In today’s environment, work place injuries remain a topic of concern for employers and insurance professionals alike.
Many risk managers have worked with employers to develop effective injury and illness prevention programs, host regular safety meetings with monthly tailgate topics, and worked with company management to create a culture of safety. After all of these proactive measures, injuries still happen…and then what? Despite the best efforts of employers and risk management consultants, workplace injures do occur, and it is often at this juncture that a risk management consultant can be of greatest value to an employer.
Injuries in the workplace not only cost employers money, but also have the potential to negatively affect employee morale. What is an employer to do? Fortunately for employers, a well-structured Post Injury Management Program can result in improved control of injuries when they do occur, and more importantly, can bring the injured employee back to work and also significantly improve employee engagement and morale.
Simply put, a Post Injury Management Program is a system for monitoring workplace injuries, maintaining contact with the injured employee, and then returning the employee to modified duty as soon as possible. Most safety conscious employers have some type of Early Return to Work program in place, and the Post Injury Management Program goes a step further, enabling the employer more control of the return to work process and also allowing the employer to stay connected to the injured employee.
The principal shortcoming of traditional Early Return to Work Programs has been a lack of communication between the employer and the injured employee. All too often, the injured employee receives contact from only the Human Resource Department or company nurse. As the injured employee works through the recovery process, he or she may feel disengaged or disconnected from their employer. Many employees at this stage feel “banished” by their employer, and receive no contact from co-workers or supervisors. Employees at this stage may feel disgruntled, and all too often, these injuries result in litigious action.
Communication with employee
The first component of a successful Post Injury Management Program is focused around communication with the injured employee. Managers, supervisors and co-workers are encouraged to contact the injured employee, letting the employee know they are missed and valued. Under conventional Early Return to Work Programs, managers, supervisors and co-workers have been too afraid to contact the injured worker. This lack of communication can be destructive to employee morale and engagement. Improved communication is a fundamental key to the success of a Post Injury Management Program, and this subtle change can pay huge dividends for the employer and employee.
Return to work
The second key component of the Post Injury Management program begins when the employee returns to work. The goal of this program is to return the employee to the workplace as soon as possible, and to create bridge jobs for the employee upon his or her return. A bridge job is modified duty based on the employee’s capabilities, and duty that bridges the gap between the employee’s current capabilities and their pre-injury duties.
Communication with managers
The third critical component of a successful program includes communication with front-line managers and supervisors. When the injured employee returns to the workplace, front-line managers and supervisors should meet with the Human Resource Director or safety officer and determine the employee’s capabilities. All discussion of the employee’s capabilities should be positive, focusing on what the employee can do, rather than focusing on limitations. For example, these meetings should focus on the employee’s ability to lift up to 25 pounds, rather than the limitation of not lifting anything over 25 pounds. This subtle shift in language has a tremendous impact on the morale of the injured employee, and by celebrating the employee’s capabilities, the employee feels supported and valued by the employer.
Tracking bridge jobs
Once these bridge jobs are established for the employee, it is critical that these assignments be tracked by supervisors, and that the employee and management staff communicate regularly on the employee’s progress. Bridge jobs are designed to be temporary, with the goal of returning the employee to their pre-injury responsibilities as soon as possible. Again, communicationis the key.
The Post Injury Management Program is a natural evolution of the Early Return to Work Programs that many of our clients already have in place. By adopting these subtle changes, employers and risk managers have a wonderful opportunity to reach out and make the injured employee feel like a valued part of the organization.
Everyone wants to feel like a valuable part of their organization. The Post Injury Management Program provides employers with a rare opportunity to make an injured team member feel valuable and needed. Reaching out at this critical juncture is easy to do and can pay dividends for years to come.
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