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Shifting careers can help workers return to work

Turning to a completely different job and industry is sometimes needed for workers with injuries that prevent them from ever returning to their pre-injury role, as this case study shows.

The injury

The worker, aged 40, was a floor hand on a drill rig, and had worked on drilling rigs in various locations in Queensland. Over time, the gripping and twisting motions from using pipe wrenches and sledge hammers resulted in a right elbow injury.

This then started a lengthy road to recovery that spanned two years.

Treatment and rehabilitation

The worker underwent steroid injections and hand therapy. An orthopaedic specialist did not recommend surgery, and the worker was referred for adjustment to injury counselling.

As he was unable to return to work on drilling rigs, he was assigned to suitable duties completing office work.
An independent medical examiner assessment recommended that light duties were continued for another six months. He then started as a store person on reduced hours.

When cortisone injections made his injury worse, the GP advised no further treatment would be of benefit.

Another independent specialist confirmed the worker needed to do lighter and less repetitive work, and it may take up to another 12 months to fully recover.

As the employer was unable to continue offering lighter duties, they requested a host employer be sourced (a host employer agrees to have an injured worker at their workplace when they can't participate in rehabilitation with their original employer).

A vocational assessment was a turning point for the worker – it reignited his interest in caring for people and it helped him to accept that he needed to explore a better long term option that wouldn't aggravate his condition. It turned his focus away from working in the mining industry.

Transferrable skills and further training lead to a new role

The worker had excellent transferrable skills, previously working for five years as a hospital wardsperson, where he assisted and supported people with disabilities.

WorkCover sourced a host employer in the disability support industry. The host employer encouraged the worker to complete a Certificate 3 in Disability Care, which could lead to long term employment.

After completing his certificate, the worker achieved a permanent job in a new local hospital. After careful consideration of the tasks, his GP was happy to give full medical clearance for his new role.

For more information about returning to work on suitable duties, or host employment, please visit our website, or call us on 1300 362 128.