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2014 Return to Work Awards

Winners and finalists of the 2014 Return to Work Awards - recognising an individual's successful rehabilitation and stay at/return to work within the past 12 months following a work-related injury.

Anita Johnston

The Vac Group's Anita Johnston claimed the Rehabilitation and Return to Work Coordinator Achievement Award at the Return to Work Awards 2014. In this film Anita shares her tips for improving return to work performance, facilitating relationships between all parties, and how she contributes to improving the return to work culture in her workplace.

RUN TIME: 5 min 44 sec

My names Anita Johnston and I'm the Human resources manager here at VAC Group of companies and also return to work coordinator and we do asset protection in the civil construction industry so we do non-destructive digging, and ground penetrating radar and sub surfacing utility engineering.

We have around 150 staff and the majority of our staff do non-destructive digging with our VAC trucks , vacuum digger and we also have utility locators that work in our earth spy division.

So for successful return to work I think the core issue is really that relationship with your employees, that they know that you are really there for them and they understand beforehand what sorts of processes will be taking place, that they know the suitable duties and that their supervisors going to be well involved and that staying at work is really health for them in that they can keep a relationship going into work, staying involved with your work mates and having that confidence that continues with the healthy aspects of been at work.

Some of the benefits that come for the business was successful return to work, obviously that the employees are still available to be utilised and to meet our clients' needs. There's the aspect financially too, there's a massive impact that it can have on premiums, but I think ultimately the real benefit to the business is that cultural fit, knowing that your staff know and you know that you can be proud of yourself as a business you do have a culture where your staff are looked after and that gets out there and people do approach us and do want to work for us.

Some of the successes that we have found in our return to work culture are really hiring people that have a wonderful approach to life and to work as well so attitude is one of our key drivers for what we look for in our staff and that creates a successful work place full stop.

Another aspect that we find really helpful is just really explaining to people right from the first day of what they can expect so if something goes wrong and they have an injury for example then we don't just stop work but we just adjust work so they know right from first day how we do return to work and what their expectations can be and how the process works and that they have a voice and that we are all about continual improvement and encouraging them to be engaged.

So I do feel really lucky in this work place and that we do have senior management the owners the directors they generally do want to have a safe workplace they do care about their staff and there is no issue as far as support to my role in return to work and I think that really is something that potentially other workplaces can learn from is that there are financial benefits and that culture does flow from top down throughout our business.

So our successful early intervention strategies really are being engaged with the employee right from when they may first have an injury. So we are part of the initial consultation with the Doctor so that we really build a team approach.

We have come a long way in our GP engagement and relationships so have gone out and identified specific practices that have occupational focus in their work and actually had them come out to our depots, demonstrate for them what VAC trucks do and what utility locators do and even engaged actual occupational physios so they could break down into different duties and weights so then we could specifically map out for GP's what different kinds of suitable duties are available.

I guess communication is one of the keys to the success that we have had and engaging senior management and supervisors of injured workers so that they know what is expected of them to get out there hands on with the Doctors and the employees and just keep the ball rolling as far as communication.

I keep our leadership team across what's happening as far as return to work goes by open communication and then when we have monthly management team meetings as well I present on where we are at and how things are tracking as well.

One of the fantastic things is that it doesn't cost a lot of money to be good at these processes, it just takes a great attitude.

For other return to work coordinators I'd really encourage them to take the processes to get senior leadership involved and in the buy in guess driving the financially benefits is obviously a key success.

Also the attitude of staff and the managers and the people that the supervisors that are going to be dong the return to work relational stuff with their employees that they have a positive approach to return to work, it's not about blame it's really about supporting staff and having that positive attitude towards return to work and that they are feeling supported and that their culture has a strongest driver and that achieve results.

We have taken the time to put things in place and it has really reaped rewards of people. They have had better health outcomes, better social outcomes with their families and it's a great achievement.

