Going Back to Work After an On-the-job Injury

Some background about workplace accidents:

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When an employee is injured on the job, in most cases, the injury is supposed to be reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, according to a report by the Committee of Education and Labor, most workplace injuries are never reported.

Why aren't injuries reported?

As it turns out, it isn’t merely the employers, who have these significant incentives to keep quiet: 

  • Fear of being inspected by OSHA due to the number of injuries they report.
  • Lower workman’s compensation premiums.
  • Higher chance of winning government contracts and bonuses.

Each of these is valid in their own right. As there are no repercussions for not reporting workplace accidents, the majority of employers have shrugged off the process.

 But many employees have equal incentive to keep quiet about injuries, as well, due to the following:

  • Fear of harassment or intimidation for reporting injuries and accidents.
  • Fear of being fired or disciplined for reporting safety hazards.
  • Losing money (themselves and departmental coworkers) from safety incentive program bonuses

Return-to-work Programs

Occupational health industry specialists are creating new ways to help employers make return-to-work programs, which have flourished to help employers avoid workman’s compensation costs and OSHA inspections. Politically correct phrases include, ‘transitional’ or ‘modified-duty work’ instead of ‘light duty.’

But the resentment toward an employee can still linger, for example, from uninjured employees who are hard at work but is being paid the same as the guy with a broken leg who isn’t. Some supervisors can be annoyed at having to think up ‘modified-duty’ jobs for those employees that the company doesn’t want sitting at home collecting workman’s comp, but who are unable to perform regular tasks.

What an employee can do

if you’re the employee, there are things which will make the transition back to work easier:

 It's essential to complete physical therapy and other treatments as prescribed.

It's essential to complete physical therapy and other treatments as prescribed.

  • Communicate openly with both your doctor and your employer about your abilities and restrictions. Adhere to the limitations they set forth, so you don’t re-injure yourself. 
  • Be willing to return to work in a modified or reduced capacity if it’s at all possible. While you may face resentment among co-workers, the situation is temporary, and calm acceptance of their hostility will allow it to blow over. In-fighting will create more animosity, which can take on a life of its own and infuse long-term tension into the workplace.
  • Avoid negative self-talk about the accident. People tend to blame themselves and feel they let their employer down if they have a work-related injury. It was an accident. You may not know all factors involved. Move on.
  • Be committed to healing. Do not allow fear or intimidation make you rush back into what could be a re-injury. Medical care, physical therapy, and other treatments should be followed diligently to allow for rapid healing. Even the threat of being fired or demoted should not interfere with your determination to get back to 100% capacity.

Going back to work in a reduced or part-time capacity may even help with healing, as the act of moving around and being productive can prevent other health problems caused by inactivity. At the same time, respect your body when it gives you signals that you're overdoing it. Talk to your physical therapist. After all, you only have that one body, and you have to take care of it, so you have a place to live.

If you are looking for occupational or physical therapy, vestibular rehab, wheelchair training, learning to walk, unweighting, or other services in the Phoenix area, please call Touchstone Rehabilitation at 602-277-1073