Business of Medicine
5 Workplace Safety Tips for Return to Work
Due to COVID-19, a large number of the healthcare workforce transitioned to working remotely. As employees go back to the office, it’s important to refresh their knowledge on workplace safety. Training employees to both recognize and address potential workplace hazards helps prevent workplace injuries and increase overall workplace morale.
- Establish a clear workplace injury response protocol.
- Implement and train all employees on workplace emergency procedures.
- Routinely assess the workplace for hazards so you can inform, train, and supervise your employees on safety practices.
- Implement a system where employees can report unsafe working conditions.
Prioritizing workplace safety protects employees, reduces injury costs and increases employee satisfaction. This leads to increased productivity and lower absenteeism and turnover rates. The following are workplace safety tips for healthcare employees along with related tasks and scenarios.
- Follow ergonomic standards when transporting and handling items.
- Encourage employees to incorporate good habits at their desk and take breaks.
- Keep the workplace clean to minimize slips, trips and falls.
- Continually check in on your employees after a workplace injury occurred.
- Implement and routinely train employees on emergency protocols.
- Follow ergonomic standards when transporting and handling items.
Manual handling, such as lifting, reaching, pulling and carrying items, is a common cause of workplace injuries, and musculoskeletal disorders are the most common injury. Using proper ergonomic techniques when transporting and handling items can increase employee productivity and reduce the risk of injury.
- Avoid excessive reaching by ensuring that each floor has a step ladder and your staff knows where it is.
- Avoid carrying items above shoulder level.
- Use mechanical aids such as carts to reduce the amount of physical effort exerted when transporting items.
- When lifting, keep your back straight, lift with your legs and limit the weight of the load.
- When carrying, do not twist or turn your spine.
- When kneeling on the ground, use knee pads.
- Store material at waist height.
In general, it’s important that your employees know the limitations of their bodies and ask for help when needed.
Encourage employees to incorporate good habits at their desk and take breaks.
Since working remotely, many employees created comfortable office spaces within their homes and set new, healthy work schedules. One benefit of working from home is the ability to move around more frequently. Roughly 25% of people associate work-related pains with sitting at their desks for long periods. Over time, sitting for long periods leads to bad posture, overall muscle tone weakening, obesity, less energy and depression. Employees can boost their health and productivity with these tips:
Create an ergonomic desk setup:
- Head centered over neck and shoulders
- Wrist flat
- Elbows resting at your side
- Feet on the ground or use a footrest
- A chair that supports the spine
- An ergonomic keyboard and mouse
- Screen display an arm’s length away.
Take a break at least once an hour to move around and take your eyes away from a screen during that break.
- If possible, instead of calling a co-worker, walk over to them.
- If you bring your lunch, eat away from your desk.
- Keep your work area clean.
- Maintain proper lighting.
Keep the workplace clean to minimize slips, trips and falls.
Slips, trips, and falls are common in the workplace. Slips typically occur due to wet floors, and many trips are due to poor housekeeping. Most incidents are preventable. Train employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions:
- Implement a system for reporting potential hazards that is accessible to all employees.
- Schedule routine cleanings by housekeeping.
- Stay alert and look out for potential hazards. Avoid distractions such as looking at your phone.
- Immediately clean up spills and pick up tripping hazards or notify someone for assistance.
- Create and maintain proper lighting.
- Use handrails on stairways.
- Place warning signs for uneven walking surfaces or notice of a step.
- Avoid running cords across walkways.
- Install slip-resistant mats at entryways.
- Promptly notify maintenance of any leaks.
- Encourage employees to wear proper footwear such as non-slip shoes.
- Avoid carrying a load that blocks your clear line of sight.
Continually check in on your employees after a workplace injury occurred.
An employer’s actions immediately after a workplace injury have a significant impact on the overall outcome of a workers’ compensation claim. Employers must have a post-injury response procedure in place and also need to train employees on how to follow the process. This ensures that injured employees receive better care, claims handling is more efficient, employees return to the work sooner and insurance premiums remain stable.
