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Bupa recently released their 2015 Workplace health in Australia report which was based on a survey of 150 Australian employers on their work-health initiatives, and aims to provide a benchmark for other organisations.

Wellness is becoming an increasingly effective tool used by employers in assisting to keep employees healthy and productive at work. An effective health and wellbeing strategy includes four fundamental elements, including the key component of communication, according to a Bupa report.

It found that initiatives that were engaging, educating and motivating workers to become healthier are "evolving", and identified four key steps employers should take when introducing and maintaining a health and wellbeing program:

1. Assess worker’s health needs

Employers can use information on absenteeism, employee turnover, safety and workers' compensation to help them plan health and wellbeing programs, the report says.

Interestingly, only 58% of employers surveyed review employee health data from screening programs and employee assistance programs.

The report predicted that more employers will start following a "formalised work health measurement and evaluation framework" in the next financial year.

2. Design a strategy around five key factors

A health and wellbeing program should support both physical and mental health; provide workers with health checks and promote a healthier workplace culture and environment, the report says.

Health checks benefit organisations in two ways: by improving workers' understanding and awareness of their personal health and by providing data that gives employers "quantified insights into the needs of their people". At Actevate, we encourage employers to look at health information as a whole rather than programs for individuals using their confidential records.

Nearly 25% are planning on introducing behavioural risk assessments – such as online tools that assess health and lifestyle risks including smoking, physical activity and nutrition habits – in 2015-16, it says.

A common physical health initiative is flu vaccinations, with 70% of employers offering them onsite and 30% subsidising workers' vaccination costs.

Programs that encourage workers to focus on musculoskeletal health, such as stretching at work, are expected to see the largest growth in the next two years, while nutrition-based programs are also predicted to grow, the report says.

The most commonly reported solution to mental health issues is employee assistance programs (82%), but digital solutions are expected to grow significantly over the coming years.

Actevate has reported on this serious issue before and the report confirms more workplaces consider sleep and fatigue management as key risk areas, with 1 in 5 planning to introduce related initiatives in the near future.

Common ways to improve workplace culture include team lunches, sports and fun runs, the report found, and nearly half (46.8%) of employers actively include workers' families in specific activities. Interestingly some (25.7%) of workplaces provide health initiatives to family members, it notes.

Half of employers have completely banned smoking in their workplace environments, with 8.3% planning on doing so in the near future, the report says.

 

3. Focus on clear communication when introducing the strategy

Creating an implementation plan that involves all workers and managers, and includes communication strategies is "key to supporting the success of the work health strategy".

"The communication of a work health strategy is one of the most important factors to consider in the implementation of programs."

The report says common forms of communication focus around print resources including posters or newsletters, but the use of digital communication, such as dedicated organisation portals and mobile phone apps, is expected to significantly increase in the coming years.

 

4. Evaluate the strategy

The report says many workplaces use the same data to assess the needs of their workers' to evaluate the achievements of their health and wellbeing programs; with workers' comp data, EAP usage, safety and absenteeism most commonly analysed.

Employers are more likely to measure the financial returns of specific programs in future, with only 12% currently measuring return-on-investment, it says.

Read more at Workplace health in Australia Bupa Benchmark Survey 2015 or OHS Alert.

At Actevate we have a number of programs we can tailor to build your wellness initiative. Pre-employment screenings, the new Stretch and Flex program, MindBody Project delivered by qualified Exercise Physiologists guaranteed to get people moving. We also have qualified and experienced psychologists who can help you establish your Employee Assistance Program.

 

Get in touch today so we can work on building, growing and evaluating your wellness initiatives. Call us on 1300 669 552 or email us at info@actevate.com.au.

 

 

 



OHS Alert reported earlier this month that a full Federal Court has confirmed that the Fair Work Act does not block injured NSW workers from accruing leave while they're receiving incapacity payments.

In December 2009, an Anglican Care nursing assistant was injured in the course of her employment in NSW and received weekly workers' compensation payments until she was dismissed in May 2011.

Anglican Care then paid her about $1900 in annual leave she accrued prior to her injury, but her union – the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association – convinced Federal Circuit Court Judge Sylvia Emmet that she was entitled to a further $3000 in annual leave accrued while she was injured.

