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Developing suitable duties to support a worker with psychological injury

In this webinar you will hear from industry experts on developing suitable duties to support a worker with a psychological injury.

The speakers will take you through using an integrated approach to exploring psychological hazards which can increase the risk of harm and key elements of successful rehabilitation and return to work. They will also include some examples of effective suitable duties to support a worker with respect to staying at work or returning to work.

Thank you for choosing this webinar on developing suitable duties to support a worker with a psychological injury. I'd firstly like to acknowledge that we are recording on the land of the Turrbul and Jagera people and pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. My name's Nicole Hughes. I'm the Principal advisor in the Psychological Health Unit with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Just to go over the key learning outcomes for the webinar, we're gonna be using the integrated approach to explore the psychosocial hazards, which can increase the risk of worker harm, examine the key elements of successful rehab, return to work, and identify examples of the effective use of suitable duties to support a worker with respect to stay at work or return to work

On the screen. Now we have the integrated approach to mentally healthy and safe workplaces. So the key, uh, focus of today is in the support recovery component of the model. I'd just like to emphasize the importance of if you do have a worker with a psychological injury of ensuring that you have some investigation of that incident, and then the results of that then feed into your promotion and prevention to ensure that other workers are not harmed. And also, uh, put appropriate control measures in place that will in increase the success of return to work. And also, there are some factors that may also inform suitable duties. I'd like to, uh, just focus on, take a step back and focus on the importance of prevention. So within the workplace, there are a number of psychosocial hazards that may be present. It's important to routinely examine those and, and using, uh, a, um, consultative approach and put, um, appropriate control measures in place.

It's also important, if we can, to intervene early. So picking up on those early warning signs and providing support to workers. It's at this point that you may also engage in a rehab provider to come in and have a look at your workplace. Look at some of those work design factors. Make sure the person has some appropriate support. Perhaps suggest some, some adjustments. And also that really important element of coaching for managers too, in terms of supporting a worker On the screen now we have, uh, uh, just a refresher of some of those psychosocial hazards. Now, there may be a, uh, single incident, for example, exposure to work related violence, or it could be a combination. So there can be a cumulative effect. So as an example, you might have some change happening in an organization. So people may have, uh, lower, uh, role clarity. There might also be some cognitive demands as a result of new systems. And on top of that, you may have some, um, conflict between workers. So it can be this combination of factors that then can lead to distress. And then the flow onto of, of that could potentially be your psychological injury, physical injury, or illness, or poor health behaviours.

So I'm now gonna hand over to Sarah-Jane, who's going be giving you a bit more information on psychological, safe, suitable duties.

Hi, my name is Sarah-Jane Robson from the Workers Compensation Regulator, and I'm going to talk to you about suitable duties to support recovery at work. And four tips to ensure that your suitable duties program is psychologically safe.

A mentally healthy workplace is one that addresses psychosocial hazards and supports the recovery of workers returning to work after a physical or psychological injury. If a worker cannot immediately return to their pre-injury role, their employer must develop a suitable duties program. Suitable duties also known as light or alternative duties are meaningful job tasks that may incorporate some of the worker's usual job or other tasks within the workplace. Tasks are agreed between the worker and the employer. And in consultation with the insurer, treating doctor and approved providers, they're in line with the workers work capacity certificate and take into account the worker's usual job, their age, education and training, their work experience, and the nature of their injury. Research shows that injured workers who are offered suitable duties are twice as likely to return to work. Recovery at work has a lot of health benefits for the worker. The longer he or she is away from work, the less chance they have of returning to work at all. And waiting for a full recovery can often delay recuperation. Staying away from work can lead to depression, isolation and per health. Remaining active, preventing deconditioning and staying engaged with the workplace and maintaining social interactions, supports recovery. Injured workers who return to work quickly and safely are able to maintain routine, sustain their income, regain confidence, and might even learn new skills while recovering employers retain skilled staff and maintain a positive work culture.

