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Return to work following musculoskeletal disorder injuries webinar

This Workers' Compensation Regulator webinar was presented during National Manufacturing Week and discusses the return to work implications for one of the most common injuries sustained by workers in the manufacturing industry.

Ergonomist Tammy Roberts and psychologist Shane Stockill from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland discuss:

  • managing risk factors related to musculoskeletal disorder injuries
  • applying risk management when returning injured workers to work
  • reducing risks of secondary psychological injuries, with examples drawn from the manufacturing industry.

Watch the below video recording of the webinar, or download the presentation (PDF, 728.82 KB). This content is protected under copyright.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 12MB)

  • Read transcripts
    • Better management of musculoskeletal and psychological risks and how to get better return to work outcomes

      Tammy Roberts, Shane Stockhill

      Slide 1

      Slide 2


      Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Rachel Hawkins and I am your Facilitator for the next hour.

      This week is National Manufacturing Week and that is why we have collaborated from within the Office of Fair and Safe Work Queensland to bring you a webinar focused on better managing risk for musculoskeletal and psychological injuries within the industry.

      Today, we will have two expert presenters from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for you. Firstly, Tammy Roberts, Principal Advisor Ergonomics who will then hand over to Shane Stockill, Registered Psychologist and Principal Advisor for the Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics team.

      Before I hand over to our presenters, we do have some tips on making the most of your webinar experience.

      Slide 3

      We will have an allocated question time at the end of both Shane and Tammy's presentations. You can however ask questions at any time using the box on the right hand side of your screen. You'll see it there. It's "My Q&A." I will endeavour to have as many of these questions answered as we can in the allocated time. Our presenters are also eager to know some information about you the participants and we will therefore ask several poll questions. Again, the prompt will pop up on the right side of your screen and you will have a limited amount of time to answer. I think we give you approximately two minutes.

      We want this webinar experience to be simple and easy. If you are experiencing any issues here are some steps to assist you. We also have support on hand to help. Just use the Q&A box on the right side of your screen and we will have help on hand.

      Slide 4

      Okay. So a little bit more about our presenters.

      Firstly, since 2003 Tammy has worked across a range of strategic and operational roles within the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Tammy has worked as an Ergonomics and Psychosocial Inspector, Advisor and Project Manager and has undertaken high level investigations of complaints related to psychosocial issues and musculoskeletal disorders. In Tammy's current role this involves building business capability to manage musculoskeletal disorders in particular in the manufacturing sector. Tammy has a strong research interest in holistic risk management of these disorders including factors such as ageing, degeneration, chronic disease and mental stress.

      Shane as it's mentioned there is a Registered Psychologist with qualifications in occupational health and safety and psychology. In Shane's current role this includes project design, implementation and evaluation and improving stakeholder engagement and providing technical support to assist organisations respond to their work health and safety duties. Again Shane has held roles within Workplace Health and Safety Queensland that are aimed at building industry capacity to systematically manage psychosocial risks at work including bullying, stress, fatigue and client aggression and violence.

      Slide 5

      Take it away Shane and Tammy.

      Tammy Roberts

      Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction Rachel. So my name's Tammy Roberts as Rachel mentioned and I'm going to get the ball rolling today with the webinar. So we've broken it into two parts. So I'm going to talk first and then of course Shane Stockill who was just introduced will follow on and will finish off the session.

      So I'm going to commence with a couple of polling questions in a minute but firstly just going to go through the session overview. So I'm going to start by setting the scene. I'm going to talk about the injury statistics for musculoskeletal disorders and that really will tell us why Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has a strong focus on MSDs. Manufacturing industry in particular Rachel highlighted at the beginning that this is National Manufacturing Week and so I'm just going to put a point in there to talk about why manufacturing is a priority industry for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. I'm going to talk about some common MSDs that you would see in your workplaces and some challenges that you might face once the worker's actually - once the worker has been injured.

      We're going to contextualise this in a case study. So in that case study I'm going to be talking about the causative factors that have led to the injury. I'm going to talk about why or how it could have been prevented and some of the traditional methods or approaches that we see organisations actually implementing to address musculoskeletal risks.

      I'm going to revisit the case study there and talk about some of those limits to some of the traditional or typical approaches which will lead into a discussion around some of the broader factors that may be impacting your workers that are broader than just the physical factors that we typically address and that's going to lead into Shane's session talking about the interrelationships with psychological factors.

