Many of us fall into the trap with our health and wellness, of it won’t happen to me! That only happens to other people…we’re too young, too fit, too busy to think about it! Yet it does happen… an unforeseen accident occurs, causing injury which affects your ability to do your job. This month’s case study, focuses on Emma Bogard, employed as a Personal Support Worker, who can relate to this false sense of security. Back in February 2015, she was driving through Brisbane to her brother’s wedding rehearsal, in her brand new Volkswagen Golf. Suddenly, another vehicle slammed into Emma and her new car was written-off.
An ambulance and her fiance rushed to the scene. Fortunately, despite a few cuts and bruises, Emma felt fine. She was determined to take her place as bridesmaid, for her soon-to-be sister-in-law.
A month later, Emma noticed her wrist was sore after a shift at work; so she sought medical advice. Weeks earlier, the car accident had caused airbags to deploy, protecting Emma’s head. However, the impact of the airbag striking Emma’s hand, which has been holding the steering wheel, had caused trauma to her wrist.
Emma’s job requires physical labour, to assist people with spinal injuries, such as quadriplegia, to conduct everyday activities, like showering. Though her injury wasn’t initially obvious to the naked eye, as the pain increased over time it became clear the accident was affecting Emma’s ability to continue working.
Emma underwent ongoing physiotherapy. However, the injury she had sustained was affecting the nerves which extend from your elbow through to your fingertips. Even with prescribed painkillers, the constant use of her arm to fulfill her Support duties continue to prolong recovery. Over Christmas Emma took personal leave to keep her wrist well rested in a small brace. Despite these recuperation methods, the pain worsened.
Now, 14 months after the crash, Emma has recently been off work for 6 weeks in a full arm brace that extends from the tips of her fingers, up to her forearm. There is no guarantee that she will ever be able to return to such a physically demanding role again. Although Emma’s career is on hold, she urges other workers to check if they have income protection within their superannuation plan, or other alternatives to assist them in times of need.
“Make sure you tick the right box on your super forms! My doctor still isn’t sure when, if ever, I can return to work. Fortunately my income is protected,” she explains.
While Emma’s accident didn’t occur during working hours, it has still prevented her from performing her usual employment duties. Emma drives (and sometimes flies) to and from her client’s homes around the state. If she had been on her way to work instead of a wedding, when this accident occurred, in some states, her employer may have had to manage a workers’ compensation claim.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of Emma’s injury and the industry she works within means there is no viable option for an alternative suitable duties program at her workplace. If an injured staff member has returned to your workplace, whether the injury occurred within or outside of work hours, have you considered how you might be able to manage a return to suitable duties? We’re here to help, so contact Workplace Central, talk to one of our experts in the field, and get the help you need with your employee management.