Judge Emmet heard that under s130(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009, employees aren't entitled to take or accrue leave if they are absent from work and receiving workers' compensation unless, (according to s130(2)), it is "permitted" by the relevant compensation law. Under s49 of the NSW Workers Compensation Act 1987 they are entitled.

Anglican Care appealed the decision, however the bench found there was no indication the legislation’s intention was to deny access to entitlements.

"After all, compensation laws create or confer rights to compensation," Justices Bromberg and Katzmann said in a joint judgment.

Justice Jessup agreed, and noted that the Court was justified in resolving any "obscurity" around the meaning of the Fair Work Act s130 in a way "which would not amount to a significant alteration in rights and obligations. The employer's claims, if successful, would make such an alteration by reducing the entitlements employees previously had under the Workplace Relations Act", he said.

For more information about this case go to Anglican Care v NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association [2015] FCAFC 81 (5 June 2015).

 

Lessons for us?

At Actevate we hear that this is a contentious issue for many employers who view it as "double dipping" in some cases. However, this judgement now removes the ambiguity in the legislation between the Fair Work Act 2009 and NSW Workers Compensation Act 1987.

Whether we see this as fair or not, it’s the law and we have to work within it. We know that the biggest cost to your workers compensation premium is wage loss. This decision means that there are even more wage costs accruing whilst someone is unfit for work. You will be required to keep accounting for the accrued leave entitlements and pay these out should an injured worker cease employment with you. For some businesses this can be a significant hit to the bottom line.

Best practice tells us that the sooner you can get someone back to work whether in a modified capacity; full time/part time or back in their pre injury capacity leads to better outcomes and significant costs savings on your premium and better health outcomes for injured workers.

 

Please contact us to help you with managing your claims costs by calling us on 1300 669 552 or email us at info@actevate.com.au.



Actevate’s Pathways Program is guided by the biopsychosocial model of rehabilitation and is the basis of the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (WHO, 2011). The biopsychosocial (BPS) model comprises the following:

  • Biological – the physical or mental condition
  • Psychological – personal factors that influence an individual’s functioning, such as attitudes
  • Social – the role of society, its expectations or limitations and how this impacts on an individual’s functioning.

An individual’s ability to return to health, daily functioning, and particularly to work, is dependent on personal/psychological factors and social/occupational factors (HWCA, 2005). The BPS model considers the individual as a whole rather than traditional medical management which focuses solely on the injury.

The Leading Authorities of Workers Compensation Australia (HWCA, 2005) has illustrated that the BPS model can be adopted in a worker’s rehabilitation and return to work plan. It recognises that a person’s fears and beliefs about their injury can impact on their return to work and health, and should therefore be incorporated into their injury-management planning. Likewise, an individual’s personality, as well as social pressures, will impact on how one recovers from injury. At Actevate, we are focussed on using evidence-based practice; we ensure these factors are integrated into our assessments and are integral in the development of rehabilitation plans.

We spoke with Actevate Rehabilitation Consultant (RC), Brittany Turnbull, and gained an insight into the psychosocial barriers present in her return to work coordination. She gave us her view on how these can be managed.

What are the barriers you’re faced with as a rehabilitation consultant on a day to day basis?

Primarily the key challenge in managing recovery and return to health for severe, complex and psychological injuries is the impact of biopsychosocial factors.  Commonly, people within this population experience prolonged recovery with the following biopsychosocial factors impacting their rehabilitation:   

  • Fear avoidance and pain-focused  behaviours – including fear of re-injury or re-aggravation
  • Continuation of passive, symptom-focused treatment in the absence of improved functional outcomes
  • Reported worsening of symptoms through minor activity
  • Perception that injury is catastrophic and creates fear
  • Belief that pain is harmful and engagement in activity results in further damage
  • Reported stress in the workplace with lack of support
  • Failed  attempts to return to work

All these factors reinforce long-term disability with the individual and reduces the opportunity to achieve a recovery to health.

How do you manage these barriers?

I have achieved positive outcomes in managing these barriers through:

  • Obtaining comprehensive information about the individual in relation to their injury history, recovery to date and their support systems. It is important to ascertain why the worker believes they are not recovering and establishing what is required to help them.
  • Goal-setting with the worker to determine what they want to achieve in the return to work process, how they will achieve this, and the time frames.
  • Providing feedback to stakeholders and developing a program that reflects the goals to be achieved and biopsychosocial factors to be addressed. The program is developed in consultation with stakeholders with a focus on how this will assist the worker in addressing the biopsychosocial factors impeding their recovery to health.
  • Directly providing feedback to the worker as to their engagement in the program ensuring that they are responsible for their goals.

