Hazards, What Hazards?

Incident reporting. Seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it?

Have an incident; report it. Have an injury; fill out an injury report form. Straight forward.

So what about hazards and near misses?

How does your business go about reporting these?

In my opinion, they’re a really important part of incident reporting. I feel like I’m constantly asking people to report their hazards and/ or near misses; because we don’t know what we don’t know.

You’re the person working your job, if there’s a hazard  that might cause you or someone else to be injured, your employer needs to know about it in order to fix it, and to hopefully ensure  no-one is injured.

A prime example: some time ago, I received a claim and after contacting the injured worker to find out what happened, she advised me that the equipment she was working on was broken. Apparently everyone knew about it and yet they continued to use it! Then she was injured (surely this shouldn’t really be surprising?). The injured worker ended up losing some time off work, required medical treatment and was on a return to work plan for a couple of months. The impact of such injuries is often unseen until you’re in that position; and it’s not just the work stuff. It’s all of the stuff outside of work; things like being able to attend to your own personal care (have a shower, use the bathroom, getting dressed etc), picking up or playing with your child, getting upstairs to your home, driving your car, playing soccer on Saturday. As well as being away from your workmates who you see regularly, it’s those things that have the biggest impact for you as an injured worker.

Let’s look at a current event for example; Dream World on the Gold Coast. They’ve recently had a significant and devastating incident occur which resulted in the death of four people. Death.

2016-11-dreamworld-picture1

 

It’s since come to light that (at least) one person identified some issues and reported it to staff approximately and management and via social media two weeks before the incident. How’s the final line: “Someone will get seriously injured or killed one day!”. And within two weeks this exact thing had happened.

At the present time, it seems that the investigation has concluded that it was a freak chain of events which led to this incident, but none the less, a hazard was reported and people died. This just isn’t good enough in any workplace.

Report your incidents; report your injuries; but also report hazards and near-misses.

Tips on how to encourage a reporting culture:

  • Make sure you’ve got your register of injuries available and that staff know where it is – a reminder might be timely. Consider how you’re making it readily available;
  • If staff verbally report something to you, request that they follow it up in writing – assist and support them to do it if necessary. A training session on incident reporting may also be a good idea;
  • Follow up your staff to make sure they’re ok. This helps staff to realise that the time and effort they have taken to complete an incident report was not wasted as someone is looking at it;
  • Rectify the issue and (if possible) provide feedback to the person who reported it. The positive flow-on effect of staff knowing that reported issue and that it’s been addressed leads to positive culture change.

 

Contact NewCare on 9650 8610 or email us at hello@newcare.com.au if you’d like more help

And Hear it is

One of our client’s injured workers has been offered over $20k for a hearing loss claim. I’m wondering how they could have managed this better and what we can learn.

Clearly you need to begin with noise level testing at all workplaces, and then undertake health monitoring for all employees. Pre-employment hearing testing is critical. You also need to consider appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). It probably would also be a good idea to have a tool-box talk about incident notification as well, just to reiterate the point that if someone is having problems with something at work, whether it’s a near miss, hazard, incident or injury, they need to report it.

Consider the following in your workplace/s

  • Assess noise at all of the sites.
  • Review & provide appropriate PPE and ensure that the PPE is worn.
  • Arrange audiometric testing for employees to measure their starting point (and get it checked at least every 2 years).
  • Record and monitor results of audiometric testing – if there’s a significant decrease, we’ll need to arrange an audiological examination.
  • Review induction process – ensure that audiometric testing is undertaken within 3 months of commencing employment.
  • Review procedure documents related to PPE and to noise management.
  • Reiterate the need to report near misses, hazards, incident and injuries.

Hearing loss claims are difficult to deny and can come at a significant cost – you inherit an employee’s hearing loss as soon as you employ them. If it deteriorates in any way under your employ, you can pay for an entire working life of noise induced deafness.

Don’t just pay your premium invoice!

