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10,000 injured workers helped since start of L&I 'Stay at Work' program

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June 30, 2014

Tumwater – A state effort to help bring injured workers back to work as quickly as medically possible is making a real difference. This month the program known as "Stay at Work" marked a milestone. More than 10,000 injured workers and their employers have been helped since the program, managed by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), started.

Legislation passed in 2011 created the program. Since then, L&I has paid nearly 2,750 employers close to $24 million in reimbursement money to help keep injured workers on the job with light-duty work while they recover. The light-duty work must be approved by the employee's medical provider. Employers tapping into the program can be reimbursed for half the wages and can also receive additional funds for equipment, training and clothing to help the injured worker transition to a light-duty job. 

"Avoiding an injury in the first place should be a primary focus for all of us. But when a worker gets hurt, getting them back to a job as quickly as medically possible helps the worker and the employer," says Ryan Guppy, L&I's chief of Return to Work Partnerships. Guppy adds that the rewards of the incentive program go far beyond the financial reimbursement for employers. It can also help with general workplace morale and result in other cost savings.

"The Stay at Work Program was exciting to me because I really felt that L&I was reaching out to businesses and partnering with me to encourage that back-to-work philosophy," says Lori Swanson, co-owner of Guardian Roofing in Tacoma. Swanson says she makes getting injured workers back to work a priority.

Swanson says the Stay at Work Program helps her better manage her workers' compensation claims costs, which helps lower premium rates. She also points out that time off work after an injury costs her workers, since about 25 percent of workers' compensation premiums are paid by employees.

"Separation from the workplace does have financial, psychological and social impacts to the worker that can delay recovery and make it harder for an injured worker to return to a job," says Guppy. L&I data shows that if a worker is still off the job six to nine months after an injury, the likelihood of returning to work drops to just 36 percent.  

By encouraging employers to keep workers employed while they heal, Stay at Work helps reduce long-term disability. This ultimately impacts workers' compensation insurance premiums and overall costs for employers and workers statewide. Employers have one year from the day an injured worker begins a light-duty job to apply for reimbursements.

L&I processes nearly 100,000 workers' compensation claims annually for about 170,000 employers statewide. Visit www.StayAtWork.Lni.wa.gov for more information or call 1-866-406-2482.

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For more information: Rena Shawver, L&I, 360-902-5189

Broadcast version:
A state Department of Labor & Industries program to help bring injured workers back to work as quickly as medically possible is making a real difference. This month the program known as "Stay at Work" marked a milestone; more than 10,000 injured workers and their employers have now been helped since the effort began.

The program pays employers half the cost of wages, up to $10,000, to support an injured worker in a medically-approved light-duty job. Businesses also can get funds to help with equipment, training and clothing to help injured workers transition to light-duty jobs while they recover. L&I officials say that businesses benefit financially from the program, while workers recover faster with additional financial, psychological and social support from their work. For more information on Stay at Work, visit www.StayAtWork.Lni.wa.gov or call 1-866-406-2482.

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