In following a person-centred approach of goal setting and engaging all stakeholders we effectively address the core biopsychosocial factors impacting the workers recovery. Frequently, workers report that they are in a better state of health following rehabilitation due to a greater sense of wellbeing and self-regulation.

To get in touch with Brittany Turnbull and talk about how she manages her rehabilitation clients, please call her on 1300 669 552 or email us at info@actevate.com.au

 



The aged care industry is in for a shake-up with changes to WorkCover NSW insurance premium reform.

We believe the WorkCover reforms will act as an incentive for organisations to improve and promote safety at work in addition to providing injured workers with immediate support following a workplace injury.

Effective on-site health programs, targeted education and pre-employment screenings are interventions demonstrated to be beneficial for organisations keen to improve their safety culture and injury frequency rate.

In this sector, pre-employment screening, periodic and onsite prevention programs are not commonplace. Despite the significant risks posed by the inherent requirements of the jobs in this sector, some aged care facilities do not conduct pre-employment and/or periodic health screenings at all; leaving them exposed to a multitude of safety and claims risks.

Establishing policies and procedures for pre-employment and periodic screenings will help ensure; health, well-being, claims and injury prevention in your workplace. These include:

  • Mandatory yearly drug and alcohol testing for staff.
  • Functional examinations of workers’ flexibility, strength and lifting capacity in accordance with the inherent requirements of the job.
  • Regular mental health checks to measure client’s emotional resilience for operationally critical roles.
  • Manual handling risk assessments to ensure staff are aware of appropriate techniques.
  • Employee Assistance Programmes to support and empower workers suffering from distress impacting on their productivity.
  • Resilience training for managers who have to operate in high stress environments.

In recent months we have come across facilities that do not implement efficacious screening processes- for some, this consists of the candidate taking a trip to their local GP and ticking off HR policy and procedural requirements. In an already under-resourced sector, evidence based risk assessment is essential in identifying future team members who may not be fit for your work environment.

In a sector where the likelihood of injury is 40% higher and is considered a priority area of Safe Work Australia and the Australian government; health screening is the cheapest form of risk mitigation expenditure. It has been identified that non screened employees are 33% more at risk of sustaining an injury when compared with a screened employee.

Having industry trained allied health professionals examine potential employees using relevant, standardised measures aligned to the job descriptions are the way to reduce the incidence of injury and claims in the workplace.

Learn more by phoning us on 1300 669 552, or email us at info@actevate.com.au



We all need to become more aware of the potential for long-term injuries caused by sedentary activity. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to sit down all day. Think about your average day at work, how long are you sitting for? Are you in a seated position now whilst reading this article?

Actevate has responded to topical research which states that ‘Sitting Is The New Smoking’. We have, with help from two of Actevate’s Exercise Physiologists Bonnie Ho and Zayneb Dirbas, developed a proactive new Stretch and Flex program.

Typically, most of us occupy a seated position far more than we are conscious of: watching TV, reading, socialising, working and even when commuting.

Prolonged sitting, meaning sitting for eight to 12 hours or more a day, increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90%.

According to the Australian Health Survey- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011-2012), 70% of Australian adults are either sedentary or participate in low levels of physical activity; those employed in more sedentary occupations spend an average of 22 hours a week sitting. While sitting stationary for extended periods is hard to avoid for many of us. However, it's not all bad news, research has shown that regular interruptions from sitting, conducting meetings whilst walking, or simply standing up from your chair, is more likely to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Sitting is serious stuff.

Did you know that physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth-largest leading risk factor all around the world? (World Health Organisation)

Actevate’s Exercise Physiologist Bonnie Ho says,

“In this day and age where 'sitting is the new smoking', there are so many health problems that can be avoided if we just do simple things during the course of the working day like standing up, stretching and flexing! Some of the benefits are obvious once you start implementing these steps because you'll feel it immediately. You suddenly gain more focus, get more energy and being active results in a better mood.”