      So just summarising what Shane will talk about he will be talking about the contemporary approaches to managing musculoskeletal disorders and he's going to present this in an integrated model so you can see quite clearly that there are some well validated research links with the pathways to musculoskeletal disorders and Shane's going to present that in an integrated risk management model. He'll talk a bit about the secondary psychological injuries but a key theme coming through from today's session will be the importance of worker engagement and supervisor capacity.

      Slide 6

      Okay so I'm just going to move into those polling questions. So if you could just – we'll leave a couple of minutes for you to respond to those. So what we'd like to do is get a bit of a feel for who is out there, who's participating today in the webinar. So firstly what your role is. You can see there's a few options there for you to choose and also what industry that you work with. So we'll allow a couple of minutes for that response.

      Slide 7

      Slide 8

      Okay so thanks very much for responding to those – responding to those questions this afternoon. That gives us a better idea of who's on board and how we can best direct this webinar for you today.

      So just I'm going to start as I mentioned in the summary or the overview of the session by talking through some of the claims data. So in general what we see is that musculoskeletal disorders are representing about 61% of all serious claims in Queensland. So I'm sure in your role that makes – that's coming as no surprise to you. So they're a significant issue and as such Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has a target and this is in alignment with the national strategy for workplace health and safety where we're wanting to see a reduction in the incident rate of musculoskeletal disorders of 30% by 2022. So I guess that's setting the scene. So it's important. It's costing business a lot of money. It's a priority for the regulator.

      The second point there "Why is manufacturing a priority?" Manufacturing is the highest risk industry in Queensland. Across the industry approximately 60% of the injuries are musculoskeletal disorders. The actual accepted claim rate is more than double the state average. So as a regulator we've certainly identified manufacturing as a priority sector. In particular meat and fabricated metals are two priority areas.

      I'm just getting some feedback from the Facilitator on the poll so I'm just going to have a look at those now.

      Thanks very much for that. So mostly rehab return to work coordinators and managers on board which is fantastic and representing construction, manufacturing and health care. So as I said we've chosen a case study that's come from the manufacturing sector today but the information or the content we're going to go through can be applied more generally. So certainly those coming from those other sectors this is certainly going to be of benefit to you as well.

      So the types of musculoskeletal disorders that we're commonly seeing and I'm sure again of no surprise to you are going to be the sprains and strains. So prolapsed discs as well, tendonitis, whole of body vibration syndrome, sciatica, those types of things are very common for us to see and can occur of a one off event or exposure or cumulative exposure to risk factors over a period of time.

      The data suggests to us that the main risk factors are hazardous manual tasks or the main mechanisms of injury are hazardous manual tasks, slips, trips and falls and hit and being hit. And you'll notice that these are all of a physical nature. So what we're wanting to highlight today is that those mechanisms of injury are very important and definitely do need to be addressed but may not necessarily be all you need to focus on in terms of managing your musculoskeletal disorders and so that's just a point to set the scene for where we'll go with the session looking at the broader factors.

      So there are certainly return to work challenges. The key point I'd like to make here is that early intervention is pivotal in the success of a successful return to work and highlight some stats and as you'll see in the case study there is quite a long duration that the worker has been off work. But the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in their recent position paper have highlighted that if a worker is away from work for 20 days the chance of getting them back to work is about 70%, 45 days away from work about 50% and 70 days away from work it reduces down to 35%. So that really shows us that we do need to be intervening at the earliest possible time to minimise the risk of a protracted compensation claim and the risk of secondary psychological claims. And Shane's going to talk about secondary psychological claims a little bit later as well.

      So just moving onto the next slide now.

      Slide 9

      So this is our case study. So Bill is aged 52. He's a Diesel Fitter from the manufacturing – from a manufacturing workplace. He's sustained a lower back injury. The type of work that Bill has done has been quite fast paced. It's required some heavy lifting. He's had to sustain long – sustain awkward postures over a long period of time. When Bill commenced with this workplace he was given no task specific training. There was a heavy reliance on Bill's trade qualification. So Bill is a qualified tradesperson. He's a Diesel Fitter. So there was a very, very high reliance that Bill has done a lot of training and he must know what he's doing. So no task specific training on how to work in that workplace environment. There was limited supervision. So often Bill was left to make his own decisions about how he would do his work, left unsupervised but as you'll see as we talk a little bit further about this workplace there was a lot of blaming when things went wrong.

