James Wood was injured during work on an Australian mine site in 1985 resulting in spinal cord damage and other complications. For a long time, James has been telling his story to Australian workers for them to understand the risks they face, primarily, at work. I caught up with James on a very cold morning at a lovely café in Victoria’s Yarra Valley earlier this month.
SAWB: James, I heard you talk about your workplace injury and the disruption and the consequences of that at least 15 years ago at a breakfast meeting. It was extremely effective, and a powerful message. Fifteen years later you’re still doing that. Why tell your story? Why would anybody want to hear it?
JW: Well, there’s probably a couple of answers, Kevin. I share my story and my experiences because I know how my workplace accident changed my life and I know how it affected a lot of the people around me at the time. My family, workmates, friends. I believe that by sharing my story, I can give people a little bit of information about what it’s like to get hurt at work or even away from work.
I honestly hope that by telling people how I got hurt and how it changed my life, it can give people the reason to maybe use some of the training that we’re all given. To use the systems and the procedures that most workplaces have and try and stop somebody else from getting hurt.
Victoria Australia has had a network of safety groups for well over 40 years with two or three enduring into this century. On 5 July 2017, the Ballarat Regional Occupational Safety and Health Group (BROSH) held an interactive seminar on Return-To-Work (RTW). The discussion was not revolutionary but allowed the audience – a mix of businesses, OHS professionals and students – to speak about their lived experiences with managing injured workers.
I brought the WorkSafe 2030 Strategy discussion paper to the audience’s attention and a WorkSafe representative from the seminar’s panel, pictured above, said that there are several weird technical suggestions for workplace inspections and advice emerging from the discussion within the OHS regulator. However the strategy is focussed always on the client and that it is “prevention-led”. OHS is all about the prevention of illness and injury but it appears that WorkSafe is extending this term to RTW.
The representative explained that the regulator is looking at interventions that prevent an injury or illness claim transforming into, or contributing to, another and new injury. They hope that by focussing on the injured worker and providing the right level of advice and support, the will achieve the best RTW outcome for all involved.
One of the questions from the audience was if there is a better RTW and workers’ compensation system that Victoria could move to or learn from. The panel agreed that the Victorian system seems to be leading Australia in terms of its financial health but, more importantly, the level of care and support options provided to injured workers.
The BROSH seminar was well attended and the audience was active, which largely resulted from the innovative and engaging seminar structure.
WorkSafe Victoria has released a discussion paper in support of its development of a WorkSafe Strategy 2030 but you wouldn’t know it. At the time of writing – there is no mention of it on the Facebook page, nothing on its news website. The paper is only available through this rarely used community engagement page.
One of this blog’s readers drew attention to this paragraph on page 8 which indicates that WorkSafe Victoria is basing part of this discussion paper on recent reports which seem to include the Independent OHS Review which is yet to be publicly released:
“A number of independent reviews undertaken recently have also highlighted opportunities for us to strengthen our approach to regulating health and safety in Victorian workplaces, and in further supporting injured workers.
We know in some cases we are not meeting the expectations of the community, and the outcomes of these reviews are informing the development of our strategy, and the way we deliver our services in the future.”
It would be good to know what failed community expectations are being referred to.
On the eve of a Return-to-Work symposium in Hobart, Alex Collie, challenged the a seminar audience, as all good speakers should. His analysis of research data has found the following confronting information:
- “main service delivery mechanism (case management) is ineffective at best, harmful at worst,
Recently I recorded my contribution to an online conference called the RTW Summit. This conference is first to Australia although other organisations have proposed such a format previously but never eventuated.
The conference has been devised and organised by Mark Stipic, a young Return To Work professional who started a podcast recently. He is intelligent and one of those people who is not afraid to take risks in the emerging world of social media.
Continue reading “Free online safety conference – RTW Summit”