Getting back to work after injury

Developing programs to monitor and improve return to work practices is one of our key activities over the next six years to 2022, with a focus on the construction industry a key priority.

Wires and cables

Finding suitable duties for an injured worker in the construction industry can often hit a brick wall.

While most workers recover faster at work than at home, this concept can be a stumbling block for many construction employers.

‘Construction is a very physically demanding industry and one where small employers will often feel that a recovering at work after an incident is impossible,’ SafeWork NSW inspector Lydia Grepl said.

‘But we have numerous examples that show a staged return to work is actually possible in many cases.’

One involved a 22-year-old qualified electrician who sustained life-threatening head injuries requiring lengthy recovery after falling three metres at a Sydney residential construction site.

It is believed that the electrician fell head-first through the stair void on the first level where there was no handrail, platform or barrier installed.

‘This worker was very lucky to survive,’ the inspector said.

‘He had to re-learn basic human skills such as how to talk, walk, write and eat.’

Remarkably, eight months later the worker had recovered enough to begin a staged return to work on suitable duties, supported by his employer, insurer and doctor.

Initially assembling switchboards for four hours a day, two days per week in a warehouse, this increased by an extra day within a month, then an additional two hours a day. Soon, he was working eight hours a day, three days a week, and visiting sites to fit power points and conduct maintenance work. This gave him great relief and improved both his physical and mental wellbeing as he was able to return to some sense of normal after his incident.

‘This was a good example of how a successful staged return to work can be achieved in the construction industry.’

Find out how to develop a return to work program.

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