      So Bill has actually been off work for two months now. So when you start to think about those stats I presented before, when we've got a 35% chance of getting the worker back to work when they've been away from work for 70 days and there's been no contact made with Bill in that time, the chances of getting Bill back to aren't looking that great.

      So what I want you to do is just stop for a second and think about this scenario. Stop to think about what may have contributed to this worker's injury. So definitely the physical working environment. We can note there that the work has been fast paced. There's heavy lifting. So there's a fair bit of force in his work. So awkward working postures when he's been performing maintenance and repair work on large equipment. So there's certainly those factors but I just want to ask the question to you and just to think about this as we go on, are there any further or additional factors to consider?

      Slide 10

      So just moving onto the next slide we'll start to unpack this a little bit more. So what are some of the physical work factors that have led to Bill's injury? We noted force. There's some heavy lifting. There are in this workplace – there are mechanical aids. There's some trolleys, there's those things but they are never maintained. People often just say "They don't work," "They make the job harder," "It's easier just to pick things up and move them around." So a fair bit of force. There's awkward working postures. As I mentioned Bill's often assuming sustained awkward posture when he's performing maintenance work and there could also be some repetition of the tasks that Bill is performing.

      I also want to highlight that there's some individual factors we can pick up on from this scenario and I will fill in the blanks a little bit more than the information I presented on the first slide but I did highlight he was 52 and he's done this work for most of his life. But when we also consider that Bill is overweight, he's got a BMI of about 33, he smokes and he's quite inactive when he's outside of work so we know from this scenario that Bill's capacity to undertake the physical work he's required to may not be as good as it once was or it could be. I will certainly just make the point there's very little we can do about Bill's age and there's not much we can do to try to modify that. But there may be – I just want to put it out there that there may be some other control measures or solutions at the workplace or interventions that we can be thinking about to start to target some of those additional individual factors that we've got there.

      Slide 11

      Okay. So just in regards to those risk factors that I presented in this scenario I'm just going to talk from my own experience as to what I've typically seen in workplaces when I've been working as an Advisor or an Inspector and I'm sure that you can think of several examples yourself from your current or previous workplace experiences. So what I've learnt to understand is that those physical factors are generally well understood. So people understand that force, awkward posture, repetition, long duration, exposure to vibration will result or can result in injury if they're not managed well.

      Some of the typical responses that we see workplaces doing are putting things in place like mechanical aids. So they're things like forklifts, trolleys, those sorts of things to try and minimise the amount of lifting. Training workers and typically what we do see is lifting technique training. We see rotation of tasks so some work design factors. We're also seeing some workers actually go back to their supplier and start to think about "Can we actually change the nature of the - and the size of the loads that are being moved around?"

      We're starting to see a lot more that organisations are – that organisations are targeting their individual level controls as well and when I talk about that I'm talking about stretching or exercise programs to try and build capacity of their workforce. And also as you can see there the last dot point rehab and return to work is very typically seen. So when we see an injured worker they are off for some medical treatment there is that suitable duties and return to work process that's in place.

      So I'm going to just talk now about the hierarchy of control. You would be familiar with the legal requirement to follow the hierarchy of control when you're choosing how to control risk. So I just want you to stop and think about where these typical interventions do fit on the hierarchy of control.

      So generally when we're talking about the hierarchy of control what we're wanting organisations to do is to think about elimination as the first step and if we can't eliminate risk then we'll be working through design controls looking if we can engineer risk and then moving towards more lower order administrative controls including training, safe work procedures, wearing PPE, those sorts of things. But I'd just like to make the point here even when we're using those higher order controls if we've looked at engineering controls or mechanical aids these are certainly necessary and this process is certainly necessary. But I just want to ask the question is it sufficient? Are we doing all we can? Or is there a need for us to start to look at the bigger picture?

      Slide 12

      So I'm just going to add a little bit more context to the case study now.