Endeavour Foundation

Winning the Employer Achievement Award (large employer) in the Return to Work Awards 2014, Endeavour demonstrate commitment to improving the return to work experience of their supported workforce. This short film demonstrates their philosophy on return to work and how they put this into action, as well as the key elements of their successful return to work strategies and programs

RUN TIME: 5 min 17 sec

My name is Yvonne Payne, I'm from the Endeavour foundation, we currently employee around about 4500 staff, 2500 of those people are workers with a disability.

So a couple of years ago our workplace health and safety and injury management team got together and we developed a 2013, 2014 strategic plan and we looked at all the different stakeholders in the organisation and how we could provide a better service from a health and safety and injury management perspective to those parts of the business.

We presented that to our CEO, he 100 per cent supported our strategic plan and as a result of that the flow on was that managers and supervisors felt they could easily be on board as well. That then gave us a platform to go out and train the business and everyone felt part of a well thought out strategic plan.

Our key elements are the training that the managers and supervisors have all received over the last couple of years. We have also done an extensive review on our rehab documents and tried to simplify that process for the managers and for the workers.

Our rehab and return to work culture within the organisation has been really driven by the training that we have provided to our managers and supervisors. That's had a trickle on effect amongst all of our workers.

We also like to have a really good relationship with WorkCover Queensland and our case managers, that way they're all part of this process as well and everybody's involved.

One of the really good initiatives that flowed on from our strategic plan was a preferred medical provider. We have trialled that in several sites and it's had an amazing, positive effect on our rehab and return to work and as a result of that we've reduced in those four sites alone we have reduced claims cost by about around $100,000 a year, so it's had really good benefits. What our plan is moving forward for the 15/16 strategic plan is that preferred medical provider process will be rolled our across the business.

Our upper level management supports early return to work because they understand the very real human and financial benefits of early return to work.

Endeavour foundation's rehab coordinators have such a great knowledge of the organisation that as long as that communication is there and the rehab coordinator is aware of an injured worker, they can contact the person and explain to them all the varied opportunities that we have in regards to return to work.

So we are getting them back to work earlier because of the communications strategy that we've put in place, our rehab return to work coordinators work very closely with injured workers, doctors and treating medical providers and because our managers and supervisors are communicating with the rehab coordinators in turn they can get that return to work process rolling and it's all about early intervention and really good smart communication.

We've found that our supported workers who rely so heavily on the social interaction of work and support networks they get at work that the culture has really changed whereby our workers are very keen to return to work and very keen to participate in rehabilitation strategies and suitable duties.

The financial benefits have being astounding. The fact that we've halved our claims costs that's had a huge amount of positive effect on our WorkCover premium.

As far as our business goes the more people that we have hands on deck the better it is and we really understand the importance of people returning to work and what a lengthy time off work can do to somebody mentally and physically, so the physical benefits obviously of early return to work, the statistics will show that the earlier somebody's back at work the easier they are going to recover.

I would like to say to all other employers, take a step back and have a look at what they're currently doing and what they can do better, then it's a matter of developing that plan and putting it out to the business.

To develop the plan you really need stakeholder involvement, you need feedback from all the different parts of your organisation, look at how you can streamline it, look at the dollars that can be saved when you do streamline that and then once you have a really good strategic plan in place to follow that plan.

I can't even explain how proud I am of what we have done for our organisation as a workplace health and safety injury management team, we have managed to save valuable money that can then be rolled out into our business, that money that's saved goes straight back to our people we support and they are the final beneficiaries of that any savings that are made.

Mark Ferguson - Winner - Injured worker achievement awards (serious injury)

Mark had been a rigger and crane operator for two years when he stumbled on some rocks at work and caught his hand in between an auxiliary cable and the head sheave. As a result Mark's right hand was crushed and he needed surgery to remove fingers on his right hand.

Kelly Ponting - Winner - Injured worker achievement awards (return to work)

Kelly worked as a forklift driver, when a slip at work caused a disc to dislodge in his spine. Kelly was unable to walk or sit without an unbearable amount of pain. The injury meant that he would no longer be able work in his role at full capacity.

RSPCA Queensland

RSPCA Queensland was the proud recipient of the Employer Achievement Award (small-medium employer) at the Return to Work Awards 2014. Their commitment to improving their return to work culture and leadership in driving better outcomes are demonstrated in this film, outlining their strategies, practices and achievements.

