Doctors’ reports—particularly IME reports— on injured workers are all too often painfully lacking any understanding of the injured worker’s workplace or the inherent requirements of injured workers’ job/position. This often results in the assessment of a “fit-for-work” injured worker, without, for example, any consideration(s) to restrictions or reasonable adjustments that should be made in the workplace.
Fact, many injured workers who are sent to independent medical examinations ( IME) in order to assess their “capacity for work” or “fitness for work”, are often shocked or even dumbstruck that the IME has reported them “fit for work”, even though the injured worker may still have very heavy physical restrictions imposed, suffer from (moderate/severe) pain and know that s/he won’t be able to cope at work… unless they are accommodated at work.
IMEs are not writing reports outlining job restrictions & reasonable adjustments requirements
A successful return to work
In order to genuinely assist an injured worker to successfully return to work, doctors (including the over-ruling IMEs) really should provide employers with information not only on the injured worker’s (physical) restrictions, but also on what reasonable adjustments could/should be made to the workplace.
Sadly, the so-called experts (such as IMEs) that are writing critical reports are often not writing them with the reasonable adjustments requirements in mind, and simply sent the injured worker(s) on their merry way to a (forced) return to work, that is almost guaranteed to fail where there is risk for the injured worker to exacerbate their injury.
It is interesting to see that most doctors, especially the over-ruling and biased IMEs do write reports which contain a reasonably good history of the injured worker’s condition. Many will also include the injured worker’s physical restrictions (e.g no lifting, bending, sitting for more that 30 min, repetitive use etc.), but very few such critical reports contain detailed information of what this injured worker actually does at work every day, and what exactly their job entails.
This is a major problem, especially considering the reasonable adjustments provisions contained in the disability discrimination laws.
What injured workers should tell their report-writing doctors, especially IMEs
When an (impaired) injured worker attends an examination, for example for the purpose of a “work capacity assessment” (done by some IME who does not know you from a bar of soap!), and when these “experts” are requested to prepare a medical report on the injured worker’s fitness for work, the injured worker should ensure the doctor/IME fully understands the injured worker’s workplace and job (all tasks/duties).
Injured workers must do this (given most IMEs won’t bother asking those crucial questions) so that the IME can—hopefully— provide an informed opinion, based on knowledge of the facts, on what possible reasonable adjustments can be made to the injured worker’s workplace to help him/her (more successfully) return to work.
Injured workers should tell these IMEs (and any other doctor who writes a report re fitness for work) about their working arrangements such as hours, shifts/rostering arrangements (i.e. night duty), what their duties exactly are and, where applicable, what equipment they have to use.
Furthermore, injured workers should also explain the purpose of their work, their role, whether they have certain deadlines to meet, such as production targets or KPIs, and even how their performance (success/failure) is measured. Injured workers also need to make the IME/doctor understand how their work is allocated; for example if co-workers rotate between jobs, if alternative work is allocated to alternate people etc. The more details you can provide about your work and workplace, the better.
It is also extremely important that you state to the IME (or doctor) what reasonable adjustments you think may help you with your job. This could for example be a wireless keyboard, an under-desk keyboard tray, an alternative computer mouse, a docking station, a chair with arm rest (or better back rest), a carry case on wheels, a different desk, dictation software, a hands-free phone, a footstool, a different office location (to avoid walking / stairs) etc…
Even if you are sent (or seeing) an IME or doctor who appears to have his or her own (strong) ideas about what reasonable adjustments “are good for you”, they should still discuss them with you, the injured worker. We’re all unique!
…..This reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago where I was provided with “ergonomic” aides, chosen by my employer without my input and without consulting with me (and contradictory to my treating surgeon’s report and requests). One of those “aides” was a wireless computer mouse called a track ball mouse, that you can operate with your thumb rather than finger(s). Now, not having a functioning R arm at the time, you can just imagine how utterly useless this device was to me. I needed a wireless mouse that could be operated left-handed, or better yet a digital pad (using flicks). I was then eventually provided with a “graphic design pad” (WTF) which came with a fine pen, to use as an alternative mouse. Well… I just asked “them” to put their own dominant arm behind their back and to show me how to operate this graphic design pad with pen using their left (non dominant) arm… yeah, right. Taught them very quickly that, yep indeed, ain’t gonna work…..Oh, and I was provided with a desk with the draws on the right hand side as well…and forbidden to use an under desk keyboard tray (as to use the mouse close to my body given I could not extent the arm), etc etc…. So please “experts” listen to your injured workers!
The bottom line is that even if an IME (or doctor or even rehabber) spends 5-15 minutes talking to an injured sod about their job, the injured worker knows a hell of a lot more about their job, they know a hell of lot more about their own condition, their own workplace, and they know a lot more about their own boss, than these IMEs (or doctors and even rehabbers) will ever do.
[Post dictated by Workcovervictim and manually transcribed on her behalf]
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