So whether the injury is psychological or physical, suitable duties should be safe and free from risk of psychological harm, with consideration of the psychosocial risk factors that Nicole mentioned, and the guidelines for standards for rehabilitation. Suitable duties can be designed to support recovery and return to work even in complex situations. Let's look now at those four tips for ensuring suitable duties are psychologically safe.

Tip one, early and ongoing support. Acting early can help workers recover quickly and reduce their time away from work. Contact the worker early after an injury has happened to check on their health and wellbeing, and to help reassure them that the workplace is supportive. This demonstrates genuine concern and will help to start planning their return to work journey early. Maintaining ongoing contact with the injured worker throughout the process can also prevent this engagement from the worker and have better return to work outcomes. Encouraging the worker to seek medical treatment as early as possible. And reporting the injury to the insurer can assist with the worker's early access to psychological support whilst the claim is being determined. Ongoing two-way conversations with the worker will assist you to understand and manage expectations and prejudices. Mismanaged expectations lead to per recovery and return to work outcomes. Ongoing support to the injured worker and monitoring their progress is vital to the success of the suitable duties program.

Tip two, Working together a journey to recovery requires a team approach and input from a range of key people. The chance of a worker returning to their normal job is greatly improved when the worker, employer, rehab and return to work coordinator, health providers and insurer work together. The supervisor is also crucial to successful return to work as they understand the workplace, the tasks, the environment and dynamics, and can identify possible difficulties to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace. Peer support can be valuable both while away from work and when returning to work to help the worker feel connected and can be essential for the success of work modifications that have been implemented.

Tip three person-centered approach. Ensure that the injured worker is the central focus when developing the suitable duties program. Seek to understand how the injury is affecting the worker, both physically and mentally as well as at home, and what this means for their recovery and ability to return to work. Try to contextualize the worker's stressors to better understand the worker's perspective, have genuine concern and focus on what they can do, not what they can't treat the worker with respect and equity. Psychological illnesses are likely to vary more than physical conditions. So return to work planning needs to be more flexible, and you need to be patient and understanding. Australian research indicates that better return to work outcomes are achieved when a respectful and supportive approach is taken.

Tip four, modifications or alternate duties. Before you consider alternate roles for your injured worker, consider the design of work and the design of the workplace. Modifications can often be made to the workplace environment or work tasks to accommodate for injured worker restrictions and capacity so that workers can maintain their usual employment in a safe way. Small modifications can make a big difference for people and their ability to adjust, and they don't need to be expensive, complex, or permanent. Some modifications might include adjusting procedures and rosters, ensuring the worker has the right tools, equipment and resources, or allowing the worker to work from another location. Transitioning to a less stressful environment may be beneficial for the worker who was unable to cope with their usual working conditions. That being said, suitable duties don't need to be in the worker's pre-injury role. Consider alternate duties that the worker can do when making modifications to usual work tasks or environment, or introducing alternate duties or environments.

Draw on the psychosocial risk factors and hazards Nicole previously mentioned. Some considerations include, ensure that the worker is appropriately trained, has role or task clarity and access to the tools, resources, and information needed to carry out the job. Consider the risks associated with working remotely or in isolation, or simply away from their usual support networks or access to resources and communications may be difficult and time travels may be lengthy. Ensure the workers stay is connected to their usual work group by including them in team meetings and discussions. Avoid exposure to pre-injury stressors or new stressors that may exacerbate the injury. Example, violent or traumatic events or relationship complex. Consider the cognitive and emotional demands of the tasks, including time pressure was also ensuring that the duties are meaningful and not highly repetitive or monotonous.

Rehabilitation and return to work after psychological injury can be complex to manage, and it can take twice as long for workers to return to work. Social, personal and environmental factors can impact the success of return to work. And some common barriers include worker or employer belief that can only return to work once fully recovered. Conflicting views about capacity to work, fear of re-injury, ongoing stresses at work, lack of skills, or ability to do other work. A planned approach will overcome some of these barriers with consideration of the four tips that we just touched on early and ongoing communication and support to the worker, Working together with the treating medical provider, the insurer, and the worker to plan the return to work journey. Developing a suitable duties program that is person-centered and tailored for the worker's needs and careful consideration of the work environment and how you can modify work tasks or identify alternative tasks. Early access to psychological support by the insurer can assist as well, as well as the free, confidential, and independent psychological support service funded by the workers' compensation regulator. Engaging an occupational rehabilitation provider can assist employers and the workers on their return to work journey. Speak to your insurer about accessing this support early. For more information, what I've spoken about today, please head to our website at Thank you. And I will now hand you over to Julie Sullivan.