RUN TIME: 4 min 53 sec

My name is Jennifer Bell, I work for the RSPCA Queensland. The RSPCA Queensland is one of the largest animal welfare organisations in the southern hemisphere. We employee approximately 300 staff, from animal welfare to retail to administration.

The RSPCA has aligned its strategic objectives with a better return to work outcome by working closely with the senior leadership team, working closely with the executive leadership team to ensure that rehabilitation is built into both our health and safety policy and procedure, as well as our other safety management system procedures, this way its ingrained in everything that we do and it's a part of the daily operations of the society.

The key elements of our strategy in getting our injured workers back to work as soon as possible are consultation being available to the injured worker as and when they needed. Insuring that we are informed of the injury as soon as it happens so we can begin that support of process as quickly as possible.

Consultation with our workers is important that all steps of the rehabilitation process because without their knowledge and willingness to be a part of the program that we have put in place with them, we found that the program won't be successful, the more buy in that they have the more likely they are to participate and the more willing they are to participate in returning to work.

The RSPCA works very closely with the managers, specifically the line managers of injured workers to insure that the worker receives support from a management level. Line managers we found are particularly important because their the people that work closest with our injured workers so by providing them with the support that they needed to in turn support their people we created a very supportive rehabilitation culture.

We also have a really good employee assistance program. We found that with a lot of workers who have more difficulty injuries to overcome they require some return to work counselling or adjustment to injury counselling so we do recommend that they work through that.

Our OT comes out on site and works with our workers on their suitable genius plans. She devises different ways for them to complete tasks that are perhaps giving them trouble and she also puts in place systems that will help them not only now but also to prevent injury in the future.

We worked closely with our executive and senior leadership team to insure that we were driving the type of safety culture that would allow rehabilitation at work, we're now moving towards that culture which is preventative. Preventing our injuries but also insuring that when injuries do happen we do have a plan in place so that we can insure that we will know what's happening, we all know how to support our workers so that we can get them back to work as quickly as possible.

The financial benefits of us having our injured people return to work as quickly as possible, are shown in our WorkCover premiums, which are dropping and we've also had a significant reduction in the number of lost time injuries that we have had.

The advice that we would have for other employees looking to achieve return to work success or improvements is have a plan, although injury management is inherently reactive it doesn't mean that you can't know what you are going to do when you do react to injuries happening, so work with your teams, work with leadership teams, make sure that when injuries do happen you have the processes in place to support your people.

Through consultation you will discover what your people need and insuring that you have that early reporting culture will insure that you can get onto your injuries as soon as they happen. And it doesn't always mean that you have to have a lot of money to spend a lot of the times it's just about having that conversation with your people.

RSPCA Queensland works really closely with all of our stakeholders so we work closely with our WorkCover case managers keeping them up to date. We also work closely with our managers so balancing their expectations, and of course we balance the expectations of the worker so at the end of the day were trying to find the middle ground between these three parties to insure we can have a successful return to work.

Working with your people will insure that you can explain to them not only what they can expect from yourself as the employer but also what you will expect from them so that you can have a successful return to work program.

Tracy Hehir - Finalist - Injured worker achievement awards (serious injury)

Tracy's leg was degloved when she was hit by a car, resulting in 19 operations and an eventual lower leg amputation. Tracy's brave story demonstrates her determination to get back to work following her ordeal.

Richard Harris - Finalist - Injured worker achievement awards (serious injury)

Richard smashed his shoulder, shattered 6 ribs and sustained lung damage when he was thrown over the handbars of his bike on his way home from work.

Gladelyn Bloom - Finalist - Injured worker achievement awards (return to work)

Gladelyn was working as a clinical nurse when she injured her back. Here she tells the story of her recovery and return to work.

Mark Tunnicliff - Finalist - Injured worker achievement awards (return to work)

Mark sliced his hand open when we fell backwards at work. Here, Mark describes his recovery and why he was so keen to return to work as soon as he could following his injury.