      So in addition at this workplace what we've got is that there was a lot of blame occurring so blame shifting to workers and often around meeting performance targets. An example here is spare parts not arriving on time. So the workers just simply could not get the job done on time but would get blamed for doing this. There's a lot of conflict at the workplace. Supervisors, other workers, management actually turned a blind eye to practical jokes being played on new starters, apprentices. Very, very minimal engagement with workers that we saw. There's minimal feedback being given and if it is it's really just quite negative. Never any positive praise or recognition for the work.

      So work activities were often poorly planned and as a result overtime was a common thing. Workers were expected without much notice to be doing overtime. And Bill's Supervisor didn't seem to care too much about other family demands – young families, workers needing to leave when they finished work but they were required to do some overtime on short notice.

      So lately the company had actually lost some contracts to their competitors. That was partly due to some production delays and there's a bit of a rumour mill going on about retrenchments coming so people are a little fearful of losing their jobs and there's been little discussion or consultation. As I mentioned before the engagement with workers was quite minimal. So you can see from here that there's a lot of good information for us to consider.

      So there are broader causative factors that are potentially there for Bill's injury and this is going to be the point where I'm going to be handing over to Shane but before I do what I wanted to do was just flag that some of these factors that we're talking about this design and management of work and starting to think more broadly about other factors that may be contributing to work are all going to be encompassed in a new guide that Safe Work Australia is working on and it's going to be some guidance on good work design for industry and this will be made available through Workplace Health and Safety Queensland once this is completed.

      Slide 13

      So this has gotten to our transition slide now. So I'm going to summarise the content that I've covered off on and so in the beginning I set the scene. I presented the business case highlighting why Workplace Health and Safety Queensland as a regulator is targeting musculoskeletal disorders particularly in manufacturing and also setting the scene as to why it should be a priority for your businesses as well. I then moved on to some of the typical approaches to preventing and managing musculoskeletal disorders and I tried to frame those on where some of those did sit on the hierarchy of controls.

      I thirdly presented some additional information that just provided for us some other factors to consider when we're looking at what may have really caused Bill's injury.

      So this is an opportunity for me to review some questions that may have come through in the first part. So I'm just going to check those now.


      Okay. Thanks very much Tammy. We do have some questions. The first question I have is "How can I identify some physical factors in the workplace?"

      Tammy Roberts:

      Great. Thanks Rachel. So definitely as I've mentioned already physical factors are very important for us to be considering and the way that we would recommend people do that is working through a risk assessment process. So a risk management process. So the first step is to identify the hazards and the main hazards we've already highlighted there this morning from a physical perspective are things such as force, awkward postures, repetitive work, doing it over long durations and also sustaining exposure to vibration.

      So if we could work through a process of identifying some of these stressors on the body we can then assess what the risk is. We can work through a process to identify the level of risk and then put in suitable control. The best way to choose your controls as I mentioned is to start to work through that hierarchy of control which is referenced in our legislation that talks you through a way to come up with what the best control is and it's often going to be the case that it's not just one control that works. There may be a number of controls that you put in place for that – for that exercise.


      Thanks Tammy. We have another question. "For task specific training who is the best person? Maybe the Supervisor is not the best person?"

      Tammy Roberts:

      So for task specific training you would have learned before when I talked through the hierarchy of control that training and administrative controls sit down on the bottom of the hierarchy but it's definitely - it's very, very important. So when we're talking about training it needs to be as a result of that risk assessment that you've done. So the best person to do that training for you is someone who's going to be familiar with the task. The other important point to make is about worker engagement and getting everyone who actually does the work involved.

      Now this is I guess if you like a participative approach. Getting workers involved to come up with the best way to fix the problems that they're dealing with, that they're working with would be a very good approach and getting them to actually break down a task. And the way that – one of the solutions might be a program similar to the Perform Program and I can – Shane is going to talk about the Perform Program a little bit later which is a participative program that workers can get involved in and do their own risk assessments.


      Yep. The questions keep coming. So we might take one or two more. Sorry if you didn't hear me then. "In an ageing population body degradation is becoming a major factor in manual intensive environments. Are there strategies produced by government bodies to assist workplaces?"

      Tammy Roberts:

      Okay. So what I would say here is in terms of age and I raised this point earlier that there's not a great deal that we can do about the ageing process but what we can do and I certainly – I appreciate the question that's been made because it's very important and what we do identify is that there is a decline in functional capacity as we age. So definitely our strength, our cardiorespiratory fitness – a lot of things are starting to reduce as we age.