Hi, um, my name's Julie O. Sullivan. I'm an occupational therapist who works in mental health and I, uh, work in occupational rehabilitation. Um, I'm going to be speaking to you today about, uh, return to work, uh, from a mental health occupational therapy perspective.

So when a, an employee is returning to work after a psychological injury, um, or experiencing mental health issues, um, what we find is that, that that return to work process is rarely linear. Uh, their mental health factors, uh, and their mental health condition and symptoms are often create added complexity to the return to work process. And what we also find is that the barriers to return to work are most often psychosocial. And that can include, uh, interpersonal or family conflict or tensions, financial worries, uh, and financial stresses and housing instability as, as some examples. Uh, and so ha as has already been highlighted, uh, pretty clearly in this webinar. Uh, the components that can be really crucial for a successful return to work for people with psychological injury, uh, includes providing a timely support, uh, a structured, uh, return to work program. And that input and communication is done, uh, early and transparently.

So there can be a number of, um, impacts that a person's mental health can have on their return to work. So, first and foremost, uh, this, the illness symptoms that the person is experiencing will have an impact on their return to work. So some of those can include, uh, their experience of depression. Uh, so lower mood, uh, their, their experience of anxiety or stress symptoms. Uh, if they have, uh, a diagnosis of PTSD, then they might experience, uh, triggers and flares in their, in their environment. That can contribute to a higher anxiety and stress symptoms. Um, but illness symptoms can also include, you know, difficulties with sleep, uh, challenges with concentration and attention, uh, changes to appetite. Um, it can also, uh, include, um, uh, you know, a range of other things. So, um, these can all have an impact on that person's return to work functioning.

Um, having a mental health condition can also have a quite an impact on a person's prevocational functioning. So that includes, uh, their ability to look after their self cares, um, their, um, engagement in different activities outside their home. So different exercise activities or social connections. Uh, it can also include, um, their ability to be able to, uh, organize their, their finances and managing their budgets. Um, so all these things are going to have an impact on, on day to day functioning, which can then impact on return to work. Having, uh, a mental health, uh, episode and experiencing mental health symptoms can also really have a big impact on a person's confidence and their confidence and their belief in their ability to return to work. So they might, uh, be uncertain about, uh, their ability to get back to their, their, their previous role. Uh, they might be concerned about how the workplace is going to, um, manage their return to work.

Uh, they might be worried about their relationships with their colleagues, uh, and, uh, perhaps their attitudes, uh, of their colleagues and their workplace in general to, to their mental health condition. Um, and they might be even worried about how, um, what sort of questions that that person might be asked when they get back to work, why they've been on leave. So all these things can really, uh, really contribute to a reduced or diminished confidence in getting back to work. And also, uh, that experience of mental health, um, issues can really have an impact on people's motivation, on their energy levels, and as we've mentioned before, can have a big impact on different psychosocial stresses including finances and family. Um, so there is, um, the role of a mental health occupational therapist, um, in a person's return to work, um, can be really helpful and beneficial in getting that person back to their work and their duties.

So, um, a starting point, um, will be that the OT will, uh, engage in initial assessment with the person. And so, um, that will often be, uh, uh, an interview based or talking based, uh, assessment. And it might also include, um, uh, completing different evaluation measures. And so the purpose of an initial assessment is to help identify, uh, the worker's strengths, uh, their potential barriers for getting back to work or some of the challenges that might be interfering with return to work. And then, uh, coming up with some, um, suggestions and recommendations of how to help that person, uh, get back to work and the areas that would be beneficial to address. Um, the, an occupational therapist will also support, uh, the worker with, uh, improving and enhancing that prevocational functioning. So looking at their daily living skills, their work life balance, uh, helping with, um, routines of activities in their day to day, um, making sure that, um, they're engaging in healthy habits and healthy activities and looking at, at goal setting and, and, uh, even, uh, looking at, uh, linking to different services and resources if they're helpful for the person.

