Washington L&I Light Duty Program Tops 20,000

According to L&I, as of Nov. 29, more than 4,500 employers had used the program to offer light-duty jobs to help thousands of workers return to work as part of their recovery from a workplace injury or illness.

Washington state's Department of Labor & Industries announced that its program supporting light-duty jobs after workplace injuries has reached two major milestones: The Stay at Work Program has now helped more than 20,000 injured workers and provided more than $50 million to reimburse businesses that take part. The program pays employers for part of the costs associated with offering light-duty jobs to injured workers.

"This return-to-work incentive is changing the workers' compensation system, and more importantly, changing workers' lives and improving the bottom line for employers," said Vickie Kennedy, L&I's assistant director of Insurance Services.

According to L&I, as of Nov. 29, more than 4,500 employers had used the program to offer light-duty jobs to help thousands of workers return to work as part of their recovery from a workplace injury or illness. It described Mao Pen, an industrial seamstress at Seattle Tarp, as an example of those helped by the Stay at Work Program; she broke her left elbow and forearm last June when she fell while helping co-workers stretch a large tarp. "It was a horrible break," said Chris Perlatti, president of Seattle Tarp, where Pen has worked for 20 years.

She had surgery and stayed home for three months but wanted to return to work. "And we wanted her back," said Perlatti. "She's a valuable employee and a sweet individual. She's part of our work family." He said L&I's occupational nurse Deirdre Staudt talked with his staff about how light duty could help Pen and Seattle Tarp, with the company able to get reimbursement for half of Pen's light-duty wages (up to 66 days and $10,000), along with costs for training, equipment, tools, and any clothing needed for the light-duty work.

"This is a phenomenal program," said Perlatti. "I wish we had known about it before one of our workers got injured."

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