When a workers' compensation claim is contested, the old she said / he said conversation can expand like an out-of-control accordion, so that what initially seemed a simple story unfolds into he said / she said  / we said / they said / you said, seemingly ad infinitum.

Independent medical examinations (IMEs) may seem like a way to cut through the noise, but in fact often add to it. One expert says there is no injury, another says the injury is work-related and disabling, another says yeah but it's a different injury. This week, Colby Treasure of Barry Neillson Lawyers analyses the outcome of a recent case in which the High Court considered vast amounts of conflicting medical opinion before returning to the person at the centre of it all, a cleaner who said her shoulder hurt. In the end, it was this initial "she said" that mattered.

Dr Wyatt introduces chondromalacia, a little known disorder of the knee, describing causes, treatments and a case study of work-related knee-pain.

Hannah Bourne talks us through an oldie but a goodie: the short Orebro Musculoskeletal Pain Questionnaire, which accurately predicts the success of a rehab program for injured workers 85% of the time. This can help treaters and other RTW professionals identify who is at need of extra support, and intervene early before disability becomes entrenched.

Shannon Gray and colleagues at the Insurance, Health Work Group at Monash University offer another angle on early intervention. They've published research showing that it's common for people to try and fail to return to work after a car crash. Knowing who is more likely to make a failed attempt, and why can help us target interventions more effectively...

Happy reading!

Are subjective reports of symptoms from a worker sufficient to establish that a worker suffered an injury?


 Colby Treasure

In this case study, an insurance lawyer outlines the legal perspective on conflicting medical opinions in a workers' compensation claim, through arbitration and appeal

A cleaner developed symptoms in her left shoulder, wrist and forearm after moving a chair at work. There was no consensus in the medical evidence as to the diagnosis or what injury was sustained, and there was a dispute as to whether the worker suffered an injury. In Issue The case considers whether a worker suffers a compensable injury in circumstances where there is a dispute as to whether the worker suffered a clear diagnosed medical condition or physiological change.

Chondromalacia - now what is that?


 Dr Mary Wyatt

Information on knee cartilage disorders, their treatments and a case study.

Chondromalacia is a disorder of the cartilage at the back of the kneecap. The cartilage, normally shiny and smooth, softens and roughens, and splits may develop in the cartilage. These changes are similar to the changes that occur to cartilage when osteoarthritis develops. Some people say chondromalacia is part of a spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum is osteoarthritis. Causes Chondromalacia can result from many situations where there is excess pressure on the kneecap.

The simple way to predict RTW outcomes? Ask!


 Hannah Bourne

A short survey can predict a worker's RTW outcomes

Take Home Messages: Early prediction of workers at risk of being off work for long periods can help tailor treatment approaches. The results of a brief questionnaire, the Orebro Musculoskeletal Pain Questionnaire, correctly predicted the discharge assessment of whether workers could return to work after a rehabilitation program 85% of the time.  Why the research matters: Prolonged time off work due to injury or illness is detrimental to both the worker and the employer.

Driving back to work (and stopping on the way)


 Gabrielle Lis

Failed RTW is more likely after a traffic accident causing whiplash than other injuries. What else predicts an unsuccessful first attempt to get back to work?

Workplace and household costs of road crashes in Australia have been estimated at more than $5.5 billion, due to work absence, lost productivity and replacements training costs.  Failed RTW is fairly common, to the extent that researchers are now moving away from taking “first RTW” as a sign of employment success and recovery. Researchers led by Shannon Gray of the Insurance Work and Health Group at Monash University sought to determine if certain characteristics of an injured person or their situation predicted failed RTW.

World News

Managing work injury AND other health conditions

Published on June 04, 2019

When an injured worker is also grappling with another injury or health condition, costs go up and work absence and disability are prolonged. According to 2016 research from the US, claims with comorbidities had "a 76% increase in claim duration, a 341% increase in incurred costs, and a 285% increase in temporary total disability (TTD) days".

Andrea Buhl of www.workerscompensation.com has three suggestions for employers:

  1. Encourage employees to manage any conditions they have through employee wellness programs.
  2. Screen employees for comorbidities at the time of injury.
  3. Ensure the nurse case managers you work with are skilled at identifying comorbidities and other conditions that can impact the injured employee's recovery.

Follow the link for a case study that illustrates these points. You'll need to create a free account with the website in order to access the article. 

Burnout gets workplace makeover from World Health Organisation

Published on June 18, 2019

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stressed the work-relatedness of burnout, insisting that it's not a disease but an occupational phenomenon / syndrome.

According to WHO, burnout has three key characteristics:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion,
  • Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to the work, and
  • Reduced effectiveness on the job.

WHO want us to stop muddying the waters by using the term in other contexts. For example: "The kids were up at 4am this morning and have been bickering all day, quel burnout" is not a WHO approved sentence, even if it's said at work, so parents beware!

