Injury Management

Our occupational rehab dynamic duo in Cairns

The best kind of duo is where each brings their own skills and expertise (or superpower) to create a powerful team.

And that’s the case with our talented team members in Cairns, Grace Matthews and Emily Winsor.

Grace, our North Queensland team manager and exercise physiologist is an award-winning consultant who gets great satisfaction from helping people during some of the most difficult times of their lives, getting them back to work, and living independent lives.

And she loves living in Cairns, with the reef, rainforest and warm winter weather.

Emily is an experienced exercise physiologist who has embraced occupational rehabilitation.

She enjoys achieving positive outcomes by using her expertise as a rehabilitation consultant to build rapport with clients and help them when they are most vulnerable to increase their quality of life.

Cairns is a paradise for her, swimming on the reef or in freshwater creeks and enjoying the relaxed cruisy lifestyle.

In their time in the Cairns/FNQ region, they’ve both worked across a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and trades, as well as agriculture and tourism.

Here, they’d like to share some of their insights and tips about occupational rehabilitation.

Main challenges

There are definitely some challenges that workers face in FNQ that may not be as common or relevant in other places.

  • There can be limited access to medical treatment and allied health providers.
  • The remoteness of some working locations increases the risk of fatigue through travel.
  • Weather patterns and the impact that they can have on job timeframes often decreasing working windows, thereby increasing physical demand.
  • The inherently physical nature of many industries, especially on banana and fruit farms.

Top tip for FNQ businesses

Grace and Emily’s #1 piece of advice for local businesses to help manage injury risks and maximise return to work outcomes, is to take the time to be aware of manual handling ‘hot spots’ and job demands with increased risk, and implementing pacing and safety plans with these in mind.

In FNQ, the weather is a major consideration in workplace safety and rehabilitation.

A business needs to consider the weather conditions, and factor in things like hydration, shade, airflow, sun protection, and timing of work projects to be in the early morning, overnight, or late evening during hot, humid summer months.

There is evidence to suggest that working in hotter conditions, such as those present in FNQ, leads to increased manual handling injuries, such as muscular sprains, as well as reduced concentration associated with dehydration.

Managing common risks in FNQ

Here are a few of Grace and Emily’s top tips to help businesses manage common risks in workplaces in FNQ:

1. Proper training and education

Provide comprehensive training to all workers on proper manual handling techniques, including lifting, carrying, and transporting heavy loads.

Emphasise the importance of using equipment such as trolleys, wheelbarrows, and lifting aids whenever possible to reduce the strain on the body.

2. Implement ergonomic practices

Evaluate work processes and equipment to identify opportunities for ergonomic improvements.

Adjust workstations, tools, and machinery to promote neutral body positions and minimise repetitive movements.

Encourage workers to take regular breaks and rotate tasks to reduce the risk of overexertion.

3. Provide adequate rest and recovery time

Recognise the physical demands of roles requiring repetitive tasks, such as those in sugar mills and on banana farms and allow workers sufficient time for rest and recovery between shifts.

Avoid excessive overtime and implement scheduling practices that prioritise worker wellbeing to reduce the risk of fatigue-related injuries and absenteeism.

4. Gradual return to work plans

In the event a worker has been injured, implement structured return to work plans that gradually reintegrate injured workers back into their roles.

These plans should be flexible and accommodating, allowing for modified duties or reduced work hours as needed to support the recovery process while ensuring productivity and job satisfaction.

5. Promote open communication

Foster a supportive work environment where workers feel comfortable reporting safety concerns, near misses, and symptoms of potential injuries.

Encourage open communication between management, workers, and the rehabilitation providers to address issues proactively, implement effective solutions to mitigate risks and ensure sustainable outcomes.

By implementing these strategies, industries such as agriculture, tourism, trades and fisheries in Far North Queensland can effectively mitigate the risk of manual handling injuries and minimise time off work to maximise their staff utilisation.

If you’d like to know more, please contact us.

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