Have you been injured at work and are wondering about your options? Do you have an ongoing workers compensation claim and are looking for better treatment? Want to know what your rights and responsibilities are and what is the best path to follow? Osteopath Eddie Clark explains how to get help.
I have been helping to diagnose, treat and manage injured workers for over 10 years. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to workers compensation claims. If you are injured and on a claim, or thinking about notifying your employer about an injury that’s linked to work, then there are several ways to improve your experience of this process.
Workcover is responsible for the protection of all workers in NSW and maintains the workers compensation scheme. This scheme provides financial compensation – covering medical expenses like treatment and rehabilitation. It can also assist in providing legal assistance to pursue a claim and may include the option of lump sum pay-outs if a worker is left with permanent disability or pain and suffering following their injury. The scheme is funded by set premiums paid by employers to third-party insurers. These bodies then become agents of Workcover once they receive and approve a claim. If there is a disagreement between parties, Workcover has the power to adjudicate and enforce a settlement.
Workplace injuries can be generally categorised into serious and not serious injuries. Serious injuries are those that are generally related to traumatic events and accidents that cause a worker to have to stop work completely for a period. The worker will usually receive a weekly payment that is linked to them achieving return-to-work milestones, where applicable. If the worker is left with what’s called a “whole person impairment” at the end of any treatments, they can be paid a lump sum to compensate them.
Non-serious injuries are what we see a lot more of in our osteopathic clinic. These are usually issues that develop over some time and are related to repetitive or sedentary behaviours required of the worker by their job. These can be lifting, driving, computer use or other tasks that cause injury. They don’t usually cause the worker to stop work, at least initially. The worker can receive treatment whilst still carrying out their duties in full or in some reduced capacity. Common injuries I see that fit into this category are lumbar or cervical disc damage, sciatica, nerve compression, shoulder issues, tennis and golfers elbow, bursitis, recurring muscular neck or back ache, rib issues and some types of neck related headaches.
If you are injured at work, there are a few steps that you should take to ensure you don’t have any issues further down the track:
- Tell your employer! This sounds obvious but can be a big stumbling block with non-serious injuries, if you decide months later that you want to claim expenses linked to an injury. Don’t put it off. Tell them about it. That’s why your employer pays for this insurance. They will notify their insurer and you will receive a claim number, a case manager and a contact at your workplace, usually a HR person who should all help you get back to full and pain free work as quickly as possible.
- Book in to see your GP. This formalises the medical component. You can see an Osteopath, or Physio or Chiro for that matter up to eight times first without approval and you may see the Osteo before the GP, but we will always encourage you to check in with the GP too. They will fill out a certificate of capacity and this, plus our treatment plan, will form the basis of your expected return to work plan. Those documents will be issued to your insurer. Having this at an early stage in your recovery process is crucial. It means the assessment will be most accurate and allow the best return to work prediction.
- Start your treatment with your nominated provider. You have the right to choose who you want to see. Your employer and the GP can make suggestions, but it is your voice that should cast the deciding vote. Get any scans and medications required and do the treatments recommended. Get better. Your additional out of pocket expenses incurred related to scans and medication can be refunded to you through your claim.
- Plan your return to work. If you cannot perform your usual duties without aggravation of the injury, then it’s imperative that you can seek ways of continuing to work in a reduced capacity, or be given other suitable duties. These can be light duties if you have a manual job, or it might be being allowed to work from home for some time if you have a travelling job or a desk work job that is causing injury. Often your workstation needs to be assessed. Most of the problems in workers compensation claims continuing on too long stem from inappropriate management of this stage. Everyone has a stake in this. The worker needs to do their bit to make sure they are getting better. The workplace needs to be flexible to accommodate the recovering worker’s needs. The GP and the Osteopath should be advocating for the worker and liaising with both the workplace contact and the case manager. The case manager should be active in overseeing this process and opening up additional avenues for therapy if needed – such as exercise rehabilitation.
Allied health providers like Osteopaths contribute significantly to improved health and return to work outcomes for injured workers. At Sydney health Professionals, we are entitled to provide treatment for workers under the workers compensation scheme. If you have questions, want an opinion on a work related injury or are under treatment through the scheme but are unsatisfied, then book in to see us. We can help.
Caveat: The Laws governing workplace safety are both federal and state laws, but are administered on the state level. In NSW the relevant body is Workcover NSW. As Sydney Health Professionals operate in NSW, this article may not be the most accurate source of info for workers from other states.