Injury information pack
- Resources to coordinate return to work – includes industry-specific job task analyses, physical demand photo galleries and return to work checklists
- Webinar recording: Suitable duties programs
- Webinar recording: ON Communicating – One size does not fit all – covers how to prepare meaningful suitable duties programs for injured workers suffering from musculoskeletal disorders
- Last updated
- 15 January 2019