Driver injury prevention in focus

By: Nikki Brouwers

The recent dramatic incident of a bus ablaze on the Sydney Harbour Bridge highlights the bravery of our bus drivers.

Driver injury prevention in focus
Recovery is both quicker and more sustainable if an injured driver returns to work as soon as possible.

The scenes of peak hour chaos and sky-high flames certainly made for dramatic viewing on the evening news. It was reported that the quick actions of the driver were instrumental in saving the lives of passengers and fellow commuters.

Which got me thinking about the physical demands faced by bus drivers.

I then had somewhat of an epiphany when I sat down to write my column this month! I realised that I have often focused on the emotional and psychological pressures of being a bus driver and the positive impact that training and employee assistance programs can have on the lives of drivers.

This is clearly important to the industry, as illustrated by the health and wellbeing survey The Interact Group conducted for the BIC last year.

However, it occurred to me that I have never written about prevention and management of workplace injuries sustained by bus drivers.

This is a big part of what we do at The Interact Group. Our multi-disciplinary teams of health professionals including occupational therapists, exercise physiologists, psychologists and rehabilitation counsellors provide rehabilitation services focusing on recovery at work, following injuries sustained during the course of normal work duties.

In the case of the flaming bus, this may well involve both physical and emotional trauma, and this is typical of the injuries we often see in our work with transport industry clients.

I have always been a champion of the health benefits of work and the use of work as ‘medicine’.

This underpins my philosophy that "work is a tonic that makes you well" and informs The Interact Group’s recovery at work focus.

This is supported by extensive international research which shows that recovery is both quicker and more sustainable if an injured driver returns to work as soon as possible, either by adapting duties or changing typical duties temporarily, and is a much more positive experience for both the driver and bus company alike.

This is illustrated by a recent case referred to Interact involving a driver. A lower back injury was sustained by the driver whilst assisting a passenger in a wheelchair. There was also some associated psychological trauma.

The driver was keen to get back to work and both the driver and the bus company were supportive of a recover at work approach. A ‘recover at work’ plan was developed in consultation with treating health care professionals, the driver and the bus company. Alternative duties were assigned to enable recovery from the injuries, whilst benefiting from being back in the work environment quickly. 

This was a really positive experience for all involved with a great result.

Communication between all stakeholders involved in the recovery at work process is crucial and the rehabilitation provider plays a pivotal role in facilitating this.

A tailored and personal approach with a focus on positive psychology and what a driver can do, rather than what they can’t, will ensure the wellness of the driver is the number one priority.  And that has always been my passion – helping people recover at work.

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