      So as a regulator, what we're wanting to do is for organisations to go back to that risk management framework. In terms of specific projects that the government is working on what I would say there is there's some research happening by our national body Safe Work Australia around ageing workers and a research project around the workability index. So we've got some very keen interest from a regulator here in Queensland as to the outputs of that.

      So I guess in summary to that question it would be to go back to the risk management process and using that decline in functional capacity I guess as one of those hazards that you can be picking up and making sure that you're managing the risk effectively.

      Slide 14

      Shane Stockill:

      Thanks very much for that very informative session Tammy. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to start by actually outlining the legislative framework for the listeners. We actually saved this until we actually had some context about what we were talking about today. So of course we have the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 as part of the harmonised legislation.

      Underpinning the requirements of that are the regulations and for hazardous manual tasks there is a regulation in Section 60 of the regulation. Codes of practice are designed to further practical guidance for organisations as to how to manage specific risk areas. So again for hazardous manual tasks there's the Code of Practice that will take you through some of those steps that Tammy mentioned earlier about managing risk at the workplace. And then we have the How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice. This is the pivotal Code of Practice for managing the psychosocial risk factors at the workplace. We mentioned those earlier in my introduction which are workplace bullying, stress, fatigue and client aggression and violence.

      I think it’s also important for the listeners to be aware that ‘health’ is defined in the legislation as including physical and psychological aspects of the work environment. Some key principles I just wanted to touch on that underpin our health and safety legislation and they are obviously risk management which Tammy talked about earlier and the hierarchy of control.

      We also need to be aware about the due diligence requirements in the legislation and this is a requirement on senior officers in organisations to be aware about latest trends in terms of injury management and I mean in terms of managing the risk of injury as well as what is the research saying and available controls. That is what is industry better practice or best practice in managing risk?

      Often we hear about "reasonably practicable" and of course the duties in the legislation are tempered by "reasonably practicable" but when you unpack that you'll see that the last element of that is cost. You have to consider a whole lot of other issues including availability of controls in managing the risk before we get to that level.

      Slide 15

      I think what's more important that informs this discussion today is the research around the links between MSDs and work related stress or psychological risk factors if you like. Overall the research evidence suggests there's a very strong link between work related stress for the development of musculoskeletal disorders and workers' physiological response to pain and their experience of fatigue. These risk factors contribute to stress through physical injury and the development of musculoskeletal disorders. That's the given from what Tammy talked about earlier.

      Building on that however, there is certainly further research that talks about the importance of focusing on the psychological risk factors when you're trying to manage MSD risks at your workplace.

      Now, I'm just going to quickly run through what are the eight risk factors that Work Health and Safety Queensland focus on when we're talking about stress what do we mean by that. And certainly, what we mean by that are work demands - that is the cognitive, emotional and physical demands on workers through their work activities including time pressure. The amount of job control that workers have over their work - that is how much say they have over the way that work is done. The availability of support at the workplace and this is about instrumental support through the important role of supervisors as well as peer support at the workplace. How clear are workers' roles at the workplace. Is there an up to date PD? Do they really know what's expected of them particularly when you're managing their performance over time?

      We have a lot of focus both in the media and through legislative mechanisms about workplace bullying and this is where its located in terms of work relationships. So workplace bullying to be very clear is simply one element of a broader risk assessment when you're looking at work related stress because conflictual relationships at the workplace can also occur at the group level. Organisations should consider how relevant and applicable their worker recognition and reward systems are at the workplace. That is are workers actually acknowledged for their input into the work and to the work achievements? Tammy mentioned earlier in the case study that Bill received very little reward or recognition only when things went wrong and we see that a lot in our practice.

      Change occurs everywhere. We need to manage workplace change in a way that includes workers and the last risk factor is about organisational justice. That simply means are work processes, relationships and availability of information around expectations on the worker clear, available, instituted in a consistent and even manner. So I've just provided you that as an overview. Now let's just have a look at this table and I'll unpack it a bit by choosing a body part from the left hand side.

