Return to work hazards

When injuries and illness occur in the workplace, it is important for the employer and injured worker to minimize the human and financial impacts by getting the worker back to safe and productive work as soon as medically possible.

Most people who have a workplace injury or illness are able to return to some type of work even while they are recovering. Returning to daily work and life activities can actually help an injured worker's recovery and reduce the chance of long-term disability.

Both the employer and injured worker benefit in cooperating in the worker's early and safe return to work. The worker benefits by restoring his or her source of income and staying active and productive—key elements in the healing and recovery process. The employer benefits by minimizing the financial and human costs of the injury or illness.

Return to Work Regulation for Construction

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), in consultation with construction stakeholders, developed Regulation 35/08 under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. The regulation came into force in September 2008 and deals with return to work and re-employment for the construction industry.

The regulation

  • spells out rules for employers and workers regarding cooperation on return to work
  • describes re-employment obligations for construction employers
  • helps to improve return to work outcomes for the construction sector
  • reflects employment realities that are unique to the construction industry.

The obligations described in the regulation and policies apply to all construction employers—even those with less than 20 workers. Although employers must offer to re-employ injured workers under certain conditions, employers are not required to create jobs that do not exist, nor to offer preferential treatment to injured workers.

A construction employer’s obligation to re-employ begins when he or she is notified that an injured worker, who has been “unable to work” (see the definition in the WSIB’s policies), is medically able to perform

  • the essential duties of his or her pre-injury job
  • suitable construction work, or
  • suitable non-construction work.

The employer must offer the first available job that is consistent with the worker’s abilities. The employer also has an obligation to accommodate the work and the workplace to the needs of the worker, to the extent that the accommodation does not cause the employer undue hardship. An employer is required to accommodate the workplace to the worker’s needs if the employer has “control over the workplace.”

The WSIB’s policies spell out the definitions and details, and cover such issues as

  • the duration of the employer’s obligation to re-employ
  • any difference in responsibilities depending on whether it’s a unionized or a non-unionized environment
  • the definition of suitable work
  • breaches of the reemployment obligation
  • re-employment penalties and payments.

IHSA Resources

Visit IHSA’s Return to Work web page in our Policy and Program Resources section. It includes

  • Sample return to work policies
  • Sample return to work plan
  • Sample return to work forms
  • Sample letters and consent forms.

WSIB Resources

For more resources, visit these pages on the WSIB’s website:

Return to work

  • Responsibilities of employer and worker
  • Disability resources
  • Return to work plans
  • Functional abilities form (FAF)
  • FAF Fact Sheet
  • FAF Guide.

Work reintegration

  • Work reintegration program brochure
  • New policies for work reintegration
  • Responsibilities of workplace parties
  • Work transition plans
  • Relocation services
  • Occupational Disability Response Team (ODRT).