How to Support the Well-Being of Your Injured Greenhouse Workers

Hortica workers managing a greenhouse full of flower pots and baskets

Photo: Hortica

The greenhouse and garden center industry has always fascinated me. It seems every week I hear about a new innovation or breakthrough in plant breeds.

But, behind every crop is a team of people who helped grow, cultivate, and deliver those products.

I’m talking about growers, laborers, maintenance workers, and retail staff. It’s hard work, and oftentimes, it’s physically demanding. Sometimes, those physical demands can lead to injuries. Just think of the tasks that could lead to injury within your own operation:

  • Slips, trips, and falls: Uneven surfaces, wet floors, and carrying heavy objects can all increase the risk of injuries around facilities.
  • Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs): Greenhouse and garden center work often involve repetitive tasks like lifting, bending, and pruning. These motions can strain muscles and tendons, leading to injury.
  • Exposure to chemicals: Your employees may be exposed to pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
  • Lifting injuries: Many greenhouse and garden center jobs involve lifting heavy objects, such as plants, pots, and bags of soil. Improper lifting techniques can lead to strain injuries.
  • Cuts and lacerations: Your workers may be cut by sharp tools or objects while caring for plants.

After any of these incidents, you may focus on the physical component of the injury itself.

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However, it’s also important to consider—and care for—the overall well-being of your injured workers. As an employer, you’re one of their greatest support systems. You can also be one of their greatest advocates during recovery.

Let’s explore how you can help support your injured workers.

Recognize the Disruption of Injuries

A work injury can cause significant setbacks for your employees. In addition to the physical pain and limitations caused by the injury, there may be mental, social, and emotional hurdles to overcome. Take a moment to imagine yourself in their situation. What thoughts or emotions would come to mind following an injury? Here are a few potential examples:

  • Anxiety: Will I be able to work again?
  • Financial insecurity: Can I afford to be away from work for an extended period of time?
  • Frustration: When will I be able to enjoy hobbies and perform daily routines again?
  • Fear: Is there a risk of re-injury when I return to work?
  • Lack of support: Why isn’t anyone reaching out? I feel isolated.

When employees face these unaddressed challenges after an injury, it can delay their return to work. That puts greater strain on your injured employee, and it can put greater strain on your business as you cover staff shortages and manage costs.

Understand Your Role in the Recovery Process

When you put yourself in your employees’ shoes, you can start to identify potential strategies that help them feel supported. How would you want to be treated if you were temporarily sidelined due to an on-the-job injury? Empathy and support go a long way. Here are a few ways to demonstrate both:

  • Trust your employees: In my three decades working in managed care, the majority of workplace injury claims are real, documented cases. Focus less on the few that might not be and focus more on building dialogue. Make sure you’re sensitive to their concerns and any questions they may have.
  • Communicate and show compassion: Check in regularly, listen to your injured employee, and offer support. Injuries can disrupt routines and remove the normalcy that a job brings. By showing you care about their well-being, you’re already helping them ease into the return-to-work process. Aim to maintain weekly communication throughout recovery.
  • Provide upfront resources: Work with your workers’ compensation provider to communicate how the claims process works, along with the medical and pharmacy resources that might be available. Along with your insurer, you should also maintain three-point contact between your business, your employee, and the medical provider.
  • Offer modified work duties: If possible, you may be able to offer a flexible work schedule or lighter tasks that align with their recovery. Just ensure the tasks are still meaningful and engaging so they still feel part of the team. A treating care provider can help outline specific work capabilities and limitations. It’s one way to show your injured employees that they’re valued.

Prioritize Well-Being and Behavioral Health

After having many personal conversations with injured workers—along with looking at our own claims data—it’s clear that behavioral health and overall well-being can influence recovery. We often see slower return to work times and higher costs when these factors get overlooked.

Today, with the help of predictive analytics, your insurer may be able to offer additional insights and support. Have a conversation with them.

For example, Sentry Insurance Group has a tool called the Injured Employee Complexity Factor (IECF) Models. By reviewing historical data elements, we’ve helped employers spot early indications of chronic pain, medication reliance, and behavioral health challenges before they worsen.

The earlier we identify a potential challenge, the sooner we can take action. Oftentimes, data can help us develop—or adjust—our care recommendations. That may include more one-on-one time with a nurse case manager. Other times, it may include counseling support or adjustments to physical therapy. It depends on each individual worker. Likewise, if you have any concerns after talking with an injured employee, talk with your insurer. It takes both data and people to provide personal care.

With more data comes more information. And with more information comes the knowledge necessary to support your employees. I encourage you to have a conversation with your team to discuss what’s possible.

Encourage Collaboration and Teamwork

You’re not alone when it comes to supporting your injured workers. Everyone plays a role in the recovery process.

While the tips I’ve shared here can help you get started, it’s best to talk with your own workers’ compensation team, which may include claims representatives, safety personnel, and local providers. Communication is key amongst every team member.

Remember, work injuries can have a profound impact on workers’ lives.

By providing comprehensive support early on that addresses both the physical and behavioral needs of injured workers, you can ultimately help your employees return to work safely.

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