Early Intervention should be everyone’s intention
When a worker is injured, organisations sometimes respond by putting the brakes on. The worker goes on leave indefinitely, and their role is put on hold. Essentially, it’s a waiting game for everyone involved. The employer might be waiting for legal advice, for a workers compensation claim to be finalised, for operational reviews to be conducted, or for the worker themselves to suggest they come back on board. But, for the good of both the employer and employee, planning for the safe return to work of the injured employee should actually begin as soon as possible after the injury occurs.
This is referred to as ‘early intervention’ and it’s the most effective way of limiting the negative repercussions of an injury for everyone involved. When managed correctly, a safe and early return to work of an injured worker means that:
- The organisation minimises their workers compensation costs and doesn’t experience an unnecessary decline in productivity
- The colleagues of an injured worker don’t have to adjust to the diminished capacity of the team; and
- The worker can continue to enjoy the positive effects of engaging in work, as well as giving themselves the best chance for recovery.
An early intervention approach doesn’t mean that an injured individual returns to work before they’re ready or able to do so. Instead, it means that all stakeholders work out what’s needed to facilitate the employee’s safe, reasonable and positive return to work, and begin to implement these measures straight away. We now know that waiting for recovery after an injury can actually delay or inhibit recovery, and a good return to work is actually a very important part of treatment.
Why is an early return to work important for an injured employee?
Research conducted by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians suggests that focusing on returning to work after an injury is in the best interests of the worker because engaging in ‘good’ work has a number of benefits for health and wellbeing. Conversely, long-term absences from work or unemployment generally have negative side effects for individuals, including increased rates of overall mortality, poorer physical health, and poorer mental health and psychological wellbeing. Together with the financial consequences (lost wages and superannuation) and the social impact (possible isolation), not returning to work at the appropriate time can severely compromise the worker’s quality of life, and that of their family.
A planned, employer-supported and timely return to work also helps to prevent de-conditioning and loss of skills or knowledge in the injured party. In this context, returning to work may not mean returning to the exact role the employee had before the injury, as modifications to their duties, roster, workload, support systems and/or work environment may be necessary. The worker and the organisation can take a collaborative approach to working out what these modifications are. This gives both parties the opportunity to contribute to the recovery process. The decisions they make about any modifications to work can then inform the return to work plan to ensure that it’s practical, meaningful and realistic.
So what does the early intervention approach look like in practice?
You may have an Injury Management program already in place in your organisation. If so, this will likely include protocols to guide you through the correct procedures following an injury.
However, not all businesses have the time, knowledge or resources to execute an early intervention approach to injury management and return to work planning. That’s why Recovery Partners has established our Injury Reporting Centre, to provide immediate assistance to employers when injuries occur. Using the services of our specialised staff on this team will provide you with reassurance that any injuries will be managed effectively and efficiently, right from the beginning.
The Injury Reporting Centre is available to customers of Recovery Partners at all hours – injuries don’t always happen between 9am and 5pm! Once an injury is reported, your organisation will be assigned a personal Rehabilitation Consultant, who will make sure the following steps are taken: 1. Prioritise medical treatment
An early intervention approach still prioritises the medical care of the injured party. Seeking immediate treatment for the injury is essential, and follow-up care as required. 2. Ensure compliance with legal obligations
A variety of steps need to be taken to ensure that your organisation’s response to an injury is legally sound, ethically fair and compliant with the regulations and reporting requirements of your industry.
3. Make timely contact with the injured person
It’s a good idea to make contact with an injured person as soon as it’s appropriate after the injury occurs. Recovery Partners will make contact with the injured person within four hours of an injury notification.
4. Ensure the communication with the injured person is handled appropriately
Our consultants are trained to understand how to speak to injured parties in a way that is supportive, helpful, and sensitive. They also have an awareness of the ramifications of the language they use at this time.
5. Begin immediate Return to Work planning
As soon as an injury has occurred, Recovery Partners consultants can conduct an assessment of the situation and begin the return to work planning. This minimises the negative impact the injury has on both the employee and employer.
What else will Recovery Partners Rehabilitation Consultants do?
When you choose to work with the consultants in our Injury Reporting Centre, they can manage a lot of the more time-consuming and bureaucratic aspects of injury response. Our consultants can:
- Develop a suitable return to work plan
- Liaise with medical professionals about treatment
- Work with treating professionals to negotiate adjusted duties
- Act as an intermediary between insurance bodies and your organisation
- Act as an intermediary between solicitors and your organisation
- Work with you as the employer and with the employee to implement any measures that are necessary to facilitate their recovery and early to return to work.
Want to find out more?
If you’d like to chat about how the services of the Rehabilitation Consultants in our Injury Reporting Centre could help your organisation, get in touch on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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