The dirt on cleaning, work and asthma

Published on June 18, 2019

Some ingredients in cleaning products put workers at risk of developing work-related asthma (WRA). At the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease in Toronto, Canada, researchers delved into a clinical database of 208 workers with WRA. They found that a variety of cleaning products had been blamed, including surfactants, alcohols, disinfectants and acids. Females and healthcare workers were particularly at risk of developing WRA from cleaning products.

Five things the Institute for Work and Health wants you to know about RTW

Published on June 18, 2019

Our friends in Canada at the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) have compiled a list of five things they think you need to know about RTW...

  1. RTW programs should tick at least three boxes, offering injured workers support in the form of health services, case coordination and work modification.
  2. Workers with depression benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - it's worth investing in.
  3. Injured workers whose supervisors react with sympathy or concern return to work more quickly than those whose supervisors react with skepticism or blame. 
  4. Older workers with chronic conditions who have access to employer support programs have fewer job disruptions, work limitations and productivity losses than those without such access.
  5. Employers stand to gain $2 to $7 for every $1 spent on accommodating a worker with mental illness. 

Follow the link for more information on each of these pointers, including the evidence behind the advice.

Featured Resources

Updated: RTW Events and Training Calendar 2019

Download our PDF calendar for July - December 2019 - All events listed here are conducted by external training providers and event holders.

June webinar: A work-design focused Return to Work process.

Meredith Carr, Centre of Transformative Work Design, Curtin University.18th June 2019 3pm AEST. Click the link to register.

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Upcoming Events
Mon 24th Jun 2019,

International Convention Centre,14 Darling Dr, Sydney NSW 2000

Wellness@Work 2019

The Wellness Show is Australia’s premier health and wellness expo.

Mon 24th Jun 2019,

International Convention Centre, 14 Darling Dr, Sydney NSW 2000

Happiness & Its Causes 2019

Since 2006, Happiness & Its Causes has been an important forum for exploring the many and varied causes for a happy and fulfilling life.

Mon 24th Jun 2019,

International Convention Centre, 14 Darling Drive, Sydney

The Wellness Show 2019

The Wellness Show is Australia’s premier health and wellness expo. Meet the people and companies transforming our whole approach to staying healthy and keeping fit.

Thu 04th Jul 2019,

Wests City NEX, 309 King St, Newcastle West

NSW Regional Safety Conference & Expo 2019

The NSW Regional Safety Conference & Expo provides an opportunity for regionally based businesses to access a quality, world-class event with a range of educational and interesting information.

Wed 10th Jul 2019,

International Convention Centre,14 Darling Drive, Sydney NSW 2000

Occupational Therapy Australia 28th National Conference and Exhibition 2019

“Together towards tomorrow” is designed to reflect the dynamic nature of contemporary occupational therapy practice.

Thu 18th Jul 2019,

Adelaide Oval, War Memorial Drive, North Adelaide SA 5006

SISA Closing the Loop 2019 - Injury Prevention and Return to Work Conference

Closing the Loop 2019 will continue its strong record of exposing attendees to leading-edge subjects from that challenging interface between work health and safety and return to work and the promotion of new knowledge and skills.

Thu 25th Jul 2019,

CGU Centre, 181 William Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3001

Role of Return to Work Training - CGU

This two day interactive workshop will provide participants with practical tools to ensure they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to assist injured workers return to work in a timely, safe and sustainable manner.

Wed 31st Jul 2019,

Royal Pines Resort, Ross Street, Benowa QLD 4217

20th International Mental Health Conference 2019

Featuring Australia and New Zealand’s leading clinical practitioners, academics, and mental health experts, the 2019 International Mental Health Conference continues in its 20th year to network, share research, projects and formulate ideas for chang

Mon 05th Aug 2019,

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Merivale St & Glenelg Street, South Brisbane QLD 4101

13th National Allied Health Conference 2019

This premiere conference will be held at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre from the 6th – 7th August 2019, with pre and post conference workshops scheduled for the 5th and 8th respectively.

Thu 08th Aug 2019,

CGU Centre, 181 William Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3001

RTW for Managers & Supervisors

Managers and Supervisors play an important role in assisting the RTW Coordinators of their organisation in managing sustainable return to work outcomes for their workers.

Tue 10th Sep 2019,

Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Safety in Action: The Return to Work Conference

Supporting our workers towards safe, productive and sustainable return to work

Thu 19th Sep 2019,

CGU Centre, 181 William Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3001

Advanced Workcover and RTW Management - PART 1

Practical strategies to work through the most complex RTW and liability issues

Thu 17th Oct 2019,

CGU Centre, 181 William Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3001

Mental Health First Aid Training

This course teaches adults how to assist other adults who are experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental health problem.

Thu 28th Nov 2019,

CGU Centre, 181 William Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC, 3001

Advanced Workcover and RTW Management - PART 2

Part two of the Advanced RTW Management course discusses more complex cases and scenarios and a follow on from Part one









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