Um, a big component, uh, of work that the OT will do with the worker is developing a return to work plan. And that can include, um, developing a tailored and individualised suitable duties program. And it will also often include, uh, conducting a work site visit so that the OT can get a sense of that workplace and, um, key areas that might be really useful to address as part of that work. Uh, return to work plan, um, throughout, um, the work that the OT does with the worker, um, there will be, uh, as well as initial, but also ongoing consultation. Ideally, an engagement with treating specialists with the workplace, um, and the insurer as well as the worker.

Mental health occupational therapists are also very, um, skilled in providing, uh, tailored education and training, um, for the, for the employer. Um, and so this will be about, uh, addressing, uh, some of the different aspects of how their illness might impact on their functioning and how to, uh, come up with better, uh, strategies and ways of managing that illness. So we could be looking at, um, different skills and strategies for managing anxiety, for stress, for, um, managing pain, um, different, uh, sensory modulation techniques that that can help with stress management and help people, um, with their day to day functioning. Um, and then, of course, uh, doing this in a supportive counselling and problem solving, um, uh, framework. Occupational therapists are also, uh, skilled and expert at environmental and task analysis. So we will look at, um, the person, uh, the, uh, activities and the duties that they perform at work and the environment in which they're performing those duties.

And we have that understanding that if we can get, uh, a better link or, or match between those three elements, then that person's, uh, work performance is going be enhanced. So, as an occupational therapist, we would look at, uh, what potential modifications or adaptations might be helpful to get that, that better match between the person, their environment, and their tasks. Um, uh, we might also look at, uh, linking to other, uh, community counselling or SE or therapy services for the worker, uh, if they're having, um, ongoing, uh, problems or personal issues that might need, uh, extra, extra therapy or extra support. Um, so linking to those services in the community if needed. Um, throughout the whole, um, process of helping a person return to work, we will be looking at, uh, any, um, issues that we might need to troubleshoot and to help navigate those, uh, advocate for the worker and support the worker and help with communications with the workplace as well. Um, another area that mental health OTs are, are, are very, uh, experienced in, is helping with, uh, education of the workplace. So if the workplace, um, would benefit from more information or more knowledge and awareness about mental health and how they can, um, specifically support their worker with the return to work.

So, um, how does this all, uh, uh, translate into practice? Um, so to help illustrate some of these concepts, um, I'd like to talk about two case studies of where an occupational therapist and mental health occupational therapist, uh, could be very helpful in, um, in supporting a worker back to their back to their workplace. So, I'd like to talk about Trevor and about Helen. So let's, let's talk about Trevor first. So, Trevor is a factory worker. Um, he has experienced, uh, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after sustaining a traumatic hand injury while operating, um, machinery in his workplace. Uh, Trevor already attempted a return to work after he was given medical clearance from his injury, but unfortunately, this wasn't very successful, uh, because as he returned to work, he, um, was experiencing heightened anxiety. Um, so he was experiencing distressing flashbacks and panic attacks, uh, in the workplace.

So his, uh, his workplace referred, uh, Trevor to see a mental health occupational therapist, um, to do an assessment and to provide some recommendations. So, through that assessment process, um, there were a number of return to work barriers that were identified for Trevor. Um, firstly, uh, Trevor was experiencing significant anxiety related to his workplace, including, uh, the environment and also operating, uh, equipment. Uh, and that was sort of related to that traumatic hand injury. Um, it was also identified that, uh, prior to the OT input, Trevor didn't, uh, have any opportunity to, uh, engage in a graded return to work to help. And, and so, uh, what I mean by that is to, to grade the exposure, um, to back to his workplace, um, and potentially grade the exposure to a, uh, potential anxiety triggers in his workplace. Um, Trevor also, uh, uh, lacked or, or didn't have a huge number of, uh, self-management strategy. So he didn't, um, he recognised that he had a lot of anxiety and would experience symptoms of ptsd, but he didn't really have a lot of tools and resources to be able to manage those, those, um, experiences. And so because of all this, he really had a, a reduced confidence, um, in his ability to get back to work, and didn't really have, uh, a perception of, of success that he would be able to get back to his, his previous job.