So why not get in touch with us here at Actevate and take full advantage of our Stretch and Flex program.

If you would like further information on our Stretch and Flex program, please contact us on 1300 663 155 or email us at info@actevate.com.au



Mental health awareness has become more prevalent within society and highly discussed in health forums. However, with all this focus around mental health, very little of the population understand or know how to help a person in a mental health crisis; especially within Australian workplaces. Recently, a Health Profile of Australian Employees was conducted identifying around 65% of employees indicated moderate to high stress levels, and 41% had psychological distress levels considered a risk to their health. Unfortunately, costing business $10.9 billion annually. The Australian Government has seen this as a concern to our economy due to lack of management within our workplaces and has since developed the Healthy Workplace Alliance.

Actevate encourages workplaces to reach out and support their employees who might be struggling at present with their mental health. Actevate can support your organisation through an Employee Assistance Program, Psychology Treatment Plans, Workplace Rehabilitation Assistance, Health and Wellbeing programs, Seminars on Mental Health, Job in Jeopardy Assistance, Managing Concerning Behaviours, Goal Setting and Risk Management.



Our Director, Robert Migliore was interviewed by Asia-Pacific Banking & Finance (AB+F) magazine this March on this thought-provoking subject.

Robert highlights the important issues plaguing our insurers as they focus on assessing the veracity of claims with respect to causation, medical intervention and pathology. Insurers are better placed to adopt a model that will address and identify a worker’s perception of health, injury causation and recovery time.

Robert says, “There needs to be an understanding that injury management is as much to do with the medical and physical aspects of injury as it is to do with the personality and emotional factors governing one’s health perceptions”.

Given what we know already about the impact of personality on injury recovery, Actevate have acted by developing unique initial screening of our clients, under the Pathways Model, to identify early-on the barriers that are likely to impact on our interventions. By doing this upfront, we separate out the personality factors versus the medical and injury-recovery factors. We put in action plans to address the whole picture – getting employers results and having healthy productive workers.

The Pathways Model has been designed to enhance the social, emotional, financial and workplace outcomes of injured or ill employees. This model is supported by a unique coaching program called The MindBody Project – a multidisciplinary program that incorporates physical coaching with resilience coaching to enable individuals to take ownership of their own health.

To read Robert’s article in full, download it here.

If you would like more information on the Pathways Model and MindBody Project, you can contact us on 1300 663 155 ort email us. Let us help you with your injury management.



Hot off the press! Just released from OHS Alert. The NSW WCC President has confirmed a journey fatality was compensable because the incident was caused by the deceased woman's work-related fatigue.

The judge rejected the employer's claim, on appeal, that there was no evidence the worker was tired or fatigued at the time of her death.

He found it was "consistent with every day human experience" that someone who worked 60 hours over five consecutive night shifts would be "tired or suffering from some measure of fatigue".

It was argued that given the worker's long working hours in the days prior to her death, and the absence of any braking on the road at the accident scene, it was more probable than not that she fell asleep at the wheel.

The judge said he was "comfortably satisfied" work-related fatigue had a "real and substantial connection" to her death, under s10(3A) of the State Workers Compensation Act 1987.

He went on to say that the evidence showed the worker was new to working night shifts, had worked long hours in the previous five days, and complained to her parents that she was struggling with getting used to working at night.

"That evidence, coupled with the otherwise unexplained veering of her vehicle to the incorrect side of the roadway was more probable than not that the accident was caused by the deceased falling asleep at the wheel of her car due to work-related fatigue," he said in dismissing the employer's appeal.

For more information about this ruling visit Namoi Cotton Co-Operative Ltd v Stephen Easterman (as administrator of the estate of Zara Lee Easterman) [2015] NSWWCCPD 29 (4 May 2015)

Lessons for us?

  • Shift patterns are crucial and some research has been done in this area. Make sure you have your WHS policy on shift management reviewed to ensure your employees are getting enough rest between shifts.
  • This sets a precedent on the causal link to workplace fatigue and getting to/from work. Even if you don’t have shifts, any work place where employees are working excessive hours should be reviewed and strategies in place for workplace wellbeing initiatives.
  • Flexibility in the workplace where people can work from home when they are doing long hours can avoid the trip in the car.
  • Remind people in your workplace about the need to rest between shifts and don't be tempted to put people on double shift if resources are tight.
  • Establishing a wellness program that encourages activity and exercise keeps people fit enough to maintain working longer hours or shift work.
  • Educate your employees on how to manage shift work and the impact it can have on your wellbeing. That means how to structure meals, prepare for sleep when it's light outside, importance of exercise and managing a changing shift pattern.

