Disability management challenges employers

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Barb Sweet
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labour/health

Disability management in the workplace is one of the biggest challenges facing employers, people at a workshop in St. John's were told Tuesday.

"The purpose of today is (to) provide some advice, training and suggestions to deal with one of - if not the biggest issue - in workplaces right now. That's disability management," Newfound-land and Labrador Employers' Council executive director Richard Alexander said during a break from the session.

Richard Alexander, executive director of NL Employers' Council, chats with Cathy Dormody, occupational health nurse with Newfoundland Power. - Photo By Mark Burt/Special to The Telegram.

Disability management in the workplace is one of the biggest challenges facing employers, people at a workshop in St. John's were told Tuesday.

"The purpose of today is (to) provide some advice, training and suggestions to deal with one of - if not the biggest issue - in workplaces right now. That's disability management," Newfound-land and Labrador Employers' Council executive director Richard Alexander said during a break from the session.

Disability management can include an injury or illness suffered outside the workplace, as well as workplace injuries.

"Disability management looks at all those types of situations," Alexander said.

"If there was one magic bullet or silver bullet, we would have this problem fixed. But the reality is when you are dealing with injuries, whether work-related or not, there are many different facets - things that impact the success of that person getting better."

For both employers and workers, those issues can include everything from home life, the labour relations environment, access to medical care and the culture within an organization.

Alexander said workplaces in the province, with the help of the workers' compensation commisson, have improved their safety records.

"We're one of the best when it comes to our safety rate," Alexander said.

Now concentration has to be on managing disabilities.

"Regardless of what the issues are, I think everybody in this province would admit that when it comes to managing disabilities, we've got a ways to go," Alexander said.

"There's a lot that can be done in this province. ... The first thing would be understanding that we need to create a culture within organizations of trust and a culture of disability management."

He said helping and supporting workers to get back to the job is much better than having them home.

"Some employers have some very solid programs put in place. Smaller employers generally don't have the same level of resources to devote to that, and we just need a stronger focus at the workers' compensation commission, within workplaces, among unionized labour of the recognition this is a problem, and we need to do more to try to improve it," Alexander said.

Cathy Dormody, an occupational health nurse with Newfoundland Power, said her company's philosophy is to improve the process it already has and to continue educating workers and supervisors.

"My core role as the occupational health nurse is to facilitate the early-safe-return-to-work program," she said. "If someone gets injured, take care of them right away. You go through the process at the same time that you're reassuring the worker, you're reassuring the supervisor, 'We are doing everything we can to make things better.' "

While Newfoundland Power is a large employer, Dormody has advice for all workplaces, including small ones.

"I think it's really important, even if you are a small employer, to keep your employees engaged. It's really important to have an employee connected with the workplace," she said.

"Even if you don't have a lot of resources, it doesn't take a lot of time to call the employee to reassure them that when things are in place and the return-to-work plan that you've worked together with them, that you are willing to work with their physician and support them through this process."

Nobody wants to be off the job, Dormody said.

"The systems are difficult - trying to navigate through the health care system, trying to do a process they have not been exposed to before. So the more support and encouragement you can give to employees to help them through that process, the better," she said.

She said if employers are fair and consistent, their employees will value that.

"We all need help from time to time, and when you are injured it's no different. And the more support services you can give them to get them through that difficult time, the stronger your relationship will be," Dormody said.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    You seem very well informed on the issue, They Bring... (not unlike several other matters you feel compelled to comment on under different names, but with the same name-calling and mind-numbing ignorance). So let me ask, how is it that you are such an expert on THIS matter? What do you know that seems to elude the rest of us and how is it you are privy to this

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    James I hope the person who you question takes the time today to answer you. I think she will have a few choice words for you in reference to the broken bone issue. She was at work when others she works with call in sick with a sniffle. Sound right for your workplace as well? Why do we permit this abuse of the system? Complacency, education, lack of respect? You tell me, but it needs to end. The only way it will end is when the employee pays for it for a change. br br Your reference to a union health and safety inspector is a little bit of a stretch. In Canada Health and Safety Officers are not part of a union. Conflict of interest, so that ends that before it begins. In away blame needs to be shared. The workers are responsible for the mine. They are on site and are aware of conditions. They need to act responsibility to prevent injury as we all must. They did have the right to refuse to work once they checked personal monitors to become aware of explosive conditions. I doubt anyone would have found fault. But if this was a sudden release of methane that was exposed to spark, nothing anyone could have done would have prevented it. The only other option is to stop underground mines and tear down the hillside by creating an open pit extraction process. br br But that is not our issue. Workers compensation and the abuse in Newfoundland is.

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Very simple James. You needed to attend to be given the facts and figures first hand. The highest per capital use and misuse of the compensation system for the longest amount of time is workers in Newfoundland. Workers in Newfoundland take the longest to return to work then any other place in Canada. You do have the ability to verify the data should you chose to take the time to look rather then attempting to discredit it. Do you happen to be one of those that has abused the system?

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    As a matter of fact, I have worked with many people, who you would dismiss as abusers, and the common thread is WCB's attempts to deny or minimise services to people who are indeed entitled and have paid for these benefits. But as we both know, the WCB answers to a government that itself answers to the right-wing, anti-labour Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council. And just like all 'employer groups,' prefer to talke about dangerous workers rather than dangerous workplaces, and minimizing costs as opposed to healthy workplaces. br br Oh, by the way, who was presenting this workshop and providing you with the 'facts?' Oh, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council. Yeah.

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    If you believed this person worked with a *broken arm* then you are gullible (which is not much of a stretch, as you obviously believe this nonsense that the employers counsel (or Fortis) is telling you). And if workers have the sniffles, as you put it, then any responsible manager has the responsibility to ensure that they are not spreading anything to the other workers that could potentially slow down production. br br As for the Big Branch Mine, it is in West Virginia (Not in Canada). If you honestly believe that Massey Energy would allow workers to walk off the job due to infractions, you have no understanding of the issues facing unorganized labour in an environment where the Company is well aware of the dangers and chooses to pay the fines to courts run by their friends. If they walk off the job, they can keep on going; there is no union to speak up for them. Also, Massey has been pursuing mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia in the face of residents' protests. But since your such an advocate of productive work, I find it odd that you are spending valuable company time spouting off here rather than earning your keep. Get back to work. Lazy slob.

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Recently I can verify a worker in St. Johns with a broken bone. Did that person take the easy way out and stay off work, no. That person went to work two hours after breaking the bone and not going to hospital for three days. This would be an extreme exception to the rule here. You most likely would have advocated that this person stay home, collect compensation and milk it as long as they could. This is the problem faced by employers and case managers. If more people were responsible and had the correct ethics we would not have these issues. Who is to blame for the poor work ethics in this province, simple answer the unions. They have created a lazy workforce that only can see what they can gain from employment, not what they can provide to society in general. Rather then the employer shouldering the lions share of WCB premiums, maybe we are at the stage where the worker needs to share the load for personal insurance. I bet we would have far fewer sick days, claims and a higher productivity rate to compete in the global economy.

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    So here is the problem with the lazy people on this island. WCB needs to step up the game. Doctors need to stop falling for the fraud they are permitting. What a pack of lazy slobs we have here. This is a disgrace, and one I am embarrassed to see in print.

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    IF that person had a broken bone, he / she wouldnt have been able to work, so I suspect that to be a lie of sorts. And if advocating getting proper and immediate treatment for a medical emergency is in your terms, 'milking the system,' then yeah Im all for it, as would be the doctors, nurses, and any intelligent person. This person's primary responsibility is to themselves and their family than before their boss. It's interesting that you equate making profit for your boss to providing for society. (How about paying taxes?) Your unsubstantiated claim that this is the fault of the unions (besides being a tired old cliché) is also indicative of your blind acceptance of the corporate agenda. Unionized workplaces are safer than non-unionized because the bosses cannot cut corners as easily to increase profit. Viz. the recent coal mine in West Virginia, where Massey Energy had previously racked up hundreds of violations (57 infractions over the last month) with little consequence (of course they cited a need to compete in the global market). Where were the union safety inspectors? There were none. But you could always blame the miners for their own deaths as you do injured and sick workers here.

  • Jocelyn
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    My daughter is a Health and Safety Officer and a proud member of PSAC. You have no idea what you're talking about.

  • HSE
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Government Agents might be in a union. The majority are not. Ask anyone working for any of the major players and they will inform you they are managers, and not member in any union. Shell Canada has no union safety professional at any oil sands site on the payroll for example. I would provide y staff number but that would be a violation of my terms of employment. I will also go on to say Albian Shell is a non-union site that does very well in regards to safety and holds a very low LTI rate without the need for union interference.

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    You seem very well informed on the issue, They Bring... (not unlike several other matters you feel compelled to comment on under different names, but with the same name-calling and mind-numbing ignorance). So let me ask, how is it that you are such an expert on THIS matter? What do you know that seems to elude the rest of us and how is it you are privy to this

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    James I hope the person who you question takes the time today to answer you. I think she will have a few choice words for you in reference to the broken bone issue. She was at work when others she works with call in sick with a sniffle. Sound right for your workplace as well? Why do we permit this abuse of the system? Complacency, education, lack of respect? You tell me, but it needs to end. The only way it will end is when the employee pays for it for a change. br br Your reference to a union health and safety inspector is a little bit of a stretch. In Canada Health and Safety Officers are not part of a union. Conflict of interest, so that ends that before it begins. In away blame needs to be shared. The workers are responsible for the mine. They are on site and are aware of conditions. They need to act responsibility to prevent injury as we all must. They did have the right to refuse to work once they checked personal monitors to become aware of explosive conditions. I doubt anyone would have found fault. But if this was a sudden release of methane that was exposed to spark, nothing anyone could have done would have prevented it. The only other option is to stop underground mines and tear down the hillside by creating an open pit extraction process. br br But that is not our issue. Workers compensation and the abuse in Newfoundland is.

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Very simple James. You needed to attend to be given the facts and figures first hand. The highest per capital use and misuse of the compensation system for the longest amount of time is workers in Newfoundland. Workers in Newfoundland take the longest to return to work then any other place in Canada. You do have the ability to verify the data should you chose to take the time to look rather then attempting to discredit it. Do you happen to be one of those that has abused the system?

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    As a matter of fact, I have worked with many people, who you would dismiss as abusers, and the common thread is WCB's attempts to deny or minimise services to people who are indeed entitled and have paid for these benefits. But as we both know, the WCB answers to a government that itself answers to the right-wing, anti-labour Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council. And just like all 'employer groups,' prefer to talke about dangerous workers rather than dangerous workplaces, and minimizing costs as opposed to healthy workplaces. br br Oh, by the way, who was presenting this workshop and providing you with the 'facts?' Oh, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council. Yeah.

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    If you believed this person worked with a *broken arm* then you are gullible (which is not much of a stretch, as you obviously believe this nonsense that the employers counsel (or Fortis) is telling you). And if workers have the sniffles, as you put it, then any responsible manager has the responsibility to ensure that they are not spreading anything to the other workers that could potentially slow down production. br br As for the Big Branch Mine, it is in West Virginia (Not in Canada). If you honestly believe that Massey Energy would allow workers to walk off the job due to infractions, you have no understanding of the issues facing unorganized labour in an environment where the Company is well aware of the dangers and chooses to pay the fines to courts run by their friends. If they walk off the job, they can keep on going; there is no union to speak up for them. Also, Massey has been pursuing mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia in the face of residents' protests. But since your such an advocate of productive work, I find it odd that you are spending valuable company time spouting off here rather than earning your keep. Get back to work. Lazy slob.

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Recently I can verify a worker in St. Johns with a broken bone. Did that person take the easy way out and stay off work, no. That person went to work two hours after breaking the bone and not going to hospital for three days. This would be an extreme exception to the rule here. You most likely would have advocated that this person stay home, collect compensation and milk it as long as they could. This is the problem faced by employers and case managers. If more people were responsible and had the correct ethics we would not have these issues. Who is to blame for the poor work ethics in this province, simple answer the unions. They have created a lazy workforce that only can see what they can gain from employment, not what they can provide to society in general. Rather then the employer shouldering the lions share of WCB premiums, maybe we are at the stage where the worker needs to share the load for personal insurance. I bet we would have far fewer sick days, claims and a higher productivity rate to compete in the global economy.

  • They Bring Provincial
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    So here is the problem with the lazy people on this island. WCB needs to step up the game. Doctors need to stop falling for the fraud they are permitting. What a pack of lazy slobs we have here. This is a disgrace, and one I am embarrassed to see in print.

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    IF that person had a broken bone, he / she wouldnt have been able to work, so I suspect that to be a lie of sorts. And if advocating getting proper and immediate treatment for a medical emergency is in your terms, 'milking the system,' then yeah Im all for it, as would be the doctors, nurses, and any intelligent person. This person's primary responsibility is to themselves and their family than before their boss. It's interesting that you equate making profit for your boss to providing for society. (How about paying taxes?) Your unsubstantiated claim that this is the fault of the unions (besides being a tired old cliché) is also indicative of your blind acceptance of the corporate agenda. Unionized workplaces are safer than non-unionized because the bosses cannot cut corners as easily to increase profit. Viz. the recent coal mine in West Virginia, where Massey Energy had previously racked up hundreds of violations (57 infractions over the last month) with little consequence (of course they cited a need to compete in the global market). Where were the union safety inspectors? There were none. But you could always blame the miners for their own deaths as you do injured and sick workers here.

  • Jocelyn
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    My daughter is a Health and Safety Officer and a proud member of PSAC. You have no idea what you're talking about.

  • HSE
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Government Agents might be in a union. The majority are not. Ask anyone working for any of the major players and they will inform you they are managers, and not member in any union. Shell Canada has no union safety professional at any oil sands site on the payroll for example. I would provide y staff number but that would be a violation of my terms of employment. I will also go on to say Albian Shell is a non-union site that does very well in regards to safety and holds a very low LTI rate without the need for union interference.