Editor's Note

Editor's Note: Hoping for a ‘win-win’

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A few years ago, when Safety+Health published an article about what some employers are doing to accommodate aging workers, I shared in this column the story of a relative by marriage who has worked most of his adult life in a manufacturing plant, and the toll the physical labor has taken on his body. The story included his reluctance to take time off to seek treatment for a condition causing him chronic pain.

This month, S+H features an article about return-to-work programs, and once more I’m reminded of the gentleman. Earlier this year, the pain finally became too much for him, and he underwent surgery. He didn’t have an easy time of it, but he isn’t the type of person who can sit back and relax for very long, so he went back to work as soon as he could. Too soon, his wife believes. After a brief recovery period, he jumped right back into 12-hour shifts.

Fast forward to now: The healing process didn’t go as planned, and he’s in as much pain as he ever was – maybe more, although it’s hard to know for sure because he doesn’t like to talk about it. For his family, friends and others who care about him, it’s a heartbreaking thing to witness, and we’re left wondering how long he can continue at a job that he had hoped would see him through to retirement.

In this month’s article, Senior Associate Editor Kyle W. Morrison quotes one expert who says a strong return-to-work program is a “win-win,” benefiting both the injured worker (who stays employed) and the employer (who retains the worker and can experience reduced workers’ compensation costs). Although the story I’ve relayed here doesn’t involve workers’ comp, Kyle’s exploration of how employers, doctors and employees can work together to keep people on the job – and, hopefully, pain-free – certainly resonates with me.

The opinions expressed in “Editor’s Note” do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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