So from the initial assessment, uh, the input that a mental health occupational therapist could offer Trevor would include, um, education and exploration and implementation of very individualised and tailored strategies to help him manage his anxiety and his symptoms of his illness. Um, we would also, uh, provide a lot of goal setting, uh, to increase his engagement in, in those prevocational activities and life roles that were so important to Trevor that that act as really good, um, foundations and scaffolding for, um, the, the steps to get back to work. So that would, for, for someone like Trevor that might be re-engaging in, um, exercise and going to the gym and connecting, reconnecting with his, with his, uh, friends and families and different social activities. Um, Trevor could also benefit from, um, the development of a short term host placement. So prior to going back to work, uh, potentially looking at a host placement to reestablish, um, work activities, uh, in a less stressful environment, Um, and then he can build on those activities that work order day, um, different work routines and really build his confidence and work conditioning, uh, in a different environment and then translate, uh, that, that building and that that functioning into his workplace.

Um, so prior to going back to work, uh, a work site visit, um, would be really helpful to conduct with Trevor, um, to, uh, get a sense of, of that workplace and to develop a graded suitable duties program. Um, then we would look at graduated transition back to his work role. Um, and that would include, um, you know, obviously providing ongoing support for the worker and, and workplace education, um, if that's needed. And through the process of, uh, that transition back to work, uh, there would be active monitoring, um, and, and checking in with Trevor to identify and address any return to work challenges in a timely and responsive manner. And throughout this whole process, um, collaboration, communication with the, the whole treatment team, so including his gp, uh, psychiatrist and, and psychologist or counselor if they're involved. Um, so the outcomes that can be achieved for someone like Trevor is that, uh, he can commence, uh, uh, potentially when he goes back to work, he might be able to commence in a different work space or different part of the factory.

Um, so he's not actually doing, uh, the work at the place where he act sustained the injury. And, um, then, uh, we can look at, at reducing hours and duties. Um, and that might include not using the specific equipment that was involved in the injury. And then when we are looking at that graded exposure program, we would look at gradually increasing his contact and exposure to the place of the injury. Um, so that might involve, um, you know, walking in and out of that part of the factory. It then might then grade to, uh, watching the equipment being used, then setting up the equipment, and then practicing using the equipment with the long term goal of then getting back to using the equipment, um, and then being able to incrementally build up his hours and duties to return to that substantive role. And so, um, for someone like Trevor, um, to be able to go through that process, uh, can really help him see, uh, that he can return to that pre-injury role, um, with that level of support.

And so now I'd like to talk to you about an, another case study, um, where a mental health OT could be very helpful. And that's with Helen, who's a teacher aid. So, Helen, um, experiences depression and anxiety, and, um, she has also had experience with, uh, previous, uh, conflict in the workplace, interpersonal conflict. Um, Helen also has a number of psychosocial stresses, uh, that she's dealing with, uh, at the moment too. So, uh, relating to family and different relationship stresses. And so, again, um, an ot, uh, was, was, um, requested to, to meet with Helen and do an assessment and provide some recommendations. So through that assessment process, uh, the barriers that were identified, uh, with Helen, uh, include, um, that she, uh, through the time that she was away from work, um, and managing her mental health, um, she, uh, started to notice an increase in her avoidance behaviors.

So, and this was a, a way that she coped with her anxiety. So she would remain at her home a lot. She wasn't driving as much. Her activity levels were reduced, and she, uh, started to use different, um, uh, substances like alcohol to try and cope with her anxiety. Um, Helen also didn't have, um, access to community counselling or psych, uh, psychological services. Um, she had, um, not a huge awareness or knowledge of anxiety and different strategies that might help her, um, self manage those symptoms. Um, she also, um, did not have a lot of contact with the, with the workplace. So when she went off, uh, on leave, um, yeah, there was not a lot of, of, uh, communication between her and the workplace, and that seemed to kind of, uh, extend as the time extended. And so all these things meant that she had quite a reduced confidence, uh, in her ability to return to work and, um, uh, a reduced trust, I guess, that she would be able to get back into the workplace and, and fit back into that, into that environment.

