A major public awareness campaign about the importance of helping injured workers get back to work was launched on Sunday.
The campaign can be seen on TV, radio, print and online, as well as in cinemas, doctor surgeries, health centres and pharmacies.
WorkSafe’s acting chief executive, Clare Amies, said the new campaign aimed to alert everyone involved in an injured worker’s rehabilitation – the injured worker, the worker’s family, the employer, the GP and other health professionals – of the benefits of returning to some form of work when it was safe to do so.
“We know that getting back to work after an injury is just as important for a worker’s mental health as it is for their physical recovery,” Ms Amies said.
“But it needs the active support of everyone who cares about that worker’s welfare to make it happen.
“It’s why injured workers, their GP and their employer need to work together to plan the worker’s return. Even a couple of hours back at work every week undertaking light duties can have enormous health benefits.
"The campaign message is simple – there’s nothing like getting back to work for getting better.”
Minister for Finance, Robin Scott, said the new campaign was an important reminder for workers and employers.
“Assisting people getting back to work after injury is essential. Returning to work is part of the process to recovery, and helping people get back to work is what’s best for Victoria,” Mr Scott said.
“Keeping people safe at work is a priority of this government, but it’s important to ensure those who are injured have the best support available to get back to work.
“This campaign is a reminder that we all have a part to play in helping someone injured get back to work.”
Melbourne GP Roya Dabestani said the medical profession played a crucial role in helping injured workers get back to work.
"In most cases, a focus on return to work is in the best interest of the patient – for both their future and quality of life, and that of their family,” Dr Dabestani said.
"Work is an important part of rehabilitation and recovery, so injured workers will benefit from talking to their doctor about what they can do, rather than what they can’t.
Then, together with the employer, they can work out a plan to return to work.
“The medical evidence clearly shows that getting back to work – even if only for a brief amount a time every week – goes a long way to restoring an injured worker’s health and wellbeing.”
Bus driver Geoff Trotter tore his bicep while lifting a passenger’s luggage. The injury meant he was unable to drive a bus for several months. But his employer, Crown Coaches, worked out a return to work plan for Geoff so he could work in their head office while the injury healed.
“It was terrible being at home with nothing to do while I was getting treatment,” Mr Trotter said.
“It’s difficult trying to stay positive and to feel useful when you’re bored at home so it felt good to have the opportunity to get back to work, even if I couldn't get back on the road.
“Working in the office kept me motivated and involved, and there’s no doubt it was good for my mental state.”
Crown Coaches spokesman Daryl Kirkwood said keeping in touch with Geoff and his GP was an important element in the recovery process.
“Our staff are critical to our success, so it was important we did whatever we could to help Geoff get back to work,” Mr Kirkwood said.
“Even though he wasn’t able to drive, we were able to work with his GP and physio to determine the type of work he could do while he was recovering.”
Mr Kirkwood said employers needed to be flexible in their approach to helping an injured worker get back to work.
“After an injury, they may not be able to do what they once did, and full recovery may be a slow process,” he said.
“And employers need to check in with them to ensure they are coping and getting their confidence back.
“But if everybody works together, getting an injured worker back on the job is a win-win for everyone.”
For more details on the benefits of getting back to safe work, go to gettingback.com.au
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.