Every worker has the right to come home safe and well. Unfortunately, for many workers across Australia, this isn’t the case.
Injuries in workplaces are common. Some are due to specific incidents, and others develop over a long period of time – such as back injuries from lifting heavy boxes, psychological injuries, or skin cancer from being outside for too long without proper PPE.
No matter what your job is, you have the right to employment that is free from harm. If something happens to you at work, you should follow these steps.
See your own GP
No matter how minor or serious the work accident seems, always seek medical help.
If there’s an immediate danger or injury, call 000 or ask someone to do it for you. Get a trusted work mate to help you out if you need.
Even if it’s less serious, you should leave work immediately and go to see your own GP. Despite what your boss may tell you, you don’t have to see a company doctor instead of your own doctor after an accident. You can, and should, see your own medical experts. They know you and your medical history and are better able to diagnose and recommend treatment for any injuries.
You should also never let a company rep sit in on your medical appointment with you, no matter how well-meaning it might seem at the time. You can, and should, refuse to let anyone in with you. Medical appointments are private.
If you notice any injuries afterwards, take record of them and seek medical advice.
Keep your own records
After the accident, make sure you report it to your supervisor and make a record of it.
If your company doesn’t have an official register or incident report for accidents, you should take time to detail what happened, where, how and any witnesses that were present. The record should be in your own words – don’t let anyone, including a boss, tell you what to write.
You should also include details of any previous occasions when you have raised the safety issue to your supervisor or manager. We’ve previously discussed why it’s so important for workers to report it, record it, repeat it.
Any of these options have been considered official records:
- Incident report
- Notes in a logbook or on a timesheet
- Emails to a supervisor
- Text messages to colleagues
If you are able to, and it’s safe to do so, you should also try and take photos and keep them with your record of the incident. These can be photos of equipment, photos of training guides, or photos of where the accident took place.
Complete your own paperwork
After an accident at work, your supervisor may ask you to sign away an incident form or a completed WorkCover form.
Never sign paperwork that you haven’t written yourself. If any forms need to be completed, make sure you are the one to fill them in and sign them.
If your employer pressures you to sign paperwork that you’re not comfortable with, you can and should refuse. Talk to your union rep if you need advice on dealing with a difficult or pushy supervisor.
Take your own time
If you need to take time off after your accident, your GP will let you know. Always follow medical advice as this will help you heal faster. Rushing back to work can make an existing injury worse.
You have to attend medical appointments and rehabilitation in order to help yourself get better. If WorkCover have arranged physio appointments, you should go. But if you’re not sure if you have to go, check by asking your union.
Never allow your employer to force you, or your doctor, to change your medical certificate to say you’re fit to return to work if your doctor has told you that you’re not.
Depending on where you live, WorkCover will usually cover part of your wages if you have correctly lodged the paperwork required. This should help ease any financial burden of being off work.
Do your own research
Employers will often tell their workers what they’re entitled to. Do your own research – find out what paperwork you need to complete, what records you should keep, and what your entitlements might be.
Workcover and other insurance companies often knock back claims they should legally accept. You can fight those decisions, and help is available. The legal advice you need is usually free. Don’t delay getting that advice, as time limits apply.
WorkCover might also try to boot you off of the system before you are ready by offering you a lump sum for your injury. Accepting this lump sum could have serious implications. Again, get legal advice to find out where you stand.
If you’re unsure on what you should do after an accident, speak to your union rep or seek legal advice. There are time limits, so find out where you stand as soon as possible after your accident or diagnosis.
Getting back on track after a work accident can seem daunting, but with the right guidance, you can make it through the process.