So, um, the o the input that the mental health occupational therapist, uh, could offer Helen, uh, from the initial assessment is again, um, providing her with education, um, about anxiety and, uh, to explore and practice and trial a number of different tailored, uh, anxiety management strategies. Uh, so for someone like Helen that could be, uh, using sensory modulation, which is using different sensory input to help change how we feel and help manage our stress levels, um, uh, goal setting would also be really important to, to, um, do with Helen in a supportive manner to help increase, uh, her activities outside of her home and improve, um, the healthy lifestyle choices that she was making. So, sort of get her out of her home and, and build, uh, that comfort zone zone away from her, her home environment. Um, Helen, uh, would probably also benefit from being connected with a community counselor, um, to help, uh, her navigate some of her family and in sort of interpersonal stresses as well.

Um, the mental health occupational therapist would, uh, do a lot of work around collaborating with the workplace. Um, so that could include, uh, a work site visit. Um, and, uh, an example that might be really helpful for someone like Helen is to start, uh, arranging, uh, regular or weekly calls from the workplace to Helen, um, to check in with her and start that, that dialogue and that communication and, and hopefully start to build a bit more trust, uh, between Helen and the workplace. Um, and then through that process, uh, starting to develop, uh, a graded suitable duties program, um, with a graduated transition back to, to Helen's work role. Um, it would be really important to, um, to do that with Helen, uh, to include her in that process and to in, uh, ensure that the mental health OT also, um, uh, does regular workplace check-ins and regular check-ins with Helen, um, to make sure that, that, that, that that's going smoothly and to troubleshoot any problems. Um, and again, um, offering, um, support and education to the workplace if they need that. Um, and yeah, as we said to, to make sure we troubleshoot and, and address any return to work challenges quickly.

So, um, some outcomes that someone like Helen could achieve is that, uh, she would be able to incrementally build up her hours and duties to be able to slowly return to her substantive pre-injury role. So being provided with that level of support and input, um, can help with building, uh, uh, confidence and trust. So confidence in, in herself and her ability to manage her, her, um, her symptoms, and get back to work and, and build that sort of trust and commitment back into the workplace. Um, and I think, um, having that mental health OT input can really help her with that prevocational functioning as well. So helping her, um, uh, choose, uh, positive healthy living, um, goals and activities and help her, uh, with some of those, um, those prevocational functionings. Um, and I think that that can help with, um, people, again, building that confidence and having, uh, that future focus that that, that they can get back to work and get back to their, their, um, pre-injury duties.

Um, and so for, for clients that I've worked with, uh, like Helen, they're often very, very, uh, grateful to have that occupational therapy approach in their return to work. So, um, five tips that I would, um, I would recommend in relation to, uh, return to work would be one, um, to provide that return to work support early. And, um, you know, if I think the earlier that we can provide that support, um, the more likely, uh, the outcome is gonna be successful. Um, when we are providing support with a return to work process, it's really important that it can be graduated and incremented. So sort of starting slowly, um, uh, potentially offering, uh, accommodated or, or alternate duties and, um, if it's possible, uh, uh, lesser hours and building the hours up as well, um, and that, that really can, um, increase that return to work success.

Um, I think, uh, the, there is value and importance in timely and consistent contact and communication. Um, and that can be with, uh, the, the rehab provider, but also with the workplace and, and the worker as well. So looking at, at timely support, timely check-ins. Um, and I think, uh, having an, uh, a mental health occupational therapist to support return to work can be very valuable because, uh, we have a very holistic framework. We are very person-centered. Um, we, we recognise that, um, the, uh, psychological and social aspects of a person's, uh, presentation can be just as, uh, important as the biological. And so, um, providing support in that psychosocial realm, um, and, and building, um, uh, functioning in that arena can be just as important to help build a person's, uh, skills and confidence to get back to work. Um, so this is just a few additional support, uh, resources if people are interested, um, to, to, um, gain a bit more knowledge about, about, uh, return to work. And, um, if you're more, if you're interested in, in that concept of sensory modulation as a, as an intervention, uh, there's a, a resource book there too that can be, that can be filled with some interesting information for you. So thank you very much for your time.

