Paralympian Jack Swift understands better than most the benefits of returning to work after injury.
He was just 20 and working as a plumber’s labourer on an inner Melbourne construction site when a 14-tonne excavator ran over his right leg, crushing it below the knee. Conscious throughout the ordeal, Jack was rushed to hospital and his leg was amputated the next day.
Jack said the accident ‘absolutely turned my life upside down’ and described the 13 months he was off work as the worst time of his life.
“I thought losing a leg was like being paralysed,” Jack said.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to hang around my mates, play football, let alone return to work — I couldn’t comprehend where my life was going.
“Now, I can do as much as many able-bodied people.”
Jack said returning to work after his workplace accident was difficult but, with the help of his family and the correct medical support, it made him who he is today.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I received from my employer, medical professionals, my family and my girlfriend Jenna. They were there every step of the way,” he said.
“I’ve been in the shoes of an injured person returning to work after a workplace accident and I know the benefits – it’s not just about financial benefits but also the physical, social and mental benefits.”
As part of WorkSafe’s new campaign to highlight the physical, mental and social benefits of injured workers getting back to work as soon as it is safe for them to do so, Jack is visiting selected organisations to share his return to work journey.
The campaign also includes TV commercials, social media messages and an interactive installation at Southern Cross Station in March.
The campaign highlights that injured workers who are off work for three months or longer face significant health risks. They include:
- up to 10 times more episodes of anxiety and depression
- greatly reduced life expectancy
- a higher risk of suicide.
On average, more than 28,000 Victorians are injured at work every year. Of these about 6000 are still off work after three months and 3000 are off work for more than six months.
WorkSafe Victoria chief executive Denise Cosgrove said the health and wellbeing of injured workers declined dramatically after more than 12 weeks off work.
“International research and our own data tells us the chances of someone returning to work drops off around the three-month mark and, after six months, the chances of the worker ever returning to work are halved,” Ms Cosgrove said.
“This alarming trend exposes them and their families to a range of increased health, financial and social risks.
“Getting back to work when it is safe and appropriate to do so is usually the best medicine for an injured worker, with research indicating that work is beneficial to their short and long-term mental and physical health.”
Ms Cosgrove said the role played by an injured person’s family and friends, employer, doctor and other medical professionals all played an important part in getting a person back to work.
“While an injured person’s own determination to get back to work goes a long way, the support and encouragement of the people around them is vital. It’s a team effort, but the benefits for injured workers and their families are enormous,” she said.
For more information about WorkSafe Victoria’s Return to Work campaign, visit WorkSafe Victoria’s Facebook page or follow WorkSafe Victoria on Twitter.