Returning to Work After a Serious Burn Injury

Those severely burned in explosions or household workplace fires may never be able to return to work — depending on the severity of the burn injuries and the nature of the work.   However, the goal is always be to return to work, if possible.  

Not Before You’re Ready

Burn injuries affect the entire body, not just the area of the body that was burned.  It is common for burn victims to try returning to work at some point, only to learn that they do not  have the stamina to work a full day. Or they may not be able to handle the same level of physical demands for the tasks needed at the job.  In workplace accidents, they may also feel fear or anxiety about returning to the same place where the injury occurred.

This is often the consequence of attempting to return to work too soon.

Factors to Consider

Before returning to work, consider the following factors regarding your burn injury:

  • Are your doctors and therapists aware of the nature of your work, and have they cleared you to return to work?
  • Are there certain aspects of your job that you can no longer perform?  Is your employer willing and able to accommodate those restrictions?
  • Is your employer aware of the restrictions placed by your health care providers?
  • Have you considered consulting with a mental health professional to cope with emotional and psychological issues from returning to work

Making sure that you are ready and that your employer is informed about the conditions under which you are returning to work is critical to your success. If your medical professionals determine that you are ready to return to work but may lack the stamina to do your job, you may want to participate in a return to work program that will build your stamina for work. As part of that program, you may also need to do fitness training.

Your Employer’s Responsibility

Your employer can help make your transition easier by implementing workplace changes to accommodate your injury. For example, your medical team might ask the employer to provide a job description of your position. This helps to determine if job changes are required to accommodate your position or disability.

Job Modifications

It is perfectly reasonable to ask your employer for job modifications so that you can complete your job under the new restrictions. After an injury, employers are legally obligated to make reasonable accommodations so that you can avoid undue hardship. The responsibility for asking for these accommodations falls on you. If your employer cannot make the changes to make work easier for you based on doctor restrictions, you have the right to refuse a job assignment.

Common workplace accommodations can include:

  • Limits on how much you can lift,
  • special software or hardware to aid you if you have limited hand function,
  • working in a clean and dry environment,
  • a modified work schedule, and
  • limited exposure to extreme temperatures.

Make sure you discuss with your medical professional what reasonable accommodations can be made for your employment.

What You Can Do

Since you were injured on the job, make sure you keep copies of all documentation for your worker’s compensation claim. Make sure you have all of your paperwork, your claim number, proof of attendance at all your medical appointments, and any other documentation related to your claim. In the event that any questions are asked, you will have backup proof of your claim paperwork.

It’s very likely that you will need vocational rehabilitation after your injury. In the best case scenario, your rehab will start as soon as possible after your injury. Your team of medical professionals will help you make sure that you stay on top of your employment status by giving you specific recommendations for rehabilitation.

Final Thoughts

The transition back to working can be very difficult after a burn injury. Being prepared for the transition is the best way to approach the situation. Consult with your medical team before talking to your employer about returning to work so that everyone is on the same page. This will also give your employer time to prepare your job description and make any necessary accommodations so that you can return to work as smoothly as possible.

As noted above, the burn injuries may prevent you from being able to return to work.  For example, a construction laborer burned in an explosion may be permanently unable to return to work in construction.  Every case is different.

Returning to work is made easier by taking steps to prepare in advance. Work with your medical team and your employer to be sure that you are prepared. At the Burn Injury Firm, we are committed to providing our burn injury clients with the tools they need to continue on with a normal and successful career and life. Stay informed about your rights as an injury victim by joining our email list and receiving updated tips and information on burn injuries.