Thursday 28th May 2015
Does your policy on injured
workers focus on what really
In today's Health & Safety Bulletin:
- Could a ‘certificate of capacity’ approach could be right for your business?
Think about what you expect from your workers each day, especially if one of them has experienced an illness or injury.
Are you more interested in what they can do at work – or what they can’t do?
Similarly, put yourself in the shoes of an ill or injured worker – it’s not too hard, given we’ve all experienced illness or injury at some point in our lives.|
What makes you feel more positive over the course of the recovery – thinking about all those things you can’t do yet, or focussing on the things that you can?
It’s a real ‘glass half-empty/glass half-full’ situation. And it’s funny to think that generally, the medical certificates workplaces rely on tell us a lot about what workers can’t do – and don’t drill down to give us an expert’s assessment of what they can do.
It’s not a particularly upbeat way to look at things – and if you need to make a decision about how to utilise a worker who has experienced an injury, it might not be all that useful, either.
But now, there’s been a shift in workers’ compensation policy towards workers being issuing ‘certificates of capacity’ instead of medical certificates. The idea is that starting with the glass ‘half-full’ – that is, by assessing what a person can do - they and their employer have more options.
But does it work? Today, Michael Selinger, the Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Practical Handbook, explains how the regulator in NSW is evaluating the effectiveness of certificates of capacity – and how focussing on what a worker can do could reduce the risks your business faces, and increase the rewards.
Editor, Health & Safety Bulletin
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Could a ‘certificate of capacity’
approach could be right for your
When is a medical certificate not a medical certificate? When it’s a certificate of capacity.
If you haven’t heard of a certificate of capacity, it’s a medical certificate – that is, a document signed by a medical professional - but with a twist.
Instead of focussing on the restrictions imposed on a worker who is returning to work after an injury, it sets out what the worker has the capacity to perform.|
The idea behind a certificate of capacity is that it can serve as yet another tool that will assist injured workers rehabilitate quicker, by returning to suitable duties as soon as they demonstrate a level of capacity to work.
Whether this simple idea is effective in practice or not is still open for debate. For example, the NSW safety regulator, WorkCover, is currently conducting research to obtain feedback from employers or return to work co-ordinators who in the last eight months have been involved in the management of a workplace injury to see whether the replacement of medical certificates with certificates of capacity is working.
In addition, WorkCover is looking to get feedback and suggestions of improvement of their new system return to work system from workers, doctors, insurers and rehabilitation providers and unions. If you operate a business in NSW, you can contact WorkCover to participate in this research on their website.
But what does it mean more generally for your business if safety regulators are starting to focus on certificates of capacity?
No matter what jurisdiction your business operates in, the key point is that safety regulators are expecting employers to ensure their return to work plans are focussed on getting information on what a person can do, rather than what they cannot do.
This approach will not only usually lead to a quicker return to work for an injured worker, but it will also assist your business reduce its workers’ compensation premiums at the same time.
The approach has the added benefit that it will ensure your business will avoid any claims of discrimination against partially-incapacitated workers.
Instead of telling a worker that they are not welcome in your business because of a physical or mental disability, your business will be positively encouraging their return.
There is another significant improvement with a return to work policy that focuses on capacity to work – it demonstrates in one simple policy how your business takes an overall proactive and positive approach to the welfare of its staff.
By implementing a return to work policy in your business that looks to focus on what people can do, rather than what they cannot, you will be taking a significant step to developing a positive culture of acceptance and support.
And why is this important? In the same way that a society in general is often judged by how it treats or looks after its less fortunate citizens, your organisation will set itself apart from the others by the manner in which it looks to protect and assist its workforce.
So next time you receive a medical certificate that simply says someone is not fit for work for a period of time – ask yourself, can you find out what they are fit to do?
Health & Safety Handbook
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