In July 2010, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and WorkCover Queensland introduced the Injury Prevention and Management (IPaM) program, designed to assist businesses to develop better workplace health, safety and injury management systems.
Stellar Asia Pacific (Stellar) is a call centre outsourcing company with nine call centres in Australia employing more than 3200 staff, and call centre facilities in the Philippines, the United Kingdom and North America.
Stellar was invited to participate in the IPaM program in 2011. In recent years, Stellar had experienced a high number of workers' compensation (statutory) claims. Common injuries that resulted in claims included:
- sprain and strain to the wrist/hand
- neck strain and sprain
- lower back strain and sprain
- acoustic shock.
Investing in early intervention
Stellar recognised that early intervention and having a focus on workplace rehabilitation can reduce the economic and human costs associated with work related injury and illness.
Stellar applied an early intervention approach to its injury management processes. The cornerstone of this approach was to engage a local occupational rehabilitation provider including the services of an occupational physician specialising in work related injury and illness.
Following an assessment of the workplace by the rehabilitation provider, Stellar introduced processes to ensure early and appropriate intervention for its injured workers.
Key elements of Stellar's early intervention approach include:
- Injured workers are given the option to be taken to the clinic as soon as they report an injury. Through the arrangements with the rehabilitation provider, injured workers can access a same-day consultation with their doctor of choice.
- Practitioners take a holistic view, and have a plan to start rehabilitation strategies straight away, to enable the injured worker to stay at work or return to work as soon as possible.
- Recommendations for progression are emailed or faxed back to Stellar on the day of the consultation.
- Early referral to appropriate specialists is a feature of the program, and workers are often able to arrange to see specialists or other rehabilitation providers quickly.
- Workers who are unable to recover at work are contacted every two days. They are sent newsletters and information to keep them informed about what is happening at the workplace.
- Workers are contacted by Stellar's return to work coordinator following their medical reviews, to ensure everyone involved in the return to work process is informed about how the injured worker's recovery is progressing.
Consultation with team leaders and staff was an important part of introducing the early intervention process at Stellar. Before the process was introduced, it was discussed with workers in their team meetings, and the rehabilitation provider's practice manager visited Stellar to talk about the process.
Sourcing a rehabilitation provider close to Stellar's location and with the capacity to accommodate the size of the company was a challenge. Before Stellar's current provider opened in the area, there had been limited availability of a doctor for injured workers to see promptly.
Injured workers previously had minimal contact with the workplace while they were away from work, so it took time to develop trust in the new process. However, workers have shown a keener interest in their recovery and return to work since the early intervention process was implemented.
A notable financial benefit for Stellar has been the significant reduction in its workers' compensation premium. Stellar's premium was reduced by 61 per cent in 2012-13, as compared to 2011-12. This reduction was due to a number of factors, including a decline in common law claims costs and the implementation of injury prevention and management strategies that have reduced claims costs.
Other positive changes have included:
- Injured workers who are absent from work feel more 'connected' to the workplace. Workers perceive that Stellar cares about its employees while they are at home recovering.
- Team leaders say they feel more empowered and actively participate in the rehabilitation process by encouraging workers to seek treatment and being supportive during stay at work or return to work planning.
- Other Queensland-based Stellar call centres are now referring to the same provider, creating a streamlined approach to injury management that focuses on early intervention.
Team leaders will receive training to help them identify and better manage psychosocial health issues. This will ensure early recognition of issues and that workers receive the appropriate assistance as soon as possible.
This case study highlights some cost effective and achievable steps employers can implement to improve injury management outcomes.
For more information about injury prevention and management, and resources to improve your business's injury prevention and management systems:
- call 1300 362 128
- visit the IPaM web pages