Case 8: Amputation of right arm and leg resulting from serious road accident
The company is a European convenience food group focused on the added-value sector of the food industry, and in particular the growing market for convenience and prepared foods both in the UK and Continental Europe. The site is a Food manufacturing site employing around 400 individuals.
A 28 year old worker employed as a craftsman in the engineering department was involved in a very serious road traffic accident resulting in amputation of his right arm and leg. He also suffered complicated fractures of his left arm.
The referral criteria of individuals to the occupational health function is as follows:
- Sickness absence or 8 or more calendar days
- Absence review as per trigger points for short term and long term sickness absence as per policy
- On the day of an industrial injury, or as soon as possible
- On the first day of absence if it is possibly work related
- Should managers have concern regarding an employee’s fitness to work
The case was referred to the company’s Occupational Health department. It was evident in the initial stages that simply maintaining contact to monitor progress was appropriate. The employee was discharged from an intensive rehabilitation unit with a prosthetic leg five months following the accident.
A meeting was arranged to discuss possible rehabilitation back into the work place. The complexity of the workplace today demands that the delivery of rehabilitation must be a collaborative initiative between management, health care professionals, health and safety practitioners and the employee.
Due to the employees disabilities it was not considered possible for him to return to his previous job, and the possibility of alternative work with reasonable adjustments was explored. It was considered likely that he could return to desk-based duties and train for project management, remaining in the engineering department.
Six months following the accident he was invited to visit his work colleagues and to meet and discuss his future career within the business.
The employee was very enthusiastic to be integrated back into the working environment and was willing to attend for any assessments etc.
Access to work
– gave advice regarding aids and agencies that were available and the financial assistance they would give.
– gave advice and supplied equipment to assist with seating and workstation
– provided voice activated computer programs, left hand only keyboard and training.
Other Occupational Health and Safety, department manager and engineers were involved in completing risk assessments on structural alterations that were necessary to ensure safe access and egress to his place of work, and also to welfare facilities such as the canteen and toilets. Information from the individual’s medical team was an integral part of the assessments.
Transport to and from work were also offered, however were not required as the employee had already undertaken driver assessments at a mobility centre and awaiting delivery of a specially adapted car.
Return to work
The employee returned to work initially working 3 hours 3 days a week, this was gradually increased and took hospital appointments and continuing care into consideration and was directly lead by occupational health. As his physical abilities improved, reassessments were carried out to ensure that the adoptions made and the equipment supplied remained suitable or were changed. The employee returned to full time employment within 6 months.
This gentleman was only able to return to work as a direct result of the effectiveness of a multi-disciplinary rehabilitation team.
The employee has completed the first year of a four year project management course on a day release basis, funded by the company. Despite some initial reservations by staff members that the rehabilitation team were being too optimistic returning the employee to work, he is considered a valuable member of staff, completing the expected role competently and independently. He also attends social functions and plays skittles. He has not used a wheelchair or crutches and his positive attitude to life has enabled him to continue leading a normal life.
Benefits to the business
- retention of a skilled employee
- a valued employee on retraining
- 90% of the cost of specialist equipment was paid through the access to work scheme
- reduction of total disability cost to the organization through reduced long term sickness, no cost to the pension scheme as early ill health retirement was not required
- complied with statutory responsibility in accordance with Disability Discrimination Act
- successful rehabilitation eliminated disincentives that frequently results from long separation from the work place.
This was made possible due to effective team work
Benefits to the individual
- restored the individual to the highest possible level of mobility as soon as was appropriate
- allowed the employee to regain his confidence by integrating him back into the work environment as soon as it was appropriate