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How to stop a physical injury becoming a secondary psychological claim

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An injured worker recovering at home often feels isolated, like they are on suspension from work.

Emotions that injured workers commonly express are boredom, anger at themselves for being injured, and frustration at not being able to support their family in the usual ways and do the simple things they took for granted each day, like going for a walk or mowing the lawn.

Some workers are reluctant to lodge a WorkCover claim, feeling like they may not be perceived as loyal to their employer.

Injured workers need to focus on their treatment and rehabilitation. The first stage, which can include pain, medical appointments and scans, often means that the worker has little time to think about their return to work.

However, the following stage of rehabilitation is when frustration can start to overwhelm the worker as they are unable to engage in their usual daily activities. In a quiet house, an injured worker can start to feel isolated as their mind craves distraction while their body needs rest.

Employers can assist by providing suitable duties for review by the medical or allied health provider, as well as keeping an open line of communication with the worker.

A manager staying in touch can help the worker feel supported in their rehabilitation and return to work, as well as missed as a member of their work team. Friendly phone calls can provide positivity and a sense of ongoing inclusion during a trying time for the injured worker.

The manager can also look at suitable or alternative duties for the worker to help them get back to work sooner. For example, an office worker who is unable to travel to work, may be able to work remotely from home with the right equipment and set-up. Being able to access work emails and networks can have a positive impact on the worker’s recovery by allowing them to feel more included with colleagues and involved in daily activities.

Being able to return to some normality can be a huge relief and improve the injured worker’s sense of wellbeing. This can prevent the development of secondary psychological injuries such as depression, anxiety and loss of self-esteem over not being able to return to work.

WorkCover Queensland has created a communication guide for employers to use when one of their workers is injured. The guide gives tips on how to maintain regular communication and show support and understanding to ensure a successful return to work outcome following an injury.

For more information, contact WorkCover on 1300 362 128.

Last updated
26 March 2014