I would like to tell you what has happened recently, writes an injured worker . As I now have time to write this account of what happened, I apologize if it may be long winded , but letter writing is not a strength that I normally exercise. But I now must, in pursuit of my interests which I have failed to look after properly in the recent past. The injured worker send us a copy of a letter he wrote to the CEO of his company…
The culture of zero lost time injury and team safety bonus – a gutting story
The injured workers story and letter to the CEO of his company [extracts]
I work in a very amicable environment with technical people, for an organization which looks after our railway communications systems. None of us are there for the money alone. As most of our team are of mature age and most of us don’t want or can’t handle the pressures associated with the highly paid positions that we might otherwise fill. We find that our experience and maturity is appreciated and valued. For many of us it will be the last job we hold. There are no specified advancement opportunities in any of our roles. We work well, both as a team and unsupervised, but we value our supervisor ‘s will and ability to keep us out of any pressure zone that we can easily fall into which may cause adverse safety outcomes like working late , and making unsafe decisions just to get our jobs done , etc . I quote directly “it is easier to explain why the job has to wait than it is to explain why you were laying in an upturned vehicle at night somewhere”
Over the last decade or so, safety initiatives have been introduced that have been very effective in reducing work place conditions and hazards and anything that might be a risk to the health and safety of all concerned. It had been a very well executed and completely successful as all the numbers show that the accidents are at near Zero.
There is no doubt that the company is serious and dedicated to this important task .At every safety meeting, without exception we are reminded by our supervisors, managers, and department heads of the effect an injury (especially a lost time injury) will have on our colleagues bonus which creates peer pressure within the workplace to not have an injury or be careful how you go about dealing with it. Usually there are no casualties of this scenario. And it may be beyond our organization’s ability to see that it can have unexpected consequences let alone deal with them unless other procedures are not also kept up to date.
There is no doubt that management encourages this very effective strategy. As the accident rates can no longer reduce (below zero), management has a new challenge to link an accident rate of zero to our bonus payment. They also offer positive and generous health and well being incentive schemes.
It has come to light more recently that much of the profit that increased everybody’s bonus was largely attributable to our section (signals and communications).
3 weeks ago whilst at work, I was using my left arm to reach a screw in an unusual position to unscrew a radio bracket in the boot of a car. The tool I was using was a cordless drill . A severe pain shot down my arm from my shoulder to my wrist. It hurt a lot..My instinctive comment at the time was “Dam that hurt! “. Anybody nearby may have misheard me as saying “duck that hurt”
Stiffness followed but the pain eased and as long as I did not raise my arm above my head it was tolerable.
Each day the pain got slightly worse and changed in its nature and I had difficulty getting comfortable to sleep. At this point a few days later I decided, against my sense of responsibility to my work mates that I would have to go to the doctor and have it professionally assessed.
The doctor ordered x-ray and ultrasound investigation which showed that the tendon in my left shoulder is torn but may heal in time , otherwise difficult and complicated surgery would have to be performed.
The doctor prescribed strong pain killers in high dose tramo (synthetic opiate) and Mobic (non steroidal anti inflammatory)
The x-ray and ultra sound clearly showed that most of the underlying tendon was torn held on only by a fraction. I would have to be extremely careful with my arm.
The pain killers and the anti inflammatory drugs helped with the symptoms but did not help me sleep as the opiate effect of the Tramo did not make me drowsy as the label said it might.
I began to feel fatigued (more than usual) from the reduced sleep hours because of the discomfort in my left arm.
The pain however was increasing daily.
I decided to have physiotherapist asses it and advise of treatment. My appointment was coincidentally on the day of the random drug test.
A week or so after my shoulder injury and prior to the random drug test I attended my compulsory work medical where I advised the doctor of my shoulder injury and my inability to raise my left arm.
What further happened was that the injured worker was desperate to continue work under both his supervisor and peer pressure to not claim “time lost for injury”. He was in extreme pain – anyone who has had a ruptured tendon in the shoulder can vouch for that (including me) and he could not sleep from the pain.
In a desperate attempt to keep working [and not letting his mates down – read: not affect the team’s safety $$$ bonus) he managed initially to obtain a tablet of valium or two from a colleague, which helped him sleep. However this option ran out and he then, upon recommendation from colleagues and internet research – smoked 1 little joint to help with his severe pain and insomina. He is NOT a drug user in any way or shape or form but had the one joint about 1 full week before his “random drug test”. The drug test the company used is very outdated (non specific) and marijuana will stay in your system for weeks (trace). Yep, you can guess it, this poor injured worker tested positive for drugs, even though he had smoked 1 small joint the week before.
I would politely suggest that the method used to detect the drug is nowhere near as up to date as the safety initiatives which have indirectly contributed to my situation where I am effectively not fit for work directly because of a work injury and inappropriate testing methods.
I was neither supplied nor offered the ”failed” results of the first test nor the second test, which I understood, to be a basic entitlement.
Unfortunately the culture of “zero LTI” [zero Lost Time Injury] is still rampant in many industries, in particular those industries with high workplace injuries such as construction work. People who happen to injure themselves are under so much peer pressure not to lodge a workers compensation claim, not to have time off work (at ANY cost) and not to seek medical help!
As you can clearly see from this injured workers’ own story, he did the impossible to remain at work with a mangled arm. And, sadly perhaps, he tried one marijuana joint to relief his severe pain and associated insomnia, only to be stood down with no pay.
Now, how SICK is this type of culture?
They (the company) will certainly NOT pay for your lost wages, your medical bills if you are injured – instead they put so much pressure on their employees through a “safety monetary bonus”. Just imagine what this injured worker had to endure to remain at work at all cost… only to be stood down for a positive drug test, a test that is non-specific and totally outdated, and to accuse him of “working/driving under the influence”. All this because this injured man tried – at ALL cost- not to let down his mates (team bonus) and was under so much pressure not to file a workcover claim.
Sadly, this culture remains rampant… and sickens me. Just doing a quick Google search on “zero lost time injury” brings up hundreds of links, …
[post pre-dicated and entered physically on behalf of WCV]