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Cater Care Group: Emphasising capacity, not limitation

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Cater Care Group provides contract catering, accommodation and facility management services to industries in regional and remote locations across Queensland.

Since its establishment in 1999, the company has experienced rapid growth, primarily due to the resource sector boom, and currently employs 420 workers across Queensland.

What was the problem?

A number of costly workers' compensation claims, partly due to difficulties returning injured workers to remote locations, had a negative impact on the business.

Cater Care was invited to participate in the Injury Prevention and Management (IPaM) program in 2012 to assist them to further develop the improvements they had made to their work health and safety and injury management systems.

What was the solution?

IPaM assisted Cater Care to analyse injury trends, survey workers and review their work health and safety and injury management systems. As a result, the company identified the need to improve their injury management culture.

Several organisation-level changes were made to support a shift in culture including:

  • modifying the language used by management and in policies, procedures and other communication channels such as newsletters and training to be more positive. For example 'work capacity management' rather than 'injury management'
  • implementing a work capacity management procedure that focused on supporting staff to return to their pre-injury role including training for middle managers on how to help injured workers stay at work during their recovery
  • creating a care services team as a central point of contact to deal with injured workers
  • modifying company performance measures by moving away from injury statistics and focusing on employee feedback through staff surveys and the success of work capacity management
  • developing work capacity information products for workers, managers, supervisors and external treating practitioners including:
    • a brochure for workers outlining the benefits of returning to work and their workers' compensation rights
    • a step-by-step guide for supervisors and managers to follow when a worker is injured
    • a letter to medical practitioners explaining Cater Care's work capacity management process and the role of the practitioner in the process.

“Our focus on 'work capacity management' and move away from 'injury management' is now featured strongly in the company's safety and wellbeing strategy, which is endorsed by the executive management team.”
Zinta Satins, Cater Care Group Safety and Wellbeing Manager.

Several worker-level strategies were also implemented including:

  • encouraging workers to report both work and non-work related injuries
  • encouraging workers to report niggles and body aches, even if their capacity is not yet affected, to ensure early intervention
  • making injury reporting quick and easy by having a dedicated phone number, fax number, email address and easy-to-use notification form
  • finding suitable duties on site or at a host workplace to encourage injured workers to stay at work in some capacity by keeping them active, engaged and supported, with the joint goal of regaining 100 per cent of their work capacity.

What were the benefits?

As a result of the changes made, Cater Care has seen:

  • reductions in the severity of injuries as a result of increased reporting and reporting early symptoms, whether they are work-related or not
  • a 21 per cent increase in injured workers staying at work
  • a 16 per cent reduction in the number of workers' compensation claims, including a 66 per cent reduction in psychological injury claims and a 30 per cent reduction in sprain and strain claims
  • a more positive attitude amongst workers and management to injury management
  • reductions in re-training, recruitment and wages stemming from workplace injuries.

Cater Care Group was a finalist in the 2014 Queensland Return to Work Awards in the Employer achievement category for their commitment to the improvement of rehabilitation and return to work outcomes and innovative strategies to have injured workers return or stay at work.

What makes this story worth sharing?

Cater Care Group has improved injury management outcomes by putting a positive focus on the process. Simple strategies like changing the language and intervening earlier following an injury has resulted in improved outcomes for the organisation and their workers.

“People are motivated to work towards positive outcomes as opposed to avoiding negative outcomes. We achieved this by talking about work capacity instead of injury management. This approach can also be applied in general terms when it comes to health and safety management.”
Zinta Satins, Cater Care Group Safety and Wellbeing Manager.

More information

For injury prevention and management information and resources: