Injuries on the job are every employer’s worst fear. As a plastic surgeon, in addition to aesthetic surgery, I routinely treat on-the-job injuries. I have treated patients injured from grease burns, saws, high-pressure paint gun injections, to falls on escalators. Here is what I think employers should know.
Accidents that occur on the job have a worse prognosis than off-the-clock injuries
Multiple studies of patients with workman’s compensation vs. private insurance have shown that patients with the same injury have a higher rate of medical complications, time away from work, and poorer outcomes.
The bills can be very large.
The ambulance, the emergency room evaluation, and radiologist who read the x-rays will all charge separately. If surgery is required, there will be a fee for the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and operating room. If occupation therapy is needed afterwards, there may be multiple visits.
Hand injuries can be very complicated. Each finger has three tendons, two nerves, and two arteries. The hand has 27 bones. Multiple procedures may be required to repair each damaged structure.
“Little” injuries can put an employee out of work for months
I once treated a daycare provider who’s job required her to pick up babies – makes sense! One day, she cut her finger with a box cutter, lacerated a tendon, and was out of work for weeks!
Tendon lacerations require surgical repair, and months of hand therapy to regain function. Stressing the tendon repair too early can break it!
Returning to work with light duty may help people recover.
Work is part of who we are. I believe that early and gradual re-entry into the workplace can help people re-establish a sense of self and purpose.
Workers who blame coworkers or equipment for their injuries are more likely to resist returning to work. Maintaining good relations with an injured employee and providing alternative duties can improve moral.
Not all injuries mean disability: Surgeons can still work after loosing a finger
The article, “Less than Ten,” published in the Journal of Hand Surgery, surveyed 183 surgeons who lost fingers or parts of their hands. All continued to operate! The article cited “acceptance, adaptation, and incentive” as important.
However, the article “Less than Ten,” has limited applicability to the general population. Surgeons are highly motivated individuals. Surgeons may enjoy their jobs more other workers.
Another article in Journal of Hand Therapy (Shi et al , 2014) showed that low pre-injury incomes were associated with less return to work. Age, gender and level of education had no impact on return to work.
So be safe, pay your workers well, and make sure your workman’s compensation insurance is current!
You can contact Dr. Domanski by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 703-596-1660