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ARPA’s recommendations for improving workplace injury schemes

Recently, the Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association released a paper promoting a discussion to improve national worker’s compensation schemes. This is a quick overview of the key findings of that paper and a link to the full paper for our members.

Compiled and presented by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, this paper has taken a comprehensive look at major stakeholders and made recommendations on the key actions areas they should undertake. Below is a summary of the major points for each stakeholder.

Regulators and Insurers

As the implementors and enforcers of legislation, they set the tone for outcomes. Recommendations for their actions and outcomes include:

  • Set and monitor a culture of Return-to-Work (RTW) outcomes. Better collaboration between medical and treatment teams for individuals is vital.
  • Ensure that no further harm comes to workers who have suffered injuries. Excessive claims/dispute procedures, medico-legal investigations, and surveillance must be reduced.
  • Raise awareness of successful plans and approaches. This can happen by engaging government and stakeholders in regular discourse.
  • Transparent and effective monitoring and reporting of scheme performance across the industry. Auditing, surveys, and reporting are the key to information.
  • Better, more efficient, and more desirable outcomes with less legal involvement. This should especially focus on a more personal connection with the injured party.

Workplaces

Workplace injuries usually happen at work and on-site. It is vital to minimise risk and improve RTW outcomes. The following recommendations are made:

  • Promote further training and skill development within workplaces at a management level. This will ensure that relevant personnel can assess and manage risk before injuries.
  • Develop and manage organisational approaches that minimise adversarial responses to workplace injuries.
  • Better approaches to work and work design to lower injury risk and improve RTW success.
  • More creative approaches to engage employers and incentivise improvements. These should focus on injury management, injury prevention, and workplace culture.

Healthcare

Allied health professionals are vital to the RTW process as the primary care giver. Yet, the complex communications system often causes delays and conflict within treatment systems. The following changes and outcomes are important:

  • A more systematic approach to the psychosocial factors of workplace injuries. This starts with identifying early risk factors by effective screening. This is followed by assessing and treating them within the recovery process.
  • Providing better healthcare outcomes rather than compensatory outcomes. This involves evidence-based treatment and care; better clinical guidelines; improved certification of work capacity, and national treatment registers.
  • More thorough training of medical professionals within the RTW system. This will involve better integration of occupational health in undergraduate studies, post-graduate upskilling, and targeted training.
  • Enhanced cooperation between all parties to ensure effective and relevant outcomes. Video conferences and regular communication are useful.
  • Better systems for overcoming health inequity barriers, especially for remote and Indigenous workers. Funding and committing to programs that improve this are vital. This includes improving case managers and health access.

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