Work injury hurts many ways

BEING injured at work can do more than physical damage. An injured worker’s relationships can also suffer when they find themselves on the job sidelines.

WorkSafe return-to-work director Dorothy Frost says work often plays a huge part in defining who we are and it can be difficult to cope when that’s taken away.

“Not being able to work often makes people feel they’ve lost a part of themselves – their identity,” she explains.

She says uncertainty about the future can also weigh heavily on the injured worker. They might worry about family finances or be anxious about returning to work or not being able to return to their old job because of their injury. “It’s the uncertainty and the fear that make people behave differently and which really impacts their relationships,” Frost says.

Worksafe psychologist Dr Peter Cotton says it can be particularly difficult for workers who, because of language and education barriers, have limited options to be retrained.

“They’ll often end up feeling completely lost and that can actually lead to a secondary psychological injury,” he says.

“As a reaction to their physical injury, some people become clinically depressed.”

Cotton, senior mental health clinician for WorkSafe and the Transport Accident Commission, says coping with a workplace injury is distressing for most workers to varying degrees.

Frost says many injured workers also find themselves debilitated by pain and suddenly stuck at home, adding to stress on the entire family.

“That can really change the family dynamic,” she says.

“You’ve got a grumpy person sitting at home bored, they’re unwell and can’t do anything around the house. The longer that goes on, the more difficult it can be on relationships.”

Frost says getting back to work as soon as possible is a key to safeguarding the wellbeing of an injured worker and their family.

About 30,000 Victorians are injured on the job each year. Most return to work within a couple of weeks, but about 3000 are still unable to work six months later.

WorkSafe pays about 80 per cent of an injured worker’s wage for up to 2 1/2 years, with some employers choosing to tip in the difference.


* Ask your doctor how long and how full your recovery is likely to be. Not knowing can increase your fear and stress.

* Ask and do your own research about the support available from Worksafe. Family members can play a part here, especially if the worker is distracted by pain.

* Don’t rely on the advice of people who really don’t know what they’re talking about, such as a neighbour or friend who once knew someone who was injured at work.

* Be open to taking up a new occupation, interests and leisure pursuits.


* Be patient with your injured partner.

* Understand their treatment and rehabilitation, and support that at home.

* Look for signs your injured partner could be depressed — are they withdrawn, are they drinking and smoking more, are they upset?

* Encourage your injured partner to seek help if they’re not coping.



7 Responses to “Work injury hurts many ways”

  1. Well how about the partners of injured workers?   How are they suppose to cope.   I have rang worksafe who told me to ring workcover assist who old me to contact worksafe.  The insurer CGU just told me to see my doctor.  Non of these groups had any contact numbers for me to ring.   Cant afford counselling .   My partner is just a figure.   So what does that make me?   And our kids?   Are we all just figures?? Who actually does care?  I am really not coping.

    • Good question and one that we have long tried to answer…

      Let me try and appeal for some help via Twitter for you and other workcover victim partners!

      in Victoria Counselling benefits up to $5,580  are payable to the family members of a “severely” injured worker where there is immediate hospital inpatient treatment or the worker dies from the injuries. (see: on line law handbook)

      The following article may be of use:

      workcovervictim April 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm
      • It is unfortunately very sad that there is virtually no support for injured workers’ partners, let alone for injured workers. My partner has been as much a victim of workcover as I have been (am). My partner has benefited from psychological counselling under Medicare Scheme (free – all you need is a referral from your treating GP to a psychologist who can arrange to see you under the scheme at no cost to you).

        You are most welcome to join our forum for extra support, we have a few workcover victim partners on board which may be able to help you or exchange coping tips. Just register using the “register button” or alternatively email us with your request to join the forum and we’ll give you instant access.

        Keep us posted on how you are going and we are thinking of you.


        workcovervictim3 April 13, 2012 at 7:14 am
  2. The first thing my case manager did was to cut off my psychological treatment entitlements when she found out that I was severely depressed and suicidal (and just referred on to a shrink)! Whilst extremely depressed and about to commit suicide I had to go and fight at conciliation to be allowed to see a pyschologist for treatment – howz that! If it wasn’t for my psychologist who came with me to conciliation and did the talking I would have killed myself, and this is not a joke.

    They are utter scum and could not care less whether or not you develop “secondary depression”. It’s all about money and you are nothing but a statistic, a file, a number, a “worker”.

    • I have experienced exactly the very same thing in 2010!

      And then came the IMEs – one after the other, so desperate were they to cut off my psych treatment(s). I think they sent me to 5 shrinks in 8 months!

      There is NO support from workcover for secondary depression, let alone for your physical, debilitating pain… I mean how many of us are allowed hydro, massage, physio, remedial therapies for pain? They even make it hard to get pain medication! An example: I have end stage osteoarthritis and end stage rotator cuff failure and need a reverse shoulder prosthesis as we speak- yet workcover CEASED my physiotherapy entitlement 2 years ago – how does that work, how is that justified, any medical article will tell you that physio is the main treatment component for this debilitating condition! A year or so ago my pain specialist prescribed an anti-epileptic drug known to help with nerve pain and yet workcover denied to pay for it – please explain.

      They really don’t give a toss and actually make many of us much much worse instead of better and then whinge about not being able to get us back to work, yeah, right…

      workcovervictim January 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm
  3. In this media article Frost says getting back to work as soon as possible is a key to safeguarding the wellbeing of an injured worker and their family… isn’t it typical again that “getting back to work ASAP” is again reinforced in the media, and appears thus to be THE solution to ALL problems, even when the injured person has “debilitating pain”. How’s that, eh? There is again no mention whatsoever of offering these people mental health support, counseling, psych treatment, pain specialist  treatment ect. no just make it ” return to work asap” and miraculously that injured person’s problems will magically disappear – what total bullshit! Nothing more than another PR stunt, well done worksafe/tac!


  1. WorkcoverVictim (@WCVictimsdiary) (@WCVictimsdiary) - January 1, 2012

    Work injury hurts many ways