What to do if you get injured on the job

An injury on the job is something employers and employees don’t want to see happen. But in the panic of the moment, it’s important to know how to get treatment in a quick, safe and cost-effective manner.

The most important thing for employees to know is that any time they are injured on the job, they should report the injury immediately to their employment supervisor. Some employers require that notice to the employer be made in writing, while others allow a verbal notice.

Of course, if the injury is an emergency, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away. Tell the medical staff that the injury or illness is job-related. If the employee can safely do so, they always contact their employer for further instructions.

Should the employee not need emergency treatment, either the employer or the employee will need to contact the occupational health clinic that your employer is affiliated with.

A clinic that specializes in occupational health is the best place to go following a work injury because occupational practitioners are familiar with job duties, restrictions and OSHA compliance. They work with employer and employee in mind, often saving the employer money by not ordering unnecessary tests or prescribing narcotics if not needed.

Occupational health clinics typically have a higher success rate returning employees to work post injury with restrictions, rather than keeping them off work completely. Occupational health practitioners simplify the entire process for employer and employees with case management, urinalysis or breath alcohol, as well as physical and occupational therapy — all on-site.

When an employee arrives for an occupational health appointment, the process starts with paperwork to document the injury. This paperwork will ask questions such as “How the injury occurred in your own words” and ask the employee to circle on a body map the affected body part(s).

Per company policy/protocol, which differs between companies, the employee might be asked to provide a urine sample or a breath alcohol. Then, a nurse will collect further medical surgical history, a set of vital signs and a baseline height and weight measurement.

At this point the employee will be evaluated by a provider for a diagnosis. Follow-up care will be dependent on the injury. For example: Muscle skeletal injuries, such as an injury to a back or knee, the employee might get an X-ray, PT pain relief and/or a referral to physical therapy; a laceration repair might possibly need sutures and/or an antibiotic; and foreign body in the eye from grinding or welding, the employee would be examined by the slit lamp and, if needed, will be referred to optometry.

Work restrictions are addressed at every visit. The employee will be monitored for improvement and if there is lack of improvement, the employee could be referred out to a specialty doctor (such as orthopedics, neurology or for an MRI or a CT scan) for further care.

In addition to work restrictions being addressed at every visit, the company (safety department or human resources department) will be updated on the employee’s progress.

Occupational health is a team effort between clinicians, employees and employers to get everyone healthy and back to work.