Injuries such as broken bones, muscle strains or fractures are something that we often associate with being younger – children seem far more likely to break an arm or sprain a wrist than adults. However, while children are more likely to have falls and accidents than adults, their bones and muscles heal much faster and more completely than adults. That means that when we end up injuring ourselves, it can take a lot longer and be more difficult to heal.
Injuring ourselves as adults also comes with added complications. Depending on the part of your body that you injure, your day-to-day activities will often be affected, which includes your job. Something as simple as a commute to work can become extremely complicated with a broken arm or torn ligament in your foot. If you drive to work, you will often not be able to do so if you have broken or strained your arms or legs; and even if you commute, navigating a crowded bus or train on crutches or with a cast is not easy.
But it isn’t just about getting to and from work. When at work, problems can often be caused by the way your workstation is set up, your inability to stand or sit in the same position for long periods, and even your ability to evacuate the building in case of an emergency. In some cases, it may be possible for employers to allow their employee to work from home until their injury is healed – but in other cases, this may not be possible.
So what should employers do if an injured employee is returning to the office before they are fully recovered? Under the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999, it is important that a risk assessment is undertaken for those returning to work who may have:
- crutches, walker or a stick;
- plaster or fibreglass casts;
- a wheelchair;
- a long-term disability.
It is likely that someone with one or more of the above will not be able to continue working in the same way that they did before, which means employers may have to consider making workplace adjustments on a temporary basis. Some suggestions to help an injured employee work more comfortably include:
- Allowing flexible working such as part-time work, or non-standard start or finish times
- Changing their work duties or allocating some duties to another employee
- Allowing the individual to work at a different location (for example on the ground floor of a building to avoid using the stairs)
- Allocating the employee a helper if emergency evacuation does take place
Employers looking for advice on rehabilitating an employee with an injury can visit the Fit for Work advice hub for more information, or call the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235, to get more information and advice on risk assessments, workplace adjustments and returns to work. Employees with a broken bone can also find tailored advice for their return to work on the Fit for Work advice hub.