In Montana, injured workers stay out of work an average of 23 days longer than workers in the rest of the country. The associated costs are significant. Workers who stay out of work longer are less likely to ever return to their positions. They are more likely to develop serious complications and psychological issues. They are also more likely to lose traction in their careers—setting back their lifetime earnings. Companies suffer, too. Those additional 23 days are expensive in terms of workers’ compensation and health care payments. They also result in lost productivity and additional costs to train new employees to take over injured workers’ duties. Stay at Work/Return to Work (SAW/RTW) programs make a big difference. The goal of these programs is to help injured employees return to meaningful work as fits their medical condition as soon as possible. These programs have shown to improve recovery times, reduce complications, reduce psychological distress and keep careers on track. While SAW/RTW programs vary by workplace and type of injury, there are three hallmarks of sound programs:
  1. Thorough and Timely Incident Reporting — Supervisors should be notified of an injury and appropriate medical/emergency attention should be sought immediately. Allowing injuries to wait can create complications and even make it difficult to determine exactly what happened, when.
  2. Transitional Duties — A good SAW/RTW program incorporates transitional work that is both meaningful and medically appropriate. For example, while a worker may not be able to lift boxes, he or she may be able to count inventory or assess the value of damaged inventory. Options for transitional duties should be determined as soon as possible and thoroughly discussed with the injured employee and his/her health care provider.
  3. Open Lines of Communication — Most importantly, stay in touch with the injured employee and his/her health care providers. Send the employee a card. Call on a regular basis to see how recovery is progressing. Encourage other employees to keep in touch, too. Isolation from work can cause emotional distress and even physical complications.


Work Ability Forms SAW / RTW Best Practices SAW / RTW FAQs