For any help with managing your work place fatigue issues or you want to put in place some wellness programs, please call us on 1300 663 155 or email us.



Actevate marked World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April, 2015, by getting out and spreading the word - a day to focus on taking actions which can prevent future work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses, and a day to remember those that have died from a work-related injury or illness.

Safe Work Australia reminded us that despite a reduction in the number of Australians injured or killed at work during the past 10 years, in 2014, 185 workers lost their lives at work. That means there are still employees who went to work that day didn’t get to come home to their families or friends.

Whether we work in an office, in a warehouse or a myriad different environments, we all deserve to come home when we go to work – it’s a basic expectation that we are safe at work.

The International Labour Organisation developed a dedicated website for the day, check out the interactive website to work through your safety ‘journey’.

The big issues emerging for many sedentary workers are the significant negative effects on our health from sitting such as obesity, cardiovascular disease – consider it to be the new 'smoking'. You can read more here. The ABC recently did a piece on the research from the heart foundation that does not paint a pretty picture. Find out more here.

Another issue emerging in the 21st-century workplace is the ever-encroaching impact on our leisure time as we read and respond to emails on the weekend, engage in social media after hours – expectations are now that we are ‘on’ 24/7.

Here are some tips to try to correct your sitting posture:

  1. Sit on the front of the sitting bones, gently tilting your pelvis forwards. This will help to put your spine in its natural low back curve (lumbar lordosis).

  2. Imagine there is a string connected from the top of your head to the ceiling, 'lengthening your neck'.

  3. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to correct any roundedness of the shoulders.

  4. Keep a relaxed breathing pattern. As you breathe in - make air gently fill all the way to the lower lungs - don't just fill the upper chest.

  5. Ensure that your chin isn’t poking out in a forward head posture. In a small ‘yes’ nod movement, gently tuck your chin in to your chest.

  6. Get moving! Any excuse to move - use a glass to drink water rather than a bottle, stand to talk to your work mates, stand to eat your lunch rather than sit at your desk.

Let us help you battle these issues check out our offers in our acknowledgment of World Day for Safety and Health at Work or email us with your issues or call us on 1300 663 155.



Actevate and the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH) joined forces recently when manual handling issues emerged with their staff. Lauren Paul, Clinical Nurse Educator, noticed that some staff were becoming complacent with safe handling at work; and with significant growth in staff at SASH, wanted to make sure all the new staff got off to a safe start.

Lauren says, “Staff were taking shortcuts without understanding the consequences of what poor manual handling could have on their body”. Lauren noticed increasing manual handling incidents emerging and needed to do something – and fast.

Actevate’s physiotherapist, Jennifer Dodge, went in to lend a hand and worked closely with Lauren to develop a training package that was going to make a real difference and not just pay lip service to her experienced nursing team. Jennifer says that “this training needed to be specific to the nurses’ tasks or it was going to fail”. The approach Actevate took was to develop a deep understanding of what staff did and taking photos and performing a task analysis meant that Actevate's training was tailored and highly relevant. From all accounts, the staff found the training highly beneficial and thought-provoking by challenging poor techniques.

Lauren says, “I think having someone external come in like a physiotherapist from Actevate, gave the training more gravitas”

Training was performed during three sessions with 10-15 people in each group. We used photos of actual tasks which Jennifer says “encouraged interaction. The teams were really receptive and highly engaged during training”.

Lauren acknowledges that the training has had an impact with staff reporting positive behaviour change. Only one manual handling incident has been reported since and that was from someone who didn’t participate in training! The next step for SASH is to expand the sessions to include administration staff and the vets.

Generic training is ‘Google-able’ and there is always a place for it when staff just need a quick refresher. Training that really makes a difference should be specific to the people who are participating so that they can relate to the positive change in behaviour we are often trying to achieve with injury prevention education in our workplaces.

To talk to Jennifer about manual handling training, please call her on 1300 663 155 or email Jennifer.dodge@actevate.com.au



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