So Sarah, Dan, and Julie, thank you so much for coming along today and talking about suitable duties and rehab, return to work for people with psychological injury. Just a few questions that we might cover off on. So, Sarah Jane, you, one thing you mentioned in your presentation was the worker's psychological support service, and I know that's a more recent, uh, initiative. Could you talk a little bit more about what that involves?

Yeah, sure. And thank you for asking Nicole. It's, um, what's worth them talking a little bit more about this really exciting and innovative, um, service that we are able to offer. So, um, the service is outsourced. Um, we fund, uh, Queensland Council of Unions to run this, um, psychological service. Uh, it's in his fourth year, so it started as a three year pilot and was highly successful. So we continued, um, funding for this program, and they've just reached their milestone of 2000, um, callers to the service. And what they do is, um, it's a free service available to all injured workers, and what they do is they talk to them about what, um, services that they need, um, to be able to manage their psychological injuries. Um, and that might be tapping them into, um, community services that can help with finances, um, or can help with counselling or anything really that they need assistance with. They have, um, uh, quite an extensive list of companies that they refer, um, workers to, but they also provide that support over the phone as well.

Yep. Thank you. Excellent. Thank you. So, Julia, I, I loved your case studies. It was great to hear some practical examples there. Uh, one thing that made me think about, I guess, was that, um, especially Trevor's example was that importance of trauma informed care and practice. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Yeah, yeah. I think it's a, it's a really important, um, area for workplaces to be, um, more understanding of and, and educated about because, uh, just from a statistics perspective, um, you know, they, they suggest that that really five in 10 people, uh, will have experienced a trauma in their lifetime. And I think the stats are about 6% of people, um, can be diagnosed with PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. And I think, um, you know, of whether a trauma is, um, happens in a workplace or not, um, the, the ability of the workplace to be able to support, uh, an employee when they've experienced a trauma is really very important and can really, um, impact the trajectory and the experience of that, of that, uh, for the, for the worker. Um, so I think, um, you know, there, there's probably value in workplaces adopting, uh, a sort of a universal trauma informed approach.

You know, that, that if all workplaces are trauma informed, um, that that would actually be a great, a great thing, um, for, for the workers and for, for the workplace. And, um, I guess when we talk about what it is to be trauma informed, it's about, um, being, uh, aware that people, uh, that through life people will experience trauma and to be aware that that will have an impact on their functioning, and that there are, um, strategies and, and, um, uh, uh, yeah, strategies that the workplace can put into place to help support, um, that person who's experienced trauma. So I think, um, uh, a, a really, uh, important factor is, um, is making sure that, that the workplace is, and that the worker understands that the workplace is, is safe psychologically and physically, and, and whatever, uh, policies and procedures and, and education that the workplace can, can conduct to, to make sure that everyone is, is, um, of that understanding.

That's really helpful because that foundation of safety is so, so important. And I think, um, you know, the, the, an awareness that, um, that the, the supports that people might require might be different for different people, how, how a a person experiences trauma and, and the supports that they need might be quite different. So that sort of person-centered, individualised, um, um, input and, and support is really important. And I think all those things, um, mean that, that a worker feels supported, uh, feels safe in the workplace, um, feels that they're being heard, Um, and that that can only enhance, um, that, uh, that experience. And I guess that that relationship and trust, um, uh, that the worker has for the, for the workplace, and that can only then mean that their, uh, performance is better and they're more committed, you know, to the organisation. Yeah,

Yeah. Thanks, Julie. You, in the work that you do, obviously you have exposure to people's life stories yourself and, and also just emotionally challenging work. There's lots of ups and downs in the role. So how do you look after yourself? How do you keep yourself psychologically

