Hand Therapy Week in Australia: Empowering Workplace Safety and Rehabilitation
This year’s theme for Hand Therapy Awareness Week is Workplace Injuries. Unfortunately, injuries in the workplace are incredibly common, with finger and hand injuries being the most common type of work-related injury in Australia.
They significantly impact our ability to perform everyday tasks and maintain a good quality of life and can cause long-term damage to the hands and upper limbs, affecting various professions and industries in Australia.
Workplace injuries to the hand and upper limb can be caused by various factors, including poor hand ergonomics, mechanical hazards, environmental hazards, and skin irritants. Recognising these risks is crucial for preventing such injuries in the workplace.
Poor hand ergonomics in the workplace can have detrimental effects on the overall health and well-being of employees. When the ergonomics of hand movements and positions are not properly considered, it can lead to increased strain, discomfort, and even the development of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Repetitive tasks, awkward hand postures, excessive force exertion, and inadequate support can all contribute to poor hand ergonomics.
Employers must recognise the importance of implementing ergonomic principles and providing ergonomic tools and equipment to minimise the risk of hand injuries and promote a healthier work environment. By addressing poor hand ergonomics, organisations can enhance productivity, reduce absenteeism, and ensure the long-term well-being of their workforce.
At Apricus Health, our team of Occupational Therapists and Accredited Hand Therapists are here to help. With a multidisciplinary approach, we offer customised solutions for your workplace, including:
- Worksite Ergonomic Assessments
- Functional Capacity Evaluations
- Pre-Employment Screenings
- Development and Monitoring of Graduated Return to Work Programs
- OHS Training
- Suitable Duties Programs
- Injury Prevention Programs
- Ergonomic Education Sessions
How do Hand Therapists treat upper limb injuries or repetitive strains?
‘Treating upper limb injuries from repetitive use can only partly be managed in the clinic room. To get a full picture of what is going on for your client you need to watch how they work, and really examine their body mechanics and how they are using their hand and arm. You can make a huge difference to client’s pain by adjusting equipment, making suggestions for additional ergonomic products, and simply pointing out what specific activities are contributing to their pain. This can be done either by video or with a face-to-face consult at the workplace.’
- Cassandra Chiesa, Apricus Health co-Founder and Accredited Hand Therapist
What is an Accredited Hand therapist?
‘An accredited hand therapist is an occupational therapist or physiotherapist who is passionate about management of clients with upper limbs injuries. To become accredited by the Australian Hand Therapy Association, they have completed further study, met minimum hours of clinical practice and completed a mentorship program. An accredited hand therapist will see a large variety of clients with workplace injuries from overuse conditions all the way to traumatic injuries that may need provision or thermoplastic orthosis, casting or even surgery. We work closely with your doctor, specialist and workplace to help you heal and get you safely back to work.’
- Letitia Power, Accredited Hand Therapist.
So, when is the best time to see a Hand Therapist if you have a repetitive strain or injury?
‘The best time to get assessed for a workplace strain injury is as soon as you start to notice symptoms. Often small alterations in your workstation ergonomics or techniques for activities like lifting, may be enough to settle your symptoms. If we leave it to gradually progress the damage to your tissue may progress and make recovery slower and therapy more intensive.’
- Letitia Power, Accredited Hand Therapist.
It’s important to know how to report the incident and file a Workcover claim. The following steps can help guide you through the process:
Steps for Reporting an Injury in the Workplace
- Notify your supervisor of the injury or accident as soon as possible.
- Your employer should provide you with their insurance details, but if they don't, most companies in Queensland are insured through http://www.workcoverqld.com.au/ or by calling 1300 362 128.
- Schedule a visit with your doctor and obtain a Workcover medical certificate.
- File your claim with Workcover.
To have your consultations covered by WorkCover, you'll need the following information:
- Your Doctor's referral letter
- Your Doctor's medical certificate.
We can see clients up to 3 times without an approved WorkCover case as long as there is a valid medical certificate. You may not incur any out-of-pocket expenses for upper limb therapy treatments or products.
When should I return to work?
Therapists will frequently be involved with both the injured worker and their employer. Sometimes this will involve the employer attending appointments so they can get an understanding of the injury and healing timeframes, we can then discuss safe ways to get them back in the workplace without compromising healing. The therapist will also attend workplaces with the client, employer, or supervisor to assess the tasks required and provide education in safe lifting or posturing.
We can develop return-to-work plans, give feedback to the doctor on recommendations for restrictions or even discuss ergonomic equipment to aid in return to work. Most employers are keen to assist their staff to safely return to work and are receptive to any suggestions as they not only will assist in this client but may help in avoiding any other employees getting injured in the future.
Suitable Duties Program
Once our clients have their acute injury symptoms resolved through their hand therapy treatment, it may be time to consider a return to work. Having suitable duties available is important to support an injured worker's return to work, and often alternative duties need to be identified with the assistance of the occupational therapist. The therapist may be required to conduct a workplace assessment to assess the pre-injury role, and determine which of those duties are appropriate for the inital return to work. From there, the duties can be graded over the coming weeks to allow a return to normal duties where possible. If there are limited suitable duties in the workplace, alternative duties will be assessed to formulate the foundations of the return to work program.
Apricus Health works with all parties, including the medical provider, employer, other involved allied health professionals and workers to ensure everyone is aware of where the work is with their rehabilitation and stay at, or return to work.
If you have any questions regarding Workcover appointments, contact us on (07) 4755 2337 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.