Network - Spring 2011 - (Page 32)

O Feature Case Studies: Managing Workplace Back and Neck Injuries By Jane Sleeth hree out of four Canadian adults experience some form of back or neck discomfort at some point in their lives. In our practice, we have found that in workplaces across Canada, this number can be even higher. Thanks in large measure to technology, jobs have become more sedentary. Longer than normal hours of work, combined with the static nature of many modern jobs, or limited recovery time for more demanding manual materials handling tasks, combine to make back injuries a problem that has not gone away. The reality in Alberta workplaces —whether office/administrative or manual labour — is that back injuries can occur spontaneously; they can cause prolonged periods of time away from the workplace; and they tend to be a costlier injury from a medical/benefits point of view, from compensation rates to your business, and in time and productivity loss. Back and neck pain have not disappeared from the workplace and the toll on employers and employees includes economic disruption and negative impacts on profitability, productivity and overall health. Back and neck pain is the leading cause of lost workdays (see Alberta Worker’s Compensation data and private insurance data,) second only to colds and flu as a T reason to visit the doctor. Neck pain affects over 50 per cent of those who already have problems with the lower back. One of the reasons why back and neck pain remains so expensive to employers, employees, and the insurance community, is that the best science is often not applied to the challenge. The result of not using best medical and rehabilitative evidence; best healing-time evidence; and, best case management evidence, is that back and neck pain often become a chronic impairment. If a person is directed to excellent clinics and the condition is not over medicalized, it does not need to become so. When companies and employees fail to use the best science, it often results in lost time from the workplace and even the misconception that back and neck pain result in a disability. (To be clear: this article is about mechanical low back pain, which is the most common type of back “injury” encountered in the workplace. This article is not about fractures, infections, tumours of the back or neck, or about cause equine syndrome or spinal stenosis.) With respect to ongoing disability management in the workplace and return to work processes, the following are true and should be applied in the common mindset: • Neck, back pain and injury can be well controlled and, in most cases, eliminated for long periods of time. • Day-to-day neck, back pain and injury should NOT lead to a disability or a disability mindset. • Review of workstation, equipment, and tools used within the work environment to ensure proper design and accommodation is the first step to assisting employees by preventing injury and allowing for a faster return to work. • Disabilities can be caused by a slow response or none at all from Facilities/Operations, Engineering/ Design as well as supervisors/ managers in the workplace in addressing the ergonomics and work demands within a job. • Return to work and stay at work accommodations for employees should not result in increased physical or mental demands for their colleagues. A Successful Case Study Alberta, 2010 XYZ Pharma Warehouse is the pseudonym of a unionized Alberta company that has a process in place for preventing and managing disability, including an active, timely return to work/stay at work process. The union representative and case NETWORK O Spring 2011 32 O

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Network - Spring 2011

Network - Spring 2011
HRIA President’s Message
Legal Precedents Clarify Accommodation Procedure
Thank You!
Accommodation: Have a Plan and Stick to It
Disability Management and Duty to Accommodate: The Need for Good Documentation
Accommodating Disability, Not Bad Behaviour
Common “Mistakes” In Accommodation and How to Avoid Them
Case Studies: Managing Workplace Back and Neck Injuries
Accommodating Addictions in the Workplace
Duty to Accommodate – Employee Responsibilities
The Separation of Church and Work
When to Cut Sick Staff Off
The HR Office
Index of Advertisers

Network - Spring 2011