Premium notices have been flooding into the office over the last few months and I’m continually surprised with the information, or lack thereof, that is provided to employers to allow them to actually understand what it is they are paying and why.

There seems to have been a conscious decision to provide as little information as possible, as these notices do not allow employers to assess or understand their performance, review their industry classification or develop goals to assist in premium reduction for the year ahead.

So what do you need to know?

The key factors that drive the premium you are paying, or have just paid, are as follows: –

  • Employer claims cost rate and Industry claims cost rate (an assessment of your claims performance).
  • Premium claims costs – rolling three years from 2017/18 (key factor, and the most controllable, within the premium calculation).
  • Weighted Industry rate and industry classification/s (supporting your predominant business activity).
  • Employer performance rate (dictates whether you are paying above or below the industry average).

Understanding these factors allows employers to develop strategies and targets around claims costs and ensures the relevance and accuracy of industry classifications.

All this information is available to you but you need to ask for it. Opportunities for improvement can then be assessed and modelled based on this information, and informed decisions made about future claim strategies and outcomes.

Don’t just pay your premium invoice – use it as an opportunity to better understand what, how and why.

Medical Certification – GP v Physiotherapist

When it comes to RTW where do the best results come from?

My role requires me to attend many “fitness for work reviews” (FFWR) with injured workers who see both a GP and Physiotherapist regularly. Many of these injured workers only see their GP to obtain their certificate of capacity (COC).

I have left many FFWR conducted with GP’s feeling a little underwhelmed with the lack of constructive conversation and lack of movement on the worker’s capacity to undertake suitable employment. It has resulted in me asking myself the following questions;

1. Is the GP the best person to be talking to about RTW?

2. Is the GP the best person to be issuing the COC’s?

Sure, a GP might have the injured worker’s medical history and a long term relationship, but what clinical based exercises or daily physical function tests is the GP carrying out? From my experience none.

When it comes to being asked if the RTW arrangement is suitable for the injured worker, a conversation not to dissimilar to this follows;

GP – What do you think you have capacity for?
IW – I’ll be guided by you as to what I can or cannot do?
GP – Do you think you could lift 5kgs?
IW – Yeah I guess so? I’m happy to give it a try.
GP – Hmm, what does your physio have you doing at the moment?
IW – They work on my shoulder when I am there, along with checking how high I can lift my arm and has me doing some light weights. I also have home based exercises.
GP – Ok, I’m going to get in contact with the physio to discuss the arrangement and see what they have to say in regards to the matter.

If we were to flip this on its head and look at our recent outcomes when we have engaged the physiotherapist; asking them if they would be willing to take over certification of the injured workers’ capacity, the conversation goes something like this;

Physio – What do you think you have capacity for?
IW – I’ll be guided by you as to what I can or cannot do?
Physio – Well we have you lifting 5kgs in here, your mobility has increased in the last few weeks along with your range of motion. I think that most of these duties are within your limitations.
IW- My only concern is with ………… (specific task).

The conversation moves quickly to a more flavorsome conversation about tasks, hours, days and timeframes.

Why the difference I hear you asking. Well a physiotherapist is much more accountable when it comes to treatment and the payment of that treatment.

Physiotherapists are required to provide a treatment plan, with outcome measures and detail where a worker should be at specific points in time, based on the treatment they are providing. This plan allows questions to be asked of the Physio. and makes them more accountable regarding the injured workers progress.

So is the GP always the best person to be involved?

In my opinion, no, probably not.

Should we always engage the Physio in the RTW process?

Absolutely. They don’t always have to be the one issuing the certificates or even the one at the “fitness for work review” but if they are not present at the review, engaging them prior to meeting with the GP can only enhance our conversation when discussing return to work opportunities.

Note – a GP is not required to provide outcome measures or clinical rational to continue to certify an injured worker. A physiotherapist is asked to provide a treatment plan with clearly set out outcome measures. WorkSafe Agents can review and possibly cease Physio. if there is no progression.