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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 19, 2000. All rights

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Light Duty? Or Watching Soaps: Corporate Health Center

Your loading dock worker has a back injury and can’t

be on the job. He’s going for therapy daily and getting workers

compensation,

but the rest of the time he’s glued to the tube at his home, watching

ESPN and goodness knows what. You don’t want your workers compensation

premiums to rise astronomically, and you are short-handed in general.

So you look for alternatives.

If an employee is on workers compensation for a job-related injury,

"light duty" or "transitional duty" may be an option,

says Joe Whitty, marketing supervisor at the Corporate Health

Center, associated with the Capital Health System on Brunswick Avenue

in Trenton. Such "in-between" work is usually less physically

onerous than the person’s regular job. Maybe the regular job involves

standing at copy machines and walking down corridors to deliver mail.

The transitional job might be sitting down to stuff envelopes or

collate

brochures.

"If your work environment would allow you to go back to your

normal

work duties, with no heavy lifting, not necessarily your normal

function

but still being productive, then you are a candidate for transitional

duty," says Whitty. He has organized a breakfast seminar on

transitional

duty on Tuesday, July 25, at 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at 832 Brunswick

Avenue, Trenton. Free by registration. Call 609-695-7471.

The program is for business owners, human resources personnel, claims

or safety managers, those who deal with workers’ compensation case

managers, and occupational health nurses. Michael J. Makowsky MD,

medical director of the corporate health center, will moderate a panel

that includes Elizabeth Schneider RN, director of medical services

of New Jersey Transit, representing the employers; Janice Pesco,

director of corporate rehabilitation, representing the therapy

perspective;

and Edward H. Herman of Hill Wallack, representing the legal

perspective.

Not every workplace can accommodate transitional duty, and often union

policies are the deciding factors. In the prison systems, for

instance,

prison guards are not good candidates for light duty. The requirements

for that job are full responsibilities or nothing, says Whitty.

One major caveat: Be careful that temporary work assignments don’t

become permanent work assignments. Workers can get too comfy watching

TV at home, but at least they aren’t earning their full salaries at

home. Start paying someone full salary for an easy job and you’d

better

make sure they are well aware that this good deal is only temporary.


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