Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation
Information Bulletin

August 24, 2001 Christine Baker
(415) 703-4220

CHSWC Issues Report on Return-to-Work in California

SAN FRANCISCO --  The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) has approved a report entitled "Return-to-Work in California: Listening to Stakeholders’ Voices".

The report was prepared by the Institute of Industrial Relations and faculty from the Center for Occupational and at the University of California at Berkeley under contract with CHSWC.

For many industrially-injured workers with permanent disabilities, workers’ compensation benefits alone are insufficient to replace lost wages. Returning to work in sustained employment, therefore is probably the best way for injured workers to avoid significant financial losses. In addition, scientific evidence shows that returning to medically-suitable modified-duty work aids healing and recovery. Many obstacles, however, hinder successful and sustained return-to-work, including communication problems and financial disincentives of important stakeholders in the workers’ compensation system.

This study examined perspectives and insights from five interest groups and strategies suggested by the study participants to overcome problems that hinder return-to-work in California. Focus groups of injured workers, claims administrators, union representatives, management representatives, and health care providers were conducted to discuss medical practices, employer programs and policies, and workers’ compensation claims programs that can help injured workers return to long-term, sustained employment. The participants also discussed problems that make it difficult for injured workers to return to work and possible methods to overcome those problems.

The Commission is charged with overseeing the health and safety and workers' compensation systems in California and recommending administrative or legislative modifications to improve their operation. The Commission was established to conduct a continuing examination of the workers' compensation system and of the state's activities to prevent industrial injuries and occupational diseases and to examine those programs in other states.

Since its inception in 1994, the Commission has held meetings, conducted fact-finding hearings, and directed several studies to determine how these crucial programs are serving California employees and employers. These studies, conducted by independent research organizations under contract with the Commission, and other activities were aided by the involvement of state agency personnel and interested members of the workers’ compensation community. This cooperative public-private partnership continues to work together to identify, describe, measure and propose solutions to problems and difficulties in the current health and safety and workers’ compensation systems.

"Return-to-Work in California: Listening to Stakeholders’ Voices" and other CHSWC publications are available at CHSWC’s home page at A copy of the report may be obtained at no charge by writing to the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, 10th Floor, San Francisco, California 94102, by calling (415) 703-4220, by faxing a request to (415) 703-4234, or by emailing