Work Injury Prevention and Management

What is Work Injury Prevention and Management?

Work Injury Prevention and Management is beneficial to both employer and employees. Work injuries can be costly to all parties involved. Whether you are an employer or an employee, when a worker gets hurt on the job, it can be devastating. When all is said and done, both the employer and employee wishes the incident never occurred in the first place as the price everyone pays is high.

There are a variety of reasons why an injury may occur while on the job. It can range from a safety issue to an employee not being physical fit, or ready, for the job or even in some cases it is simply an unforeseen and unavoidable accident.

Regardless of how the incident occurred, there are high costs associated with a work-related injury. The costs are not just financial, but it can also place a burden on the employer and employee relationship as well as affecting the employee’s personal life at home.

Work injuries can range from mild to severe and in some unfortunate cases even death. In addition, there is also the possibility of presenteeism. This is when an employee is physically at work; however, the capacity to perform his or her work is diminished due to an illness or injury (work related or not). This means the employee is present, but performance of the job is significantly affected.

In good faith as well as through various regulations, employers invest heavily into making sure the work environment for their employees is safe. Employers understand how valuable it is to have healthy employees. When an employee gets hurt and can’t work, this can be very costly.

Employees work hard for an honest day’s work and they are proud to be a part of the workforce. They take pride in their job and work to put food on the table and hopefully to make a better life for themselves and their family.

When an on-the-job injury occurs, this can shatter the good intentions and will of both the employer and employee. Frustrations, mistrust, and hurt feelings may arise when a work injury is not properly managed.

Employers struggle with how to properly manage a work injury. They need to do what is right by the employee, but they also have a business to run. When an employee can’t perform the job, this is both challenging and costly.

Meanwhile, the employee may feel the employer doesn’t understand the burden that was bestowed upon them due to the injury. The work comp system is complex and getting immediate and effective care can be challenging. The desire to be back to work and back to normal is high, but the system can sometimes get in the way of return work intentions.

The work comp system is complex with many challenging dynamics. Along with the federal government, each state has various laws, regulations, and requirements managing the expectations of this complex system. There are services available to help employers and employees with preventing and managing work-related injuries.

What solutions are there for work injury prevention and management?

Work injury prevention and management goes beyond federal and state regulations and compliance requirements. There are experts in this field that can help employers and employees in the prevention and management of work-related injuries.

Prevention programs are created to assist employers and employees with cost effective solutions in preventing injuries. This can range from ensuring a new employee is physically ready for the job to making sure current employees stay fit for the job.

Preventative programs may include:

  • Fit for duty-job matching the new employee to the physical demands of the job
    • Development of functional job descriptions to establish the necessary physical demands of each job
    • Job match testing to ensure a new employee is physically able to perform the demands of the job (follows ADAAA guidelines)
  • Musculoskeletal management-address small and simple employee aches and pains before they become a costly loss-time injury
  • Ergonomics 101-collaborate with leadership and employees on reducing physical stressors of the job by implementing cost effective solutions that prevent worker fatigue and injuries
    • Training for the employer and employees is available ensuring everyone knows the expectations of how to perform their jobs safely
  • Healthy lifestyle consulting-collaborating with the employer on education and training opportunities to keep employees healthy and “fit for duty”
    • Create customized fitness and conditioning programs specifically with the intention to keep workers healthy and fit for the job demands

In the unfortunate circumstance when an injury has occurred, there are experts available to help both the employer and employee manage the injury and return to work abilities. It can be frustrating for employers, they don’t always fully understand how to manage restrictions of the employee. The goal is to keep the employee safe and prevent further injury while working, but the big question is how does an employer do this?

For the employee, the recovery of the injury can be difficult and help is needed to prepare him or her for returning to regular work duties. The longer an employee is off the job, the less likely he or she will return. It is the goal of everyone to get the employee back to work quickly and safely. Sometimes that means a slow transition with increasing physical demands and other times the employee may be ready to return with minimal difficulty. Every case is unique.

Injury management programs may include:

  • Transitional Work-Assistance is available to help with understanding and implementing job modifications and meaningful transitional work. This helps both the employer and employee with understanding how to return the employee back work safely.
  • Early Intervention– Early intervention is key to preventing an injury from becoming a lost-time case. The sooner an issue can be addressed, the less costly it is for everyone. Establishing a trustworthy and quality program for allowing employees to manage aches and pains is critical in preventing costly lost-time cases down the road.
  • Acute Physical or Occupational Therapy-Proper rehabilitation of injuries coupled with preparing the employee for returning to work, is critical. PTs and OTs are highly qualified in both prevention and management of work related injuries.
  • Work Conditioning– Some jobs are more physically demanding than others. A work conditioning program prepares the employee for returning to work safely. Both the employer and employee can have confidence in the employee returning safely and preventing re-injury.
  • Disability Management-When an injury is significant and the determination is made that the employee cannot return to the same job, often a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE) is completed. The FCE is performed by a qualified PT or OT who understands the science behind pain and pain behaviors coupled with a strong knowledge base in the anatomy and the capabilities of the human body. Understanding these variables is critical to understanding how to manage a disability case. The assessment determines the physical abilities of the employee so that the employer can determine which job the employee can do. In some cases, the employer cannot accommodate the physical restrictions in which case other services like vocational rehab may get involved to assist with job placement opportunities.

Next Steps

Regardless if you are an employer or employee, there is help available in the prevention and management of work-related injuries. Not all PTs and OTs perform this type of service, please click on Find A Clinic to find a PT or OT in your area that performs prevention and management services for work-related injuries.

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