Disability Management

Disability management is operationally defined as an active process of minimizing the impact of an impairment (resulting from injury, illness or disease) on the individual's capacity to participate competitively in the work environment. Disability management requires the active planning and co-ordination of Labour, Management, Insurance carriers, Workers' Compensation Boards, Health Care Providers and Vocational Rehabilitation Professionals.

The basic principles of disability management are as follows:

  • It is a proactive (not passive or reactive) process;
  • It is a process that enables Labour and Management to assume joint responsibility as proactive decision makers, planners and coordinators of workplace based interventions and services;
  • It promotes disability prevention strategies, rehabilitation treatment concepts and safe return to work programs designed to control the personal and economic costs of workplace injury and disability.

Occupational Health Professionals hold a unique position in disability coordination because they have the knowledge, the capability and the trust to serve as both employee advocate and employer agent in communications. The information and expertise of Occupational Health Professionals in terms of employee health status, demands of the work site, medical community resources and insurance provisions delineate the Occupational Health Professionals as key liaison among the involved parties.

The concept of disability management has four elements: prevention, planning, process and productivity. As facilitators, Occupational Health Professionals empower the employees to gain control of the work environment and lifestyles to prevent disabling illnesses or injuries. In the event of an illness or injury, Occupational Health Professionals coordinate employee progression from injury/illness through rehabilitation to productivity.

The reality of disability management is recognizing that there are obstacles to returning employees to work. These are individual characteristics, the extent and the type of illness or injury, and factors associated with the work and/or home situation. Management/Labour Relations and job satisfaction play a significant role in returning to work. The challenge for Occupational Health Professionals is assuming responsibility for communication among all members of the team, keeping all involved parties fully informed in order to motivate and facilitate progress toward return to work.


Dr. Eric Rumack
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Bus: 647-822-2896 | Email: doctor@rumack.ca