      So what we can see is that in summarising the research we know that MSDs of the shoulder have the following risk factors implicated in their development and that is about the amount of job control workers have and about the level of demands particularly high demands on their work and that over global measure in some research about whether or not they perceive they're under high levels of work stress. I'm not going to go through every element of that table. This will be available after the session. This is merely so you can understand some of the things that you should consider if you actually have workers who are reporting symptomology or indeed have developed an MSD relevant to these body parts. It gives you a little bit of an insight into what more might be going on here.

      I also need to acknowledge two other things. The first thing is that some of these measures and I've put them in italics are actually outcome measures. So when workers perceive that their work is not managed in a safe, healthy and supportive manner they may well experience low levels of job satisfaction. So that's the first point. And of course the other thing is that the research is ongoing.

      Slide 16

      So this research is really just limited by those particular psychological risk factors that were identified and investigated in the particular studies. I think that the listeners get the general idea.

      Now this slide looks a bit complicated but it really isn't. So again we'll unpack it because this slide is central to today's discussion. Firstly it captures the research findings in a model that we can better understand what might be going on here. We know from Tammy's session that exposure to physical risk factors at work are directly implicated in the development of MSDs. That's the given. And that they occur through excessive biomechanical loads on the body that lead to tissue damage and physical injury over time, that is sprains and strains.

      We also know from the table I presented earlier that we need to adopt a broader investigative approach around what might be happening and again think of what might have been happening in Bill's work environment. This sounds complicated but it's actually a model that helps you capture it and it makes sense and that is the bio - that is what's happening at the biological level, the psycho – that's what's happening for the person and social - what's happening within the work environment. We need to actually look at all three levels in order to better understand what might be going on here.

      So over time and we know this intuitively. I'll actually go back. I had a massage last week and when I had that massage I realised that all the tension that I was building up in my body because it's a cumulative process over time – we get tense when we feel that we're under pressure and we've got a lot going on. So releasing that you will know that we carry a lot of load with us over time. So what's happening there? Let's actually go to the biomechanical level and we know that the interaction between hormones at that biomechanical level, the release of hormones, the stress hormones for the individual leads to muscle tension and that this can exacerbate damage and pressure and stress on tissues and muscles and tendons and that is how a physical injury can occur from a biomechanical and psychological process.

      Slide 17

      We have another model to assist with you understanding because I know that we're covering some concepts today that might be new to some of the listeners online and I really want to be clear that we're all on the same page. You'll see that on the left hand side of that diagram is what Tammy talked about in the main which was about managing manual task risk factors at the workplace – force, duration, repetition and duration and awkward postures. I mentioned the work related stress risk factors on the right hand side of the page but there's an interrelationship. There are overlaps between these two and from the legislation slide you already know that the legislation not only acknowledges that organisations need to manage these things but if you manage them in an integrated way you actually can have a better benefit in terms of what's happening at the workplace. So we'll go down a level.

      From the research and from the biomechanical discussion earlier we know that these two risk areas can lead to that perception of work related stress. To be very clear stress is not an injury, it is not an illness, it is a response to what's happening in our work environment and indeed some stress is good for us but when a worker goes into distress and is unable to actually manage what's happening for them you have an increased risk of that worker incurring either a physical injury, that is the MSDs or indeed cumulative over time cardiovascular disease as well as the psychological disorders – clinical depression, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders. We know these things mostly from our practice after they've occurred. There's also down the left hand side that direct relationship that Tammy talked about in terms of the manual task risks and how they may actually lead to an injury.

      Before we leave this slide there's one other concept I wanted to cover off on and what we know here is that often workers can suffer a traumatic injury at the workplace and we see so much in this space around traumatic amputations etcetera that may occur that can have a devastating effect on a worker's functional capacity both in their home life and indeed in their work life. So let's just stop and think about that for a second.

      Workers who have suffered a loss – a significant loss in that way particularly when there's low availability of support from the workplace sitting there at home thinking about what's going on and how valued they might feel we know that this can lead in some instances to a secondly psychological injury. These injuries can have a devastating and long term consequence both on the workers and we know through premium and other indicators on the business and its profitability.

      On average, workers who suffer a secondary psychological injury are away from work twice as long as those who suffer a physical injury. There's other things I would like to pick up very quickly just about the importance of communication and communication both in terms of the Supervisor and/or that person managing that claim once you have an injured worker and bringing that worker back to work.

      Recall what Tammy said about the durations that people, the time they have off work and the likelihood that you'll actually get them back to work. Suitable duties programs and other mechanisms to get workers back to work obviously is of benefit and it's about creating a supportive work environment that is actually looking beyond those physical risks and actually checking "Is my culture – is the work – the way that my work is designed and managed at the work optimal for actually returning a worker back to that workplace?"

      Slide 18

      That's all quite a bit to deal with as we've covered a lot of research and a few concepts. So we just want to take you back to Bill's story for a moment and in particular I'd like you just to consider two things. I'll just cover off on some of the stressors that Tammy managed in her presentation before we do that though.

      We know that there were high level of work demands. We had some insight as to how supportive or not the Supervisor was in this instance. There was some poorly managed conflict going on and ongoing. Workers didn't feel rewarded or valued for their inputs against the organisational goals that is what they're supposed to be achieving and poor worker consultation and engagement was evident. In fact, and readers might want to – listeners might want to take this away, workers don't want to actually suffer from insultation, that is feeling that they're being asked for input about work but then no tangible benefit or outcome is demonstrated. Be very clear about that.

      So back to Bill. For those online, what I'd like you to think about is what more could this workplace have done to manage the risks before the injury occurred? What can they do now? And what additional benefits that might actually achieve?

      Slide 19

      Okay. Now I also believe that Rachel's going to be – we're going to try and capture some of what people think a little bit through a survey at the end of this process. I do want to talk a little bit about some Australian research that is very important to informing this issue. I mentioned all those risk factors before but we conceptualised them in terms of job demands that is things that put us under pressure at the workplace and job resources, that is those things that can buffer a stress response.

      The People at Work Program has been undertaken and led by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and is now indeed a national program. Over 105 organisations have undertaken this and we have a sample size now of nearing 14,000 workers. Why am I talking to you about this? Because this is a risk management process for work related stress that's freely available for organisations in Australia. So there's a standalone website which you can access through our website. Again, we'll link it in the resources later on today.

      Very quickly two – two informative pieces of research that come from that table I talked about earlier that demonstrate what we're talking about. There was a Finnish study undertaken in around 2000 that looked at the development of MSDs and likelihood of workers taking early retirement. And one of the key variables was Supervisor support. Indeed it was where there was low Supervisor support workers were more likely not to come back to the workplace.

      Now the second study from around 2009 was looking at reporting of lower back pain and unplanned sickness absences. Again what this research showed is that where workers were reporting lower back pain and taking longer absences it was generally where there was reported low levels of Supervisor support and workers in general were unsatisfied with the work that they were doing.

      Slide 20

      So let's take the listeners to – now that we've painted a picture of the issue some of the demands in terms of the physical and the psychological areas on workplaces how can Workplace Health and Safety Queensland assist you to actually manage these issues? As simple as that. So these programs that you'll see here are participative programs that is either at the workplace or at the worker level they're designed to get that engagement happening. They have underpinned by consultants' consultation and getting information on assessing the risks direct from workers.

      Perform is a participative program which encourages worker involvement in decision making. It's about the transfer of skills at the worker and Supervisor level and it's about developing task specific risk assessment competence. We have free workshops that can assist you with this and you can access them online as well as there's a network group to further support you. I've mentioned People at Work. It's a consultation process for work related psychological injury and it's about getting some information from workers on this. It provides an anonymous way of doing that. It's a structured process for systematically managing work related stress and for those listeners who come from the transport or manufacturing industry I have a particular pitch for you.

      One of the challenges that we've identified is where workplaces feel that they need a little bit of assistance with this. You could engage a consultant or indeed you can actually come to us. We are providing a supportive program only until the end of the year where transport and manufacturing workplaces can get some further assistance and why those industries? Because they're two priority industries we need to focus on around work related stress.

      We have a Small Business Program that 96% of businesses in Queensland would fall into this category. Our Small Business Program is highly active both centrally and through the regions for developing and delivering workshops either at industry specific or for general industry workshops and it's about providing guidance about developing better systems for managing risks. This is about actually putting the building blocks in place for your organisation to take a systematic approach to the management of work health and safety risks. Businesses can register online for that service.

      Safe Work Month is coming up in October any why am I mentioning this? Because this is when you'll see the regulator is highly active in providing a broad range of activities to engage in informing your industry about priority hazards and their management. And of course inspectors can assist in the regions where you need some assistance as well.

      Slide 21

      I know we're using up a fair bit of time here really just to say we've provided you a whole lot of information today about the legislative framework, about what that requires if you're managing physical and psychological hazards in the workplace. We talked about some participative programs – try and say that quickly – as well as how to actually get you engaged in better managing these risks.

      Slide 22

      And to that very point we'd like to have a quick call to action just one to two minutes with those people online. Just either if you're by yourself or you're with someone just brainstorm two or three things that you could do right now that could better manage MSDs and psychological risk factors at your workplace.

      What are some specific interventions you could take?

      How can you prioritise those actions and then developing and implementing an action plan? We'll provide this link online for you as well but we actually have a template action plan, a business improvement plan on our website to assist you in populating that and that's something that's been well validated through our Injury Prevention and Management Program.

      Slide 23

      Getting there. Almost there. We have the legislation. We have further guidance for you available on our website. I'm not going to go through all the dot points merely just say there's a whole lot to assist you in systematically managing these risks. I do want to highlight the paper that Tammy referred to earlier and this is also linked through our website for Realising the Health Benefits of Work. In short good work is good for us.

      Slide 24

      Other resources include subscription to our email eNEWS service called eSafe. By doing that you actually get quarterly updates specifically around the programs we're running, about some of the workshops we might be running and about any legislative or other resources that might assist you at work. I need to obviously refer organisations to Infoline as their first port of call within Workplace Health and Safety Queensland if you want to speak to someone about something that we've talked about today. Beyond Blue is very active when looking at psychological injury risk whether it's work related or not. I encourage the listeners to contact Beyond Blue where necessary and one thing I would like to highlight in the work related stress space and that is that People at Work is not only about a survey.

      We have a whole lot of information about once you identify what the risk factors are and you may well already have an idea about what's at play in your workplace, we have eight work related stress tip sheets around – so there's one for each of those risk factors I mentioned as well as four which actually talk about implementing a risk management process for work related stress. And lastly because some organisations will actually be responding to this issue think about early intervention. Think about the Resolve at Work process which is the early intervention process which will assist you to better manage that risk.

      I'll now hand over to Rachel who's just going to wrap up and give you a little bit more information to help you today.

      Slide 25


      Okay. Well thank you very much for that very informative presentation. It's the first time we've had a duo present. So I think that no doubt would have kept our audience very engaged. I am sorry to the participants who are online. We haven't been able to get through all of your questions however we will endeavour to follow up with each of you. My two presenters are nodding so that's a yes from you. And thank you to those who have provided their contact numbers so that they can give you a call.

      I just wanted to very quickly cover the next few slides because I know we're drawing to that 2:00pm, that hour mark and we take a lot of pride to ensure we finish within that hour. We have created the Return to Work Coordinator Community for Queensland Return to Work coordinators and any employers really. Make sure you Like us on Facebook and that's where you'll be the first to hear about the upcoming webinars and I know I guess there's been a whole range of topics that have been discussed today. So I imagine that there will be further webinars to come on this series.

      Slide 26

      Shane mentioned the Safe Work Month Queensland, the Safe Work Awards and Return to Work Awards will be combined this year and there is a competition for a range of different categories for you to enter into that now. The awards close on Monday the 29th of June 2015. We know that there are an incredibly large number of employers, managers, supervisors, return to work coordinators as well as workers that do a great job out there in a whole different range of categories whether that's leadership, return to work, workplace health and safety. So please ensure that you do nominate someone for that.

      Slide 27

      I also just wanted to highlight the Workplace Health and Safety and Wellbeing Leadership Forum. So this is a collaborative partnership between Workplace Health and Safety Health and Wellbeing Unit as well as WorkCover Queensland. I attended one recently. It was excellent. Dr Rob McCartney certainly knows how to entertain a crowd and so we encourage you. I think there's one further Wellbeing and Leadership Forum that will be run on the 2nd of June here in Brisbane. So we do hope that you're able to participate in that.

      Once again, thanks so much for your involvement this afternoon and we will be in touch in the next month with our next webinar.

      Thank you.

      [End of Transcript]

Last updated
14 October 2016

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There's nothing like getting back for getting better

Workers who get back to safe work as soon as possible recover more quickly than those who wait until they are fully recovered.


There's nothing like getting back for getting better