Develop a written post-injury response plan for employees and supervisors. Share the plan with everyone at the workplace.
Ensure that your post-injury response plan includes how to report a claim, how employee will get to a doctor and home if the employee cannot drive, how the employee will return to work if approved by the doctor, steps for transitional work if the employee cannot return to work, how the employer will stay in touch with the employee, and how to check for and report fraud or system abuse by the employee.
- Ensure that all necessary workplace incident report forms are completed so the injured employee can take the forms to a doctor.
- Ensure that the injured employee promptly visits a clinic or a doctor who is well-versed in occupational health care delivery.
- Ensure that the employee takes a Work Ability Form to the first visit at the clinic for the doctor to complete.
- Report the injury across all levels (supervisor, injury management coordinator and insurance carriers) while details are fresh.
- Communicate care and concern to the injured employee. Follow up and continually check in with your employee to begin formulating an appropriate return to work plan together.
Employers should also implement a return to work (RTW) program. RTW programs allow employees who are injured on the job to perform their usual duties in a temporary or limited capacity while recovering. Such programs ultimately help to lower costs related to employee injuries and keep employee morale high. To implement a RTW program:
- Develop an RTW policy that includes transitional duty.
- Identify a RTW program coordinator and educate supervisors about the RTW program.
- Determine job opportunities through job descriptions and modified duty options.
- Communicate with employees, medical providers and insurance carriers during the term of the employee’s injury.
- Return employee to work through transitional work and temporary work assignments.
- Ensure that employees are trained to execute office emergency procedures.
Emergencies can happen any time and any place. It’s critical to implement an emergency action plan (EAP) and train all employees how to respond in case of emergency to help mitigate the potential of injury. While creating an EAP, you should also conduct a hazard assessment to determine any potential hazards in and around the workplace that could cause an emergency. To help mitigate injury during an emergency:
Implement a procedure for reporting emergencies and executing an emergency protocol for each type of emergency.
- Annually train employees on the EAP and conduct drills.
- Make sure you have a way to alert employees, including disabled employees.
- Ensure that each floor has access to a floor plan with evacuation routes that are easily accessible to all employees.
- Ensure that each floor has a fire extinguisher and that employees know where it is and how to use it.
- Make sure exits are visible and kept free from obstruction.
- Implement a method to account for all workers after an evacuation, such as a designated assembly location.
- Ensure that the building has a first aid kit and automated external defibrillator (AED) and that employees know where it is and how to use it.
- Designate an emergency response team that is fully trained to handle emergencies and oversee response efforts.
- Be proactive and implement procedures to follow in case of workplace injuries and emergencies.
- Conduct routine hazard assessments to help prevent injuries.
- Put employee safety first. By recognizing hazards and educating employees on workplace safety, employee morale and productivity increase and workplace injuries decrease. Safety is smart business.
The scope of workplace safety is broad. Employers can be sued for a variety of reasons including employment discrimination, unsafe working conditions, whistleblower claims and workers’ compensation. Most accidents in the workplace are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, employers should follow the recommended steps within this article to decrease exposure to potential lawsuits.
Answers are provided below
True or false?
Question 1: When lifting an object, you should bend your back, lift with your arms and limit the weight of the load.
Question 2: Employees should only be trained on office emergency procedures right after they are hired.
Question 3: Once an employee has reported a workplace injury, there is nothing more an employer can do for the employee.
Question 1: False. When lifting an object, keep your back straight, lift with your legs and limit the weight of the load.
Question 2: False. Routinely practicing procedures ensures that they run effectively in the event of an emergency.
Question 3: False. After a workplace injury has occurred, it is important to ensure that the employee has completed all necessary workplace incident report forms to take the doctor and visits a doctor. It is essential to follow up and continually check in with your employee and work together to implement an RTW plan.
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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.