Former Australian Olympic swimmer Michael Klim is urging Victorians to help more injured people make a "comeback" to the workplace.
Klim – in the midst of his very own comeback to the pool – joined Victoria's Assistant Treasurer and Minister for WorkSafe, Gordon Rich-Phillips, to launch WorkSafe's new "Return to Work, Return to Life" campaign.
Mr Rich-Phillips said around 3000 experienced and skilled Victorians a year were out of the workforce for more than six months due to a workplace injury.
"The good news is that most injured people get back to work much sooner than that.'
"In fact, most workers only need a few weeks off, but the medical evidence is that the longer someone is off work, the greater the chance they will suffer adverse health effects like depression or a general decline in health," Mr Rich-Phillips said.
Sharing his own experience, Klim said, "Throughout my career, injury has kept me away from the pool – my workplace – sometimes for months on end."
"I know how difficult that can be, not just personally, but also for my family and team mates.'
"By getting back in the pool sooner, even when I'm not 100%, I can actually recover more quickly. I believe injured workers, with the right support, can do the same.'
International studies show that the longer someone is off work, the greater the health risks they face.
The WorkSafe campaign comes after a recent Newspoll survey found 71% of Victorians believed injured workers would benefit from returning to work before they were fully recovered but to different duties.
More than 78% believed returning to work would help speed up the recovery process.
Klim was joined by City of Casey "lollipop lady", Judy Grant, who was struck by a car while working in November last year.
Despite suffering serious injuries Judy worked hard and was supported by the council to return to work on modified duties last month.
Judy said it was reassuring to know she didn't need to be 100 per cent to return to work.
"The City of Casey has been very supportive of my return to work by encouraging me to resume my duties slowly, and at my own pace," she said.
"Returning to work has improved both my mental and physical health and it has allowed me to take back control of my life.'
Around 28,000 Victorian workers suffer work-related injuries each year. In the past five years, nearly 150,000 Victorians have lodged compensation claims with WorkSafe, totalling more than $2.7 billion in treatment and rehabilitation costs.
Minister Rich-Phillips said getting injured workers back to work as soon as safely possible was good for all Victorians.
"A successful return to work does not have to be full-time or the old job initially. There may be opportunities elsewhere in the business or modified duties or further training.'
"It helps improve the worker's physical and mental health and also helps employers and the economy by keeping claim costs low," Mr Rich-Phillips said.
The WorkSafe public awareness campaign includes a television commercial which goes to air Sunday, radio and billboard advertising and a toolkit for employers that can be downloaded from WorkSafe's "Return to Work" website.
For more information about WorkSafe's "Return to Work, Return to Life" campaign, visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/returningtowork
Other findings of the Newspoll survey:
- 96% said families played an important role in helping return to work
- 93% said doctors and physiotherapists also played an important role
- 68% agreed that returning to work but performing different duties would definitely provide an increased feeling of self-worth
- 78% of people surveyed felt returning to work but performing different duties would help speed up the recovery process
WorkSafe media enquiries: Rosanna Bonaccurso 0478 305 640
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.