Safe? Really good question, and I think like anyone, uh, we have times where we do that better and times where, where we could be better at looking after ourselves. But I think, um, being able to, to look after ourselves, um, as a worker in, in any profession is, is such a, a foundational skill. It's so important. Um, and, uh, so for me, I think, um, you know, a lot of it isn't really rocket science. Um, but I think sometimes the more stress we're under, sometimes those core strategies that we do more, uh, innately or or subconsciously sometimes slip off the radar. And so it's about making sure that we can keep doing the things that we know help keep us feeling well and feeling, um, psychologically safe and, and less stressed. So I think there's, you know, those pillars of, um, you know, looking after ourselves properly and, um, you know, eating well and exercising and, and getting enough sleep.

Um, so, you know, not very sexy, but really, really important. Um, and I think too, everyone is unique. So, um, the, the, the key, key sort of stress management strategies or the key things that we like to do that keep us feeling good might be very different for different people. Often think about, um, you know, the choices that people make or if they're thinking about going on a holiday, you know, it's so different for different people because we all have, uh, different interests and, and, and preferences, um, that meet our needs. So I think, um, having an awareness of what works for you, um, you know, whether that's going for a walk, exercising, whether it's spending time with the people you love, um, whether it's going and seeing movies, whether it's spending time in nature, um, whether it's, you know, uh, when you're driving home from work, you know, having the radio on and singing to yourself, um, having those little strategies and tools and, and making sure you put them on repeat and under more, when you're under more stress, it's actually more important to put those on repeat and not let them slip by the wayside.


Thanks Julie. Uh, I think, um, just to sort of finish off today would be good just to hear, um, some top tip. So my top tip for workplaces is to ensure that you do that routine risk assessments, looking at those psychosocial hazards, having some discussion in your teams about that. You may even wanna use the people at work tool as well. You can see more about that on the work safe side, uh, putting those control measures in place and making sure you're doing that really important monitoring and review and making sort of tweaks where you need to. That is a way, you know, prevention's just so important, uh, in terms of preventing, uh, psychological harm to workers. So, Sarah Jane, what's your top tip for workplaces?

Uh, well, it's difficult to narrow down to one. Um, I think consultation is key, Um, both when managing, preventing, um, injuries happening in the workplace, but also for that return to work journey as well. Um, you know, if you have that constant check in and communication, two way communication about what your expectations are or what the barriers might be, just understanding the workers' needs, um, you can get a lot more buy in, uh, make, make the whole program much more tailored to, to what it is that they need. Um, and then it may, you know, may feel that the worker has control over what their return to work journey is, but it's not just between the worker, um, and the rehab coordinator or the employer, It's, it's also the other people in the workplace that are affected by the changes that are happening when you're managing somebody's return to work. So have that consultation with them. The other workers within that work group have that consultation with, um, the supervisor, um, and just between, um, the, the employer and the insurer as well. So everybody's on the same page with the return to work journey. Um, it's, you're going have a lot more successful, um, return to work outcomes.

Thanks, SJ, what's your top tick, Julie?

I think mine would be, again, it's a hard one to narrow down, isn't it? But I think mine would be, um, ensuring that that, uh, that the return to work process and plan is, is tailored to the person and person centered, you know, individualised. And I think, um, some of the, the how you do that is, is very much that communication and that consultation process that's almost like the, the conduit for, um, for making something person-centered. And I think when you do that, the worker, um, will understand and, and get the sense that, that the workplace is, is doing what they can to meet their needs and, and tailoring it to what, what they need. And I think, again, that just that process helps to instill more confidence and trust, um, and can help with the success of the return to work.

Thanks, Julie. I'd just like to thank both Sarah-Jane and Julie for, uh, helping us out with this webinar today. If you're wanting some further information about, uh, the topic that we, we've been discussing today, I encourage you to visit the Work Safe site. You may also choose to subscribe to eSafe and the Rehabilitation and Return to Work e-Bulletin, and also follow the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and Return to Work Queensland Facebook pages. Thank you.