February 07, 2012
Last week I wrote about online resources that help employers with their return-to-work programs for injured workers – and now I want to tell you about one aspect of this program that deserves a post of its own: the Construction Nurse Line.
Phone access to nurses is becoming more popular – think of 811 and the Newborn Hotline – and now construction employers have their own nurse advisor service by phone, free of charge, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Judy Reilly, client services manager for WorkSafeBC’s Construction & Return-To-Work Services department, wants to make sure construction employers know the service is available – so this post is what YouTube fans call a “shout out” – just to spread the word on this great service, first offered to B.C.’s construction industry in June 2010.
The construction nurses will work with all parties – physicians, health care providers, employers, and employees – to facilitate safe and appropriate return to work planning. They advise on injuries, injury management, return-to-work issues, and claims.
So please help spread the word – and think about how this service might work in your own industry in your own jurisdiction. Do you have anything like this where you are?
BC construction employers can call 604 279-8155 in the Lower Mainland or toll-free elsewhere in the province at 1 877 633-6233.
January 31, 2012
Here’s a new online resource for simplifying the early return-to-work process for injured workers – originally made for construction but generic enough for employers in any industry.
The Injury Management Road Map was created by a team led by Judy Reilly, client services manager for WorkSafeBC’s Construction & Return-To-Work Services department. I gave her a call to see what employers can get from the new step-by-step guide for employers to follow when a workplace injury occurs.
Judy said the Road Map will help employers deal with the detours and unnecessary bumps in the road, and ensure that the RTW process is managed efficiently and effectively, allowing injured employees to remain at work or return to productive and appropriate work as soon as possible.
The online guide is most useful for small to medium employers who – unlike large employers – don’t have human resources staff on-site to manage RTW programs.
Having all paperwork ready
One useful form, for example, is the Stay-at-work/return-to-work planning form, which provides a typical list of limitations as a starting point for developing a custom return-to-work or modified duties plan. For example, the doctor could select “Limit long periods of walking or standing” or “Avoid jarring” as appropriate. The form can also be downloaded and customized with your own logo, etc.
Judy talked about this problem in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of WorkSafe Magazine. She said there’s 20 years of research that show it’s “misguided” for injured workers to stay home and rest until fully recovered.
“In general, our physical fitness can start to decline after one week of inactivity,” she told WSM. “So the longer an employee is off work, the longer it takes to get back to full capacity; and the less likely he or she is to return to the job.”
She said an injured worker can transition back into the workplace earlier and more safely when the employer takes immediate steps to accommodate the worker’s injury. Having the right paperwork on hand, when needed, can speed the RTW process, which benefits all.
“The employer can give the RTW package to workers, and tell them: ‘Talk to your doctor about modified duties and bring this back.’ It’s a proactive way that helps the worker and it’s even an education to the physician as they’re going through it,” Judy said. “From the employer’s perspective, they don’t have to create it themselves. It’s all there for them.”
Your experiences with RTW
What kinds of duties do you keep available for modified duties? Have you ever worked on modified duties yourself? Please share your story in the Comments below.
October 20, 2011
As many as one in five people experiences chronic pain, says this Vancouver Sun article and many other sources. They were injured at work, in vehicles, living with degenerative diseases, genetic conditions, and unknown causes.
“Pain is a legitimate illness that affects a wide swath of the population,” said Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, chair of the Senate committee reviewing the federal-provincial health accord. Along with patients’ groups and health professionals, he is advocating for prevention, early intervention, patient support, and better pain care in the community, says the article.
When people think you’re faking it
Since pain is invisible it’s often hard to prove to doctors, employers, insurers, or anyone else who needs to know why you aren’t working. One person told SunMedia what it’s often like to describe his suffering.
“The disbelief, the jeering, the snide commentary, and most especially, the fact that people think you are lying to get something out of it. No one but another person who has chronic pain can possibly understand how bad it is.”
Injured workers’ pain
Many injured workers know the feeling of pain that shuts down their lives – but it usually goes away. A few months ago, I wrote a post about a worker who tried to do an early return-to-work program, but suffered too much pain to continue. She told her case manager the pain was so bad she was crying at work, and she was transferred to a physio/pain management program instead.
A reader emailed me privately about the post and praised the compassion of our BC system for recognizing the worker’s pain and accommodating it. She lamented her province did not recognize pain as a legitimate cause for stopping an RTW program if there were no obvious sources for the pain.
Hopefully Ogilvie will stir a wave of change that makes things easier for people who are already suffering enough. Canada’s top pain scientists are meeting with Ogilvie’s committee – and I’ll be interested to see what is recommended in the review of the federal-provincial health accord.
For more info, see:
Chronic Pain Factsheet – from the BC Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government
February 17, 2011
A friend of mine – who I’ll call Jane – announced half-jokingly on Facebook that she “failed her graduated RTW.”
I followed up and learned she had tried to do an early return-to-work (RTW) program, but was held back by pain.
Jane told me she is recovering from an injury to the soft tissue and nerves in her fingers, which were sucked into the spinning rollers of a machine at work in September 2010. She’s been working with a hand therapist, who liaised with her employer and WorkSafeBC to set up an RTW program for her in January 2011.
RTW is based on the idea that “work is therapy.” Workers do actual work at their own workplace, rather than therapeutic exercises at home or elsewhere. Employers adapt jobs for injured workers, bringing them back ASAP, which has various advantages for all parties. (Here’s a link to more info on RTW from WorkSafeBC.) Read more
July 21, 2010
Welcome to Speaking of Safety, a blog for starting and sharing conversations about workplace health and safety.
I’ll start by telling you why I’m writing this blog. It’s because I’ve been listening to people’s stories on the topic since I wrote my first article for WorkSafeBC’s WorkSafe Magazine in 1998.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who work in different industries, and many of their stories will stay with me forever.