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Work-Related Accident and Return to Work

SUBJECT: Work-Related Accident and Return to Work
EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015


Vanderbilt is committed to a safe workplace and the prevention of work-related injuries or illness. Vanderbilt complies with all state workers' compensation laws that govern work-related injuries and illnesses. Additionally, Vanderbilt has developed a Return to Work Program to assist eligible employees who are temporarily unable to return to regular duties as a result of an employment-related injury or illness (the term 'injury' will be used to reference 'injury and illness').


  • In the event an employee is injured at work, he/she is to report the injury to his/her supervisor immediately or as soon as is practical.
  • Upon being notified of the injury, the supervisor is to complete an online web-based form located at the Human Resources site under the  workers' compensation policy page.
  • If the injury requires medical attention;
    • The supervisor directs the employee to the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic (VOHC).
    • For injuries requiring immediate care after hours or on weekends when VOHC is closed, the supervisor directs the employee to the Adult Emergency Department (ED).
  • When medical care is required away from campus, the employee reports to the nearest medical provider walk-in clinic for minor injuries.
  • For a serious injury, 911 should be called in order to secure immediate medical attention at the nearest emergency department.
  • Time spent in the initial medical visit due to a compensable work-related injury is considered work time. Once seen, a determination will be made to send the employee home or return him/her to work. 

A. Reporting Work-Related Accidents/Injuries/Illnesses

  1. The injured employee reports his/her injury to the direct supervisor immediately following the event.
  2. Upon being advised of the injury, the supervisor on duty at the time of the injury is to report immediately to the scene of the accident, as appropriate, to ensure prompt medical attention for the employee(s) involved and to address any safety hazards which may have caused or contributed to the injury. In the event the injury occurs outside the employee's home department, the supervisor on duty in the area where the injury occurs is to report to the scene immediately.
  3. It is essential that the supervisor complete the web based form or "First Report of Work Injury" form within 48 hours.
  4. In addition to completing the form, the supervisor is to inform Risk Management of the names of any persons who may have witnessed the injury.
  5. The supervisor is to advise Vanderbilt Environmental Health and Safety (VEHS) of immediate hazards which warrant prompt investigation and/or remedy.

B. Special Considerations for care outside of the Occupational Health Clinic

  1. For employees who work off campus or out of state: In the event of a serious injury, report to the nearest Emergency Department.
    • For all minor injuries, the injured employee may be evaluated at the nearest walk-in clinic for an initial medical evaluation. If follow up medical treatment is necessary, employees are asked to contact Risk and Insurance Management for a panel of authorized physicians from which to choose.
  2. All employees, on campus or off, are to inform the medical provider treating them that they are being treated for a work-related injury.

C. Lost Time from Work

  1. If an employee is unable to return to work following a work-related injury, the supervisor is responsible for notifying the Office of Risk and Insurance Management. Once the employee is scheduled to return to work, the supervisor is to notify the Office of Risk and Insurance Management.
  2. Employees may use accrued time off banks to supplement Workers' Compensation benefits, up to their regular base salary. This process is coordinated through the payroll department.
  3. Time away from work is considered leave time and is covered by the policies for FMLA and Non-FMLA leave if the time has been requested and approved consistent with these policies. There is no special leave status for work-related injuries.

D. Eligibility for Return to Work Program

Vanderbilt University recognizes that returning employees to work following a compensable work-related injury benefits both the employee and the employer.

  1. To be eligible for participation in the Return to Work Program, an employee must be temporarily unable, due to medical restrictions, to return to his/her regular duties as a result of a compensable work-related injury.
  2. An employee must be in a regular or term staff position. Employees in a temporary, VTS or PRN position are not eligible to participate in the Return to Work program. In addition, employees in positions supported by grants, contracts, or other sponsored programs that have specific requirements or restrictions may not be eligible for the Return to Work program depending on their terms.
  3. An employee who meets the eligibility requirements for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may elect to use FMLA leave rather than participate in the Return to Work program. If FMLA is not available, the employee may request Non-FMLA Medical Leave or leave as an accommodation through the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Disability Services Department (EAD). An election for leave when an employee may return under this program may impact workers' compensation benefits. Employees should consult with Risk Management to understand how temporary disability benefits will be impacted.

E. Process for Return to Work Program

  1. Once notified of a work-related injury, the VOHC will determine from the health care provider if the employee can return to work with or without restrictions.
  2. A Return to Work Form will be used by the health care provider to indicate and outline specific restrictions and the duration of those restrictions.
  3. The parameters of the Return to Work program and the expectations will be given to the employee by a representative of the VOHC.
  4. If the health care provider determines that the employee can return to work with restrictions, then the Return to Work Coordinator can assist the home department with identifying modified duty, as appropriate.
  5. While an employee is participating in the Return to Work Program s/he is expected to meet the performance needs of the organization.

F. Duration of Return to Work Program

  1. The VOHC will periodically monitor the employee's progress.
  2. Placement through the Return to Work Program is a temporary measure to facilitate early return to work and cannot exceed 90 calendar days in duration, commencing upon the employee's return to work.
  3. Any continuous medical leave related to a work-related injury does not count toward the 90 calendar day time frame; all other leaves unrelated to the work injury will not alter the 90 calendar day time frame. Any request for an extension to the 90 calendar day time frame must be made to VOHC and will be reviewed by VOHC, EAD, and HR.
  4. If the employee is not expected to return to regular job duties by the end of the RTW program the employee should be referred to EAD and their Human Resources Consultant for further assistance. Any questions regarding this program should be referred to the VOHC.


  1. A work-related injury for the purposes of this policy is an injury which is considered to be compensable under the workers' compensation laws as determined by the Office of Risk and Insurance Management. Payment of workers' compensation benefits will be administered by the Office of Risk and Insurance Management.
  2. Employees eligible: All employees of Vanderbilt are eligible for workers' compensation.
  3. The Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic (VOHC) is responsible for administering the Return to Work Program in consultation with the Offices of Insurance and Risk Management, Human Resources, and the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services Department (EAD).
  4. An employee's home department is the department to which his/her regular pre-injury/illness position is assigned.

This policy is intended as a guideline to assist in the consistent application of University policies and programs for employees. The policy does not create a contract implied or expressed, with any Vanderbilt employee, who are employees at will. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify this policy in whole or in part, at any time, at the discretion of the University.

Approved by Traci K. Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor

Approved by Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor for Administration

Vanderbilt University is committed to ensuring equal employment opportunities. In compliance with federal law, including the provisions of TITLE IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Vanderbilt University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, or military service in its administration of educational policies, programs or activities; its admissions policies; scholarship or loan programs; athletic or other University-administered programs; or employment. In addition, the University does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation consistent with University nondiscrimination policy.