Whether you have slipped on the floor, lifted a box that was too heavy, or that niggle in your back is starting to play up at work, it is important to be informed and follow a few steps to ensure appropriate assessment, treatment, and return to your work.
Follow these three simple steps to make sure you do not fall through the cracks of the system and get the appropriate care and treatment to help you get back on your feet and back at work.
1. Report your Injury:
It is critical that following an injury or an onset of symptoms that you inform your workplace representative such as your employer, supervisor, or work health representative as quickly as possible. Ideally, you should report your injury within 24 hours of the incident or awareness of the onset of symptoms. This is to establish a history of the event.
- After reporting your injury, your employer may have an Early Intervention Program (EIP) in place. This program is dependent on the nature of the injury as some injuries may not require as significant or long a recovery process; as a result, eligible workers can usually make a speedy recovery and get back to their normal work duties.
- If your workplace does not have an EIP in place, or if the nature of your injury requires additional time to rehabilitate, your workplace will initiate a formal work claim. Your employer’s insurance company will then contact you and you will be provided with a claim number and the contact details associated with your claim. Keep these with you.
Make sure you have these:
- Claim number
- Insurance Contact Information
- Employer/Supervisor Contact Information
2. See Your Doctor
After successfully reporting your injury to your employer, you must present to your physician to describe the nature of your injury and note what areas of your body were affected.
After your appointment, your physician will give you a Certificate of Capacity. You must present this certificate of capacity to your treatment provider, such as your physiotherapist. The certificate outlines your capacity to work with your employer, insurer, and other stakeholders, such as your rehab team. It will also explain the limitations associated with your activities for work. For example, a person that injures their arm at work may have difficulties lifting and carrying heavy objects or reaching overhead.
Make sure you have this:
- Certificate of Capacity
3 Choose Your Physiotherapist
Congratulations, you now have all the documents and information you need to start your rehab process. When you present to your physiotherapy clinic you want to give them the following:
- Insurance Claim Number – from your employer’s insurance
- Insurance Contact Information – from your workplace
- Certificate of Capacity – from your doctor
After handing over the aforementioned information, your physiotherapist will work with you with respect to your injury. This is your time to explain how your injury happened and what areas were affected.
Things to consider when talking to your physiotherapist:
- What part of your body was affected?
- What movements or activities aggravate your symptoms?
- What have you done to decrease your symptoms?
- Did you take any medications to manage your symptoms?
You now have the essential information to ensure your work injury is associated with a work cover claim. If you have been injured in a work injury, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to help yourself stay at work and return to your day-to-day routine.
Common Questions and Concerns:
Why is reporting an injury important?
Reporting an injury and filing a work claim only serve to protect you. If no report or claim is filed, then you may be without any services to assist in your recovery and your workplace may not be liable or responsible for what should have been a workplace injury. A record of the injury would be helpful to your workplace, physician, or physiotherapist. If other sustain similar injuries at work, your workplace may be advised to change or address an issue within the workplace causing that injury. Your physician may note that you have sustained a series of similar injuries and may require different medical or rehabilitative interventions. Your physiotherapist may determine that you require additional rehab and may advise additional physical conditioning under the care of an exercise physiologist.
“If I report the injury, I’ll lose my job!”
“The Fair Work Act 2009 protects an employee from being dismissed due to a temporary absence for illness or injury for up to 3 months, or up to 3 months in total over a 12 month period, or where an employee is on paid personal/carer’s leave for the duration of the absence” as per the Fair Work Commission in Australia.
To ensure the protection of employment, you must report your injury and present to a physician for a certificate of capacity within 24 hours of the injury incurred from work. If you fail to report the injury and your employer dismisses you on the grounds of suffering an injury, you still have some protection from unfair dismissal. If this has happened to you, please consult with a labour lawyer.
“My employer said I should not report my injury because reporting would raise their insurance premiums!”
The purpose of workplace insurance is to aid workers injured in the workplace. Similar to auto insurance, if you were involved in a motor vehicle collision and the other party, at fault, states they would compensate you for the damages if you refrained from reporting the incident, you do yourself a disservice due to the loss of significant services and compensations that your insurance would provide. For example, compensation for auto repairs and the provision of rehabilitative services such as physiotherapy. If there was a disagreement between insurers regarding fault and repayment, it would be resolved between them. Therefore, at the end of the day, insurance is there to be used and protect the workers. If you are injured, report your injuries to your employer and your physician and get started with your rehab.
“I don’t need to report the injury because I can keep working!”
If you can keep working because your injury is not limiting you significantly, that’s fantastic! However, you still want to report the incident of the injury and have your employer or supervisor record it just in case you start to feel worse over the next few hours or days. After which a physician can assess you and provide a certificate of capacity then you may present to a physiotherapist for a clinical or functional assessment to determine if it is safe for you to remain at work. For example, if you had a car that was hit from the side against the wheel, it may appear to be insignificant damage; however, it may have damaged the control arm which, if you were to continue to drive on it, may be very dangerous or cause even more damage than what was initially expected. When in doubt, find out.
The worst-case scenario for an injury that was not reported, despite your good intentions of continuing to work, is that you lose the benefits associated with work insurance as your employer may not liable your injury or responsibility in your recovery due to failure to report in a timely manner.
“I’ll just take two weeks off work and come back when I’m feeling better”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but too much a good thing can be a bad thing. While some injuries do require extensive rest, such as a bone fracture, in most cases too much rest actually does more harm than good. Prolonged rest may result in developing increased sensitivity in the area due to lack of movement, fear of movement, and or lack exposure to stimuli. In addition, it may also cause significant loss of strength and cardiovascular in as little as two days. Therefore, working with your physician and physiotherapist to maintain your strength in other areas while improving your symptoms from your primary injury is usually the best course for an expedient return to work.
Physiotherapy? That’s where we get massages after we get hurt right?
This is a common misconception. Physiotherapists assess and treat injuries and assist in the rehabilitation of an individual in their return to work, sport, or daily activity. In some circumstances, manual therapy such as soft tissue releases or massage, is indicated to assist in the patient’s recovery. For example, people recovering from surgery with surgical scars, burn patients with tight restrictive skin, or individuals recovering from axillary web syndrome following the removal of the lymph nodes in following breast cancer surgery require manual therapy to break down stubborn tissue that is impeding their movement and function. These individuals have a difficulty accessing these regions; therefore, they may require assistance from a train therapist.
There is no question that massages feel nice and one could argue that massage desensitises the tissue, which therefore improves one’s ability to move. The counter argument is that the positive effects from massage are brief and temporary and results in no longstanding improvement or change. It is, at best, a modality to distract the brain and nervous system. Movement itself is a desensitising stimulus and if combined with a load, the load also becomes a desensitising stimulus; therefore, exercise becomes a desensitising stimulus that also maintains strength, improves function, and results in long-term changes.
It hurts to move; I should stop moving to protect it!
If following an exam by a trained clinician such as a physician or physiotherapist, it is determined that you do not have serious or specific conditions that require bracing or protection, it is advised to refrain from unnecessary immobilisation of the affected area. Immobilisation is similar to prolonged rest or bed rest wherein the area may become more sensitive with prolonged rest and immobilisation.
The first few days following the injury, the area may feel uncomfortable and limited in motion. In subsequent days, the area may continue to feel mildly sore or painful, but the motion improves. It is during this time, after the initial few days, that movement and loading the area is encouraged to desensitise and restore function to the area.
Going back to work right after my injury is too soon right?
In many situations, particularly soft tissue injuries, a worker can return to work in some capacity. If the workplace is able to provide modified work duties, alternate work, or what is commonly known as “light duties,” the worker is encouraged to continue working if they have the capacity to do so. An assessment by a physician or physiotherapist can assist in this respect.
The reason why recovering at work is important and effective is that it helps keep you connected to the workplace to maintain your physical capacity, your workplace relationships, but also maintain a regular schedule. Many individuals experience a disrupted sleep pattern following a disruption in their routine, particularly following a prolonged absence from work. In addition, the work itself becomes like exercises, movements that help desensitise the affected areas.
If you plan on remaining at work with modified duties, it is important to consult with your physician, physiotherapist, or another member of your treatment team to determine ways to manage your symptoms while completing your tasks at work but also completing activities within your community or at home.
At the end of the day, it is about helping you recover and get back into your routine. If you have sustained an injury at work, 1. report it as soon as you can, 2. present to your physician, and then 3. present to us, your community physiotherapists, so we can help you get back to your routine.