Workplace injuries are detrimental to both employees and employers. They can be life-changing for the employee, while for the employer, they can lead to unplanned downtime, increased associated costs and a decline in workplace satisfaction and morale.
In the event of a workplace incident, getting workers back to work safely and efficiently is key to prioritising the health and wellbeing of the affected employees and minimising the negative impacts on the business.Research suggests that the longer a worker stays away from work after an incident, the less likely they are to return to the workplace at their original capacity. Having an effective injury management plan is critical to mitigating this risk, regardless of the size and industry you operate in.
What is injury management?
Injury management refers to the reporting, rehabilitation and return to work strategies that are put in place to support the health and wellbeing of a worker injured in the workplace. Its objective is to facilitate a safe and early return to the workplace for workers post injury.
An effective injury management strategy is dynamic, can be modified to suit an employee’s unique situation and fosters two way communication and collaboration between the workplace, affected worker and other stakeholders including unions, insurers and medical professionals. Key elements in an injury management plan include:
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Managing stakeholder relationships
All of which can be managed in house, or by a workplace rehabilitation provider.
What is rehabilitation?
An early step in the injury management process, rehabilitation aims to help an individual remain as independent and capable as possible in everyday activities to lead a meaningful life both in and out of the workplace.
Vocational Rehabilitation & Returning to Work
Vocational rehabilitation refers to rehabilitation specific to the workplace. It includes assessing the needs of the injured worker and developing a strategy that enables the worker to be engaged in the workplace. A comprehensive rehabilitation plan is beneficial to both the employee and the employer.
For employees, it means:
- Minimal disruption to family, work and social life
- Improved physical ability and confidence in returning to work
- Faster recovery
- An improved sense of purpose
- Job and financial security
For employers, it means:
- Retention of skilled workers
- Reduced costs associated with injury management
- Improved workplace morale
In most cases, an injured employee will not be able to return to their pre-injury role at full capacity immediately following an incident, but they may have the ability to undertake other duties. This is where a suitable duties program comes into play.
A suitable duties program can include a worker’s pre-injury tasks that are modified or restricted to suit, or an entirely new set of tasks – both of which aim to enable the employee to return to their full capacity in due time.
It is an employer’s responsibility to work with the employee and their doctor to identify opportunities for a worker to take on meaningful tasks that suit their capabilities and add value to the workplace.
Managing Stakeholder Relationships
Sustaining and recovering from a workplace injury can be a stressful time for an employee. By taking responsibility and actively participating in the injury management process from start to finish, an employer can ensure the employee feels supported and a positive workplace relationship is maintained. This can be achieved by:
- Creating a positive safety culture
Employees must feel empowered to report injuries in the workplace, no matter how minor, and have confidence in knowing it will be handled professionally and escalated as necessary without any negative repercussions.
Workplace injuries must be reported as soon as they occur, enabling both the treatment and management of the injury to begin as soon as possible. The sooner this happens, the sooner the employee can return to work.
- Taking a collaborative approach
When multiple stakeholders are involved, transparent and open communication will ensure all parties are on the same page and understand their responsibilities throughout the entire process.
As an employer, it is important to maintain regular communication with the employee, insurance providers and medical professionals. Be open to feedback and be willing to adapt the injury management process to facilitate a seamless and positive experience for all stakeholders.
As an employee, actively participating in the process by keeping the employer and medical professionals updated on their recovery and considering all return to work options that are made available will accelerate their ability to return to a normal lifestyle both in and out of the workplace.
- Offering ongoing support
Although facilitating a supportive workplace culture where employees feel valued and respected should be at the forefront of any business, it is especially important during the injury management process.
Injured workers can often face an unconscious bias or stigma among co-workers when returning to work. Creating a culture where managers and senior staff support injured workers can help to positively influence attitudes and behaviours company wide.
Workplace Rehabilitation Provider Approval
Many companies choose to engage the expertise of a workplace rehabilitation provider to assist in developing and implementing injury management and return to work strategies, to ensure a seamless and compliant process.
A workplace rehabilitation provider is made up of qualified health professionals who specialise in understanding the complex needs of workers and employees to achieve a safe and timely return to work following an injury. These services are usually offered face to face or via video consult.
A workplace rehabilitation provider can manage individual cases from start to finish, including:
- Assessing an employee’s capacity to perform certain tasks
- Developing, implementing and monitoring a vocational rehabilitation or return to work plan
- Creating a suitable duties plan
- Advising on task modifications
- Rehabilitation counselling
- Vocational assessments
- Advice or assistance in arranging vocational re-education or re-training
A workplace rehabilitation provider will work closely with an employer to examine the elements that contributed to an employee’s injury, minimise the risk of further harm to themselves or others, and help to improve the overall safety and wellbeing of the workforce.
Logic Health offers comprehensive injury management and rehabilitation services to businesses of various sizes across a range of industries 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through their injury management hotline, Rapid. To find out more, visit https://www.logichealth.com.au/injury-management/