Meaningful approaches to supporting injured workers

It is important to acknowledge the impact that stigma can have when dealing with injured workers.

Angela Dixon, Gryphon Psychology, discussed the consequences of stigma and the value of considering the three basic human needs in supporting injured workers at a corrections industry forum on Thursday 27 March.

“Stigma is a mark of disgrace that negatively sets a person apart from others,” Angela said.

“It is based on myths, misunderstandings and stereotypes that lead to stigmatisation and discrimination. Stigma causes us to devalue workers, resulting in feelings of shame, hopelessness and isolation that can delay recovery and return to work.”

Angela said employers can help prevent the impact of stigma by:

  • evaluating their own attitudes and behaviour towards injured workers
  • looking beyond the stereotypes and valuing the individual
  • alerting and educating people who demonstrate stigmatising attitudes and behaviours
  • remembering that not all workplace injuries are visible
  • understanding that healthy activity, such as walking and gardening, can be an important part of an injured worker’s recovery.

When communicating with injured workers, it also helps to remember the three basic human needs:

  • to feel safe
  • to belong
  • to be competent.

These three basic needs are often compromised when a worker is injured so they need to be considered in the return to work plan.

Research has shown that injured workers like supervisors to make contact with them early after an injury, and that invitations to work activities make them feel valued.

It is important to negotiate open and regular communication from the start that is free from blame, stigma and defensiveness.

Establishing a good relationship with an injured worker can help prevent a secondary psychological injury during the course of a workers’ compensation claim.

Read some inspiring case studies about how all parties can work together towards recovery and return to work.

Last updated
06 May 2014