As part of the recent Atlantic Workplace Health and Safety Conference, WCB Workplace Consultant Jill Pulsifer told a story about Michael – a fictional worker dealing with the very real experience of having his life completely changed by workplace injury. It’s a story Jill knows all too well. In a previous job, she was injured at work and got firsthand experience of what it’s like to be off work, having to wait for treatment, and feeling unsure about what the future holds. “It’s the little losses that add up to have a big impact,” she said in her presentation at the 2023 Atlantic Workplace Health & Safety Conference, held in Halifax. For Michael, those losses include not being able to play with his children, not contributing to running a household, and not being able to enjoy physical activities. Today, Jill draws on her own experiences to help employers prepare return-to-work (RTW) programs, which, she says, done effectively, can help change the story for a worker who's "getting back to better." Employers with effective return-to-work programs can significantly reduce the impact of workplace injury for their employees, while helping them get back to their routine and regular life. In addition, return-to-work plans help maintain productivity in the workplace, reduce claims costs, and, in some cases, actually prevent injury. “Employers should be proud to tell their return-to-work stories,” says Jill. Having an effective return-to-work plan is the first place to start. Follow along with Jill in the recorded version of her presentation as she takes you through the essential elements of a return-to-work plan, and the steps all employers can take to reduce the impact of workplace injuries. Elements of a return-to-work plan Advanced planning Return-to-work plans should not be reactive – have one in place before an injury occurs. Start planning now, no matter how small. Assess workplace functions and have a list of potential appropriate transitional duties ready. Develop a relationship with a health care supplier, such as a physiotherapist, so employees have direct access. Ideally, have a RTW coordinator or team that oversees the plan. Education Teach employees to recognize early signs of injury and seek proactive treatment. Ensure everyone knows about the RTW plan and understands what to expect in terms of about the return-to-work process and transitional duties. Share this information in simple, plain language, and do so frequently. Communication Supervisors and managers should talk to employees regularly about how work is going and how the person is doing overall. Create a culture that encourages two-way dialogue about well-being, early intervention, and return to work. Support Remind employees frequently how much you value and appreciate their contribution. Tell them that even when they are less than 100 per cent, they are still an important part of the team. Return-to-Work Resources Employer's Guide for Managing Workplace Injuries Transitional Work Working to Well Getting Back is Part of Getting Better Safe, healthy work can often be part of recovery from workplace injury. The “Getting back is part of getting better” ad campaign reminds Nova Scotia’s workers and employers about the importance of maintaining a connection to the workplace after an injury. “Workplace injuries can drastically change lives, and in addition to the health impacts of the injury itself, disconnecting from work can take a compounding and significant toll on workers, their families, and our communities,” says Dennita Fitzpatrick, Vice President of Prevention and Return to Work for WCB Nova Scotia. “Every workplace injury is different, and recovery looks different for everyone, but one of the things we know is workers who stay at or connected to a supportive workplace suffer fewer complications and recover faster,” she says. “To change the impact of workplace injury in our province, we need to shift our thinking about the role work plays in recovery.” To learn more, visit wcb.ns.ca/WorkingtoWell .