An insurance boss has urged workers' compensation insurers to transform their approach to better support the recovery of people injured at work.
The message was made in light of the surge in the numbers of injured workers who experienced secondary mental health conditions. Allianz's data showed that there has been a significant rise in the number of people injured at work who suffered a secondary psychological injury. In NSW alone, it has increased by 50% over the past five years.
“A focus on more than just the physical injury is needed to effectively support workers and reduce the risk of secondary psychological conditions,” Mark Pittman, Allianz general manager for government services, said recently at the National Workers Compensation Summit in Sydney. “Isolation is a very real issue for workers in the recovery process – being away from their workplace can cause feelings of identity loss, inability to contribute economically to their households, and feelings of separation from their social networks.”
Pittman said the rising trend of mental health issues shows that the traditional medical approach to supporting worker recovery is flawed.
“The ideal approach is to review the worker’s situation holistically and account for their injury as well as their wellbeing,” he said. “Secondly, we need all stakeholders involved in the recovery process working together. In pioneering our SMART programs, we have found that collaboration with employers, health providers, as well as the worker has been key to expediting the worker’s recovery.”
Allianz's StartSMART is an industry-first program that focuses on connecting people with the health benefits of work sooner. The program, co-designed with icare and the NSW Department of Education, yielded positive results, with more workers returning to pre-injury duties within four to six weeks of commencing the program, Pittman said.
“We need to be doing more than addressing just the physical injury when it comes to workers compensation,” Pittman said. “If we can truly collaborate as insurers, employers and employees, we will be able to positively change the workers compensation experience; we’ll be able to positively change lives.”