Feature

Going the extra mile to help get lives back on track

Unitywater’s Barbara Norman goes beyond the call of duty to help injured workers get back on their feet.
Unitywater’s Barbara Norman goes beyond the call of duty to help injured workers get back on their feet. Cade Mooney

BARBARA Norman sees the human spirit triumph on a weekly basis.

She also sees it crushed, hurt and aching in just about equal measure.

But with her help, such despair is usually only temporary.

Ms Norman is the worker's compensation and rehabilitation manager at Unitywater, a full-time role she has been in since the water authority was born two years ago.

The Maroochydore woman helps people injured while doing their job get back to work. Her efforts saw her win the Rehabilitation and Return to Work Coordinator Achievement honour in the 2012 Q-COMP Return to Work Awards.

"There are 100,000 worker's compensation claims lodged every year in Queensland for physical and psychological injuries," she said.

"Of those, 45% result in lost time to a business, a huge cost to business and individuals who get injured.

"It impacts on the employer who is left wondering how will they replace people, they don't know if they'll be off for a few days or a few months. And it impacts on the individuals."

The award judges remarked that she often went the extra mile. She said she did this through constant communication with the injured worker, their supervisor and the insurer, often advising on how to minimise any negative flow-on impact of the injury to support networks, home life and workplace morale.

"I'm constantly encouraged by the way injured workers respond to an injury and get back on their feet. I see them in dreadful pain," she said.

"But the highlight for me is when people return to work full-time; and they have been in real pain. They think they will never get out of it.

"That's when you see the human spirit in charge. They work hard to fix their bodies and their mind.

"It is a real joy for me to be able to close a case when an employee goes through some dark times and they come out the other side. They look back and can't believe they've made it back."

The most common injuries among Unitywater workers are back strains and cuts.

"Our guys work in very difficult, dangerous situations, 24-7, rain hail or shine," she said.

"Safety is the number one priority. We want people to go home the same way they came to work."

She also gets a keen insight into the psyche of the middle-aged Australian male.

"There are certain ingrained cultural thoughts that are barriers (to my work)," she said. "A lot of men generally tend not to go to a doctor. They soldier on and think 'she'll be right', but four weeks later the pain is so bad it's worsened.

"So we have to get the message through about going to the doctor and getting them into that mindset."

Ms Norman, who has a background in HR and change management, is also developing a health and well-being program for staff to minimise physical and mental injury through exercise, warm-ups and a good diet as well as strict OH&S policies.

She urged employers to make sure they invested as much into injury support as they do to recruiting and training.

"It is in your best interests to look after your workers," she said.

"The costs to the organisation are quite significant if that doesn't happen. There is an impact on team morale, efficiency of the work area as well as financially if you have to replace someone."

>> DID YOU KNOW?

  • There are 152,000 employers in Queensland who are insured for injury to workers. An employer with more than 10 people is required by law to have this insurance in place.

Topics:  unity water


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Viet vets given belated 'thanks'

The veterans proudly cam out in Cooroy to remember their fallen in Vietnam and the sacrifices of those who survived.

Cooroy observes Vietnam Veterans Day

Search for rural doctor 'drags on'

EMERGENCY CALL: Kenilworth pharmacist Astrid Paget says the town desperately needs a doctor.

Local town needs a doctor

Mayor just 'plan mad' at lack of say

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa

Latest deals and offers

Bus talks hope for better link

Noosa leaders raise bus concerns for hospital link raised

Viet vets given belated 'thanks'

The veterans proudly cam out in Cooