The value of collaboration in difficult-to-accommodate professions

Two heads can be better than one. When it comes to accommodating employees with disabling illnesses and injuries, this is especially true. Collaboration is key — on the part of the employee, employer and disability provider — particularly for professions that may have guidelines or restrictions due to the materials they are working with, daily processes or available space.

Three recent success stories of employees with difficult-to-accommodate professions demonstrate the value of collaboration in navigating return-to-work solutions.

Seeking a safe, workable solution for a school bus driver
Safety, above all, is imperative for professions that work with children. Recently, the Workplace Possibilities team helped a school bus driver who was under evaluation for sleep apnea, which legally prevented him from driving a school bus.

To find a workable solution, we evaluated the school bus driver’s work experience and discussed temporary job assignments with his employer. Ultimately, the school bus driver was able to return to work as a transportation safety education assistant until his sleep disorder stabilized.

Designing a customized plan for an electronic parts assembler
When being on your feet all day is a job requirement, how can you help an employee who is having troubles?  Consider the case of an electronic parts assembler who had difficulties in safely walking down an assembly line due to post-polio syndrome.

A Workplace Possibilities consultant performed an industrial worksite analysis of the assembler’s work tasks, along with careful evaluation of the risk factors associated with the employee’s gait instability. After detailed measurements of the workstations and doorways, hazard zones and other potential obstacles, the assembler was outfitted with a custom wheelchair. The wheelchair had a power-assisted, self-elevating seat and swing-away armrests that enabled the assembler to move safely across the plant floor to help him accomplish his regular duties successfully.

Creating comfort for a teacher with spinal fractures
A teaching schedule can be hard on the body. A teaching schedule combined with a serious injury can be even more challenging.

A teacher who was recovering from multiple spinal fractures due to an accident was cleared to return to work by her treating doctor — with the stipulation she be allowed to rest in a reclined position for approximately 15 minutes between classes.

To identify a return-to-work plan, the teacher and her treating doctor met with a Workplace Possibilities consultant and reviewed the physical requirements at her school, such as the demands of walking between classrooms. Collaboration with the school principal resulted in approval of a physical therapy bed in the faculty lounge and a specialized stool for the teacher to use while teaching.

For difficult-to-accommodate professions, employer willingness to collaborate and create a workable, safe return-to-work plan is a requirement. Often, the right solutions are not at our fingertips. It takes knowledge, expertise and, most of all, collaboration to arrive at a successful outcome and see the possibilities that may not be readily apparent.

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