Oregon Commits to Returning Injured Employees to Work

Posted Date: Current
    

Industry InformationOur System at Work

The state of Oregon has several programs, including the Preferred Worker Program (PWP), to help employers bring injured workers back to the job more quickly and safely. In many cases, the programs can save money for employers while helping workers return after an injury.

THE PWP OFFERS MANY BENEFITS:

  • For the employer—wage subsidy, assistance with worksite modifications, and a three-year exemption from paying workers comp premiums
  • For the insurer—claim cost reimbursement
  • Surgery three days following injury on June 14
  • For the employee—educational expenses; temporary lodging, tools, and equipment; moving expenses, and worksite modification

Since 2012, the program has served an average of 1,177 newly eligible workers per year. Here is the story of one injured employee who benefitted from the PWP.

Chris was working as a big-rig mechanic for a potato processing plant. In 2012, while trying to clear debris from a potato harvester (hooked to a 400 - horsepower tractor that was still running), the harvester grabbed the glove on Chris' left hand and yanked him in. Due to his size and strength, Chris was able to resist the pull of the machine and got away but was injured. His chest was bruised and his left arm was crushed and severely burned.

Due to the incident, Chris has a permanent disability that significantly limits his left arm's range of motion.

WORKERS COMPENSATION ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS:

  • The worker identified a new work opportunity following his accident
  • The PWP fully assessed the worker's eligibility and work restrictions to determine if he could receive benefits
  • The worker qualified for PWP benefits that allowed him to buy office equipment and new clothes for his new accounting job and relocated his family
  • The worker was motivated by the support he received and graduated from college with an accounting degree

Chris had to find new work to support his family. He turned to his father-in-law, Steve Simpson, a partner in an accounting firm. Unfortunately, although skilled at math, Chris did not have an accounting degree, which is typically a requirement for the job.

Ultimately, Simpson's accounting firm reached out to the PWP for assistance to bring Chris back into the workforce. After an assessment of Chris' eligibility and work restrictions, the PWP provided funds to help pay for a computer, phone equipment, and worksite modifications that included an adjustable keyboard and an ergonomic chair.

The program also paid to relocate Chris and his family and for new clothes he needed for his job as an accountant. In addition, the program reimbursed his employer for half of Chris' gross wages for six months.

With the assistance of the PWP, Chris has started a new chapter in his life. He graduated from college with an accounting degree and is now studying for the CPA exam.

Additional return-to-work programs offered through the Oregon Department of Workers Compensation include the Employer-at-Injury Program (EAIP) and Vocational assistance. Visit wcd.oregon.gov/worker/Pages/return-to-work.aspx for further details.