WorkSafe’s Danielle Jacobs joined Orbost construction worker, David Smooker at the Gippsland launch of the Return to Work, Return to Life campaign.

Sixty-four year old David Smooker, who works for Orbost Civil and Civic, returned to work late last year after undergoing major back surgery resulting from a workplace injury two years ago.

Ms Jacobs said, “It’s great that David has joined WorkSafe’s campaign to share his experience about how getting back to work, with the support or his employer, has been an important part of his recovery process.” 

The state-wide Return to Work, Return to Life campaign was launched in Melbourne by Victoria’s Assistant Treasurer and Minister for WorkSafe, Gordon Rich-Phillips.

Mr Rich-Phillips said around 3000 experienced andskilled Victorians a year were out of the workforce for more than six months due to a workplace injury.

“The good news is that most injured people get back to work much sooner than that.”

“In fact, most workers only need a few weeks off, but the medical evidence is that the longer someone is off work, the greater the chance they will suffer adverse health effects like depression or a general decline in health,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

International studies show that the longer someone is off work, the greater the health risks they face.

The WorkSafe campaign comes after a recent Newspoll survey found 71% of Victorians believed injured workers would benefit from returning to work before they were fully recovered but to different duties.

More than 78% believed returning to work would help speed up the recovery process.

In the East Gippsland Shire over the past five financial years (to 2009/10), more than 1000 injuries were reported to WorkSafe with treatment and rehabilitation costs for these workers - paid for through their employer’s workplace injury insurance – exceeding $22.4m.

Minister Rich-Phillips said getting injured workers back to work as soon as safely possible was good for all Victorians.

“A successful return to work does not have to be full-time or the old job initially. There may be opportunities elsewhere in the business or modified duties or further training.”

“It helps improve the worker’s physical and mental health and also helps employers and the economy by keeping claim costs low,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

The WorkSafe public awareness campaign includes a television commercial, radio and billboard advertising and a toolkit for employers that can be downloaded from WorkSafe’s “Return to Work” website.

As part of the campaign, businesses in the Gippsland region are invited to submit their successful comeback stories in this year’s WorkSafe Awards.

For more information about WorkSafe’s “Return to Work, Return to Life” campaign, visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/returningtowork

Other findings of the Newspoll survey:

  • 96% said families played an important role in helping return to work
  • 93% said doctors and physiotherapists also played an important role
  • 68% agreed that returning to work but performing different duties would definitely provide an increased feeling of self-worth
  • 78% of people surveyed felt returning to work but performing different duties would help speed up the recovery process