Monday, December 5, 2011

Is It Okay to Return to Work?

When a patient asks you if it’s okay to return to work after an injury or surgery what do you base your decision on? 

When I was in practice I would base my on what the injury was, how the individual seemed to be healing, and what type of work they did.  It was simple when I could simply write a note that said something like “T. J. can return to light duty on  ____ and to full, unrestricted duty on _____.”

I did not like having to fill out the short term disability forms, but with my new understanding of the legal definitions of work (heavy, medium, light, sedentary) I would find it much easier to do.  I also understand how this is much more helpful to the individual’s work supervisor than my one line note.

Different jobs are classified as heavy, medium, light, and sedentary depending on the exertion required to do them.

Heavy Work
  • Can lift and carry up to, or more than 100 pounds frequently.
  • Can lift and carry up to 50 pounds occasionally
  • Is able to stand or walk, off and on, for a total 6 hours in an 8-hour workday

Types of heavy work include construction cleanup

 

Medium work
  • Can lift and carry up to pounds at a time occasionally
  • Can lift and carry up to 25 pounds frequently
  • Is able to stand or walk, off and on, for a total 6 hours in an 8-hour workday

Type of medium work include many skilled trade jobs such as construction, plumbing, etc.

 

Light work
  • Can lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally
  • Can lift and carry 10 pounds frequently
  • Is able to stand or walk, off and on, for a total 6 hours in an 8-hour workday

Types of light jobs include nurse, teacher, cashier, etc.

 

Sedentary work
  • Can lift and carry up to 10 pounds occasionally
  • Can lift and carry less than 10 frequently
  • Is able to stand or walk, off and on, for a total 2 hours in an 8-hour workday

Sedentary work is your basic “sit-down job” such as receptionist, dispatcher, assembler, etc.

 

Limitations of reaching, pushing, pulling, stair climbing, stooping, and crouching placed on a light work restriction can move the individual to a sedentary restriction by nature of the job requirements.

Limitations on fingering (keying, typing) can make it difficult for an individual to perform their work even when given a sedentary restriction.

 

“Occasionally” means occurring from very little up to one-third of the time. “Frequent” means occurring from one-third to two-thirds of the time.

Other things that affect an individuals ability to return to their work may involve the work place environment—dust, fumes, chemical exposure, etc.

For more information about  how Social Security defines the different exertional levels see SSR 83-10.  

1 comment:

Mal Content said...

Thanks for posting this definition...its the most common question I ever get asked irrespective of the presenting illness or injury...incl...when can my child go back to school