When an employee suffers a work injury and is returning to work, first and foremost, make sure the employee understands the importance of working within medical restrictions to avoid re-injury.
Once restrictions have been lifted, there are still things you can do to make sure the employee is not re-injured on the job:
- Empower the employee to speak up. Ask for feedback about the employee’s comfort level returning to regular duty. If the employee is concerned about re-injury, he or she may not be ready to go back to regular duties.
- Discuss ways to prevent similar incidents in the future. Talk with the employee about the root cause of the injury, and find ways to eliminate any environmental or behavioral hazards. Don’t take any chances of the same incident happening again.
- Point out the not-so-obvious. For example, a shoulder injury might limit an employee’s ability to catch himself or herself in a slip-and-fall incident. This kind of thing is surprisingly common. Being injured is an unfamiliar state. With it comes new sensations and limitations employees might not be aware of.
- Check in with the employee regularly. Doing the same job tasks an employee did before they were injured may aggravate the same issues and cause re-injury. If the injury was due to repetitive stress, returning to the same job is probably not an option.
- Promote job readiness. Work readiness is important for all workers, not just those who have been re-injured.
- Encourage employees to stretch before beginning work, if it fits within their medical restrictions. For employees working in a labor-intensive work environment, stretching can help gain flexibility, reduce strains and sprains and enhance overall physical fitness and help avoid re-injury.
- Make proper lifting techniques a priority.
- Reinforce wellness and positive life habits. Support awareness and application of proper eating, adequate sleep and regular exercise. Healthy employees are productive employees.