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The 5Ms that can lead to better outcomes

Acknowledgement: Dr John North, Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Modify work tasks, the work environment and work organisation based on the 5Ms to improve rehabilitation and return to work outcomes after a physical injury.

Best practice

Make positive changes after a physical injury to support early and safe rehabilitation and return to work.

Support your workers to have positive return to work outcomes using evidence-based approaches like early planning, open communication and adapting the work environment to accommodate your worker’s needs.

Why this is important

You can use the 5Ms to help identify workplace changes necessary to support return to work after a physical injury.

Modifying the work environment, work tasks, and/or work organisation after an incident or injury demonstrates your commitment to health, safety and recovery and reduces the likelihood of preventable injuries in your workplace.

This positive action improves the likelihood of early and safe return to work and is an important part of a positive workplace culture.

What actions can you take now

Use the 5Ms to help you plan an injured worker’s return to work, in consultation with the worker.

  • Modify the work factors through good work design. The way work is designed can impact the physical and psychological health of a workforce. Good work design which considers the work task, work environment and the way work is organised can help to prevent illness or injury and improve your workplace culture.
  • Minimise the load on the body to reduce the risk of injury and reinjury. Consult with workers when assessing job tasks and identifying ways to eliminate or minimise the physical work demands. In the first instance, aim to eliminate high risk activities. If this is not practicable, provide mechanical assistance or modify the work environment or workspace design, work task and/or work organisation. You can reduce loading the body by changing the load itself, how it is handled or modifying how long, how fast or how often a task is performed for. Lastly, provide an alternative role or change other parts of your worker’s normal job.
  • Maximise outcomes by collaborating with your worker to identify jobs they can do. Recovery outcomes are better when workers are involved in identifying suitable duties. Promote the Health Benefits of Good Work® in your workplace to show your commitment to rehabilitation.
  • Manage medication needs by providing information about your workplace to your worker’s treating medical provider. This will help them balance any medication side effects with capacity for work.
  • Make your worker’s recovery theirs by placing them at the centre of return to work planning. Ask your worker: what do they need from you, what can they do and what do they think they need to return to work safely?

Your toolkit