Understanding the workers compensation system

If you’ve made a claim for a work-related injury or illness, you will soon find yourself navigating the workers compensation system.

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) has developed a new web app to help workers understand their rights and entitlements in the workers compensation system.

If you are entitled to ongoing payments, the app will tell you how your payments and entitlements are structured.

The app will show you:

  • who is there to support you
  • what you can expect in each claim period
  • what vocational programs you can access
  • what affects your weekly payments
  • how your weekly payments are calculated
  • how your degree of permanent impairment affects your entitlements
  • what to do if you have a dispute.

Use the app as a go-to source of information on your rights and entitlements in the workers compensation scheme.

Have you been injured at work? is mobile friendly and will virtually live in your pocket, providing guidance whenever you need it.

Get started now and save the app to the home screen of any digital device.

Excellence in recovery at work

When a company experiences a 41 per cent fall in workers compensation premiums and a 45 per cent fall in their average cost of claims, people take notice.

The panel on the 2017 SafeWork Awards certainly took notice.The company now boasts the 2017 award for excellence in recovery at work for business.

Specialty Fashion Group, the largest specialty retailer of women’s fashion in Australasia – represented by brands such as Millers, Crossroads and Katies – has over 1200 stores throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. And it has invested heavily in developing an integrated revover@work program.

The program is built on the motto ‘a little happier, a little healthier, each day’. It includes a dedicated return to work team, surveys on how the program is working, 24/7 access to a medical advice hotline and, most importantly, financial commitment to the program from the board and CEO.

Surveys reveal that more than 90 per cent of the workforce love the program.

Register now for the 2018 awards.

An inspiration to us all

David Nugent owns a cattle farm near Wagga Wagga and does some contract work supplying hay and operating heavy machinery to supplement his income when times are tough.

Twenty years ago, David was seriously injured when his arms became caught in a hay baler as he was trying to fix a fault. As the baler pulled his arms in with such force, he suffered chest and head injuries along with extensive injuries to both arms. He was trapped for more than an hour before being rescued by a passing motorist and rushed to hospital.

David spent five months in hospital, had his right arm amputated above the elbow and numerous surgeries to save the left arm, including orthopaedic reconstruction, skin grafting, vascular grafting and infection control.

David knew nothing other than farming and was widely known in his community for solving problems and finding solutions. And this horrific tragedy did not deter him. His motto: the farm will not beat me.

With the help of a rehabilitation provider, prosthetic technician, case manager, family and friends, he developed a comprehensive return to work program and purchased modified equipment through SIRA’s vocational rehabilitation program. He made changes to the farm set-up, re-designed his work practices, and researched widely to find equipment that would satisfy his needs.

David credits a determined, problem-solving attitude and a great team as the principal reasons for his remarkable achievements.

Although the incident happened 20 years ago, David continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries but has returned to his pre-injury duties as a self-employed cattle farmer, hay contractor, bob-cat operator and earth mover.

David’s achievements were recognised last year when he won the 2017 SafeWork NSW Award for Recovery at Work Achievement Award for Injured Workers.

Register today for the 2018 SafeWork NSW Awards.

 

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.

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.

Consultation is key at IOH

Getting an injured worker back to work can be tricky, with a whole range of people involved such as doctors, employers, treatment providers and the worker.

Often at the centre of that is the Rehabilitation Consultant, supporting everyone involved and making sure everyone is kept well informed.

It’s a high pressure job with the potential for stress, as emotions run high and priorities compete with one another.

So it’s absolutely vital that the health and safety of the Rehabilitation Consultant is taken care of.

IOH Area Manager Paula Cormack is responsible for doing just that. IOH is a rehabilitation services provider, and Paula is responsible for managing seven Rehabilitation Consultants who work from Liverpool to Goulburn.

“There can be a high stress element to the role of a Rehabilitation Consultant, because there’s a lot of different people involved with a lot of different agendas that they have to deal with, Paula said.

“Although the risks to the Rehabilitation Consultations aren’t overwhelmingly physical, there’s huge potential for stress.”

The best way to deal with this, she said, comes down to good workplace consultation.

“Using formal and informal forms of consultation allows the Rehabilitations Consultants to share their stories helps us to identify problems, and then tackle them,” Paula said.

Given the large geographical area that the Rehabilitation Consultants have to cover, Paula said she and her team have relied on technology to do this.

They use a program called Slack – an online tool that allows them to share messages in real time, hold video chats, and upload documents to share.

“My guys share information every day. Whether it be something interesting they’ve read that might help with their role, or information that others might need to know about a site that they’ve just been to. The beauty about it is that it’s in real time, and it’s versatile” Paula said.

“I guess what we’re trying to do is to create an environment where we don’t have to think about it too much, so it’s just seamless and it becomes second nature to talk about things that relate to their health and safety.”

They combine this with more formal workplace consultation methods, such as one-on-one meetings every fortnight, monthly team meetings; and a keeping a Register of Injuries, where any workplace injuries – no matter how minor – are formally recorded.

“All of these things provide a really great environment where everyone can feel relaxed and confident enough to raise issues and discuss safety concerns, because at the end of the day we want to tackle potential injuries before they happen,” Paula said.

“From there, the benefits to our business just flow. We have a happier workforce, lower injury rates and incidents, and a more productive business.”

If you would like more information on how to establish good workplace consultation methods, visit our website or call 13 10 50.

If you’re a small business operator, you can also request a free workplace advisory visit. By doing so, you could be eligible for a small business rebate of up to $500.

Depressed? Tell someone.

Almost 50 per cent of Australian workers who take time off work due to depression keep the reason hidden from their employer.

This was a key finding of a national study, Impact of Depression at Work: Australia Audit, released recently by SANE Australia.

The research found that almost 1 in 2 (48 per cent) did not tell employers about their depression as they felt that being truthful about why they were off work could put their jobs at risk.

Depression has a variety of symptoms and will affect everyone in different ways. Symptoms include: feeling extremely sad or tearful; disturbances to normal sleep patterns; loss of interest and motivation; feeling worthless or guilty; loss of pleasure in activities; anxiety; changes in appetite or weight; loss of sexual interest; physical aches and pains; impaired thinking or concentration.

Treatment can do much to reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of depression. Treatment may include a combination of medication, individual therapy and community support.

Workplace mental wellness expert and RUOK board member, Graeme Cowan, says mental health issues don’t discriminate.

‘Employee mental wellbeing must be at the top of every CEO’s agenda,’ icare CEO Vivek Bhatia says.

Get everything you need to develop a simple, effective and sustainable workplace health program.

New guidelines for workplace return to work programs

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) has updated the ‘Guidelines for workplace return to work programs’.

Following extensive stakeholder consultation, the updated guidelines came into effect on 31 May 2017 and replace the version released in 2010.

Employers should update their return to work (RTW) program to ensure it complies with these guidelines at the next scheduled review. All RTW programs must comply with these guidelines within two years from the date of effect, but in the interim must meet the requirements of the 2010 guidelines.

The update means reduced regulatory burden, improved customer experience and importantly, improved recovery at work outcomes for workers with a work related injury or illness.

The guidelines will support, inform and guide employers and other stakeholders in the development of an effective workplace RTW program. Learn more about the changes and how they affect you on the SIRA website.