Injury Management 101

Injury management is an important part of any facility’s safety management program. Facilities should have a plan to prevent injuries from happening, as well as a plan to handle the effects of an injury on the facility and employee. Injury Management can be broken down into three portions: (1) Ways to prevent injuries from occurring, (2) mitigating the effects of an injury on the business, and (3) returning the employee to work as soon as possible. When a facility implements programs and takes the steps to minimize the effects of an injury, it can reduce the total cost and impact of the injury.

Costs of injuries can be broken down into two categories, direct and indirect costs. Direct costs of an injury are the costs that are directly associated with the injury, such as medical treatment, medicine, or physical therapy. Meanwhile, indirect costs are costs that are sometimes forgotten, such as a loss of productivity, equipment damage, retraining employees, or overtime. Indirect costs can often be more expensive than the direct costs of an injury—sometimes up to 10 times that of the direct costs. Implementing injury prevention and return to work programs can help a facility reduce the overall costs associated with workplace injuries.

Ways to Prevent Workplace Injuries From Occurring

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs

Injury and Illness Prevention (I2P2) Programs are a preventative approach to reducing workplace injuries by identifying and controlling hazards prior to injuries occurring. I2P2 programs incorporate effective injury prevention methods such as employee-run safety committees, employee safety observation/reporting opportunities, and near miss reporting. Implementation of these programs engages employees in the safety program and gives them the opportunity to participate in identifying and correcting potential safety issues. This allows for the facility to apply the necessary controls to the hazards identified prior to any injury occurring. Not only can the implementation of an I2P2 program help to reduce injuries, but it can also help to develop or improve the overall safety culture of the facility.

Job Hazard Assessments

Job Hazard Assessments (JHAs) are a method to identify and control hazards before injuries occur. JHAs are a required part of a facility’s injury prevention program. A JHA takes a detailed look at the steps required for completing an employee task while assessing it for hazards (i.e., mechanical hazards, struck-by hazards, chemical hazards, etc.). Once the hazards associated with the task are identified, then controls for each task must be implemented. This process can help to identify and control hazards associated with employee tasks to prevent injuries from occurring.

Mitigating the Effects of Workplace Injuries on the Facility

Injury Investigation

Once a workplace injury occurs, we must be prepared and know what to do next. The first step should always involve getting the injured employee the assistance they need while ensuring other employees’ safety. The next step is to complete a thorough injury investigation. Generally, the supervisor of the area where the incident occurred will lead the investigation with assistance from witnesses, the injured employee, or the safety manager. The employees involved in the incident investigation may differ depending on the severity or complexity of the incident. More complicated incidents may require collaboration from multiple departments to determine the cause. When conducting an injury investigation, it is important to identify the true root cause of the injury. Once the root cause of the injury is identified, then corrective actions must be implemented. The goal of the corrective actions should be to ensure that the same type of injury will not happen again.

Return to Work Program

Implementation of a return to work program can help to manage an employee injury and reduce the impact of the indirect costs associated with the injury. After an injury occurs, the goal should be to get the injured employee back to work as soon as possible, even if they must participate in light-duty work. Participating in light-duty work can reduce some of the indirect costs incurred by the facility and keep the employee at work on active duty rather than at home.

Steps to developing a return to work program:

  1. Analyze historical loss data:
    Review of OSHA 300 logs or injury reports to help identify injury trends or patterns in areas that may need additional controls.
  2. Develop written job descriptions:
    Simply written statements that describe the work to be performed and the essential requirements of the job. Job descriptions should include information such as tasks of the job, physical demands, environmental demands, training/educational requirements. Written job descriptions can help with planning production processes.
  3. Develop transitional jobs:
    Review tasks within the facility that could be considered as transitional duty options: data entry, cleaning, inventory controls, etc. Once the transitional duties are selected, job descriptions must be written for these tasks as well. The written transitional job descriptions can be compared to employees’ restrictions to determine if transitional work is a viable option.
  4. Select a “preferred provider” for medical treatment:
    Facilities should identify and establish relationships with medical providers that employees would visit for work-related injuries. The “preferred provider” chosen should specialize in industrial injuries and understand the type of work completed. The facility should work with the preferred provider to ensure that they understand the basic requirements of the jobs at the facility and the transitional jobs available. The preferred provider can also be invited to tour the facility to better understand the job descriptions.
  5. Ensure effective communication with the physician:
    Clear and effective communication with the providing physician after a work-related injury is imperative. The facility will need to ensure that the physician has provided a diagnosis of the injury and a detailed description of the limitations of the injured employee. Communication is also important after all follow-up visits to determine any possible changes to employees’ restrictions.

Injury management is an essential process in reducing the effect of workplace injuries on a business. Implementing I2P2 programs and return to work programs can greatly reduce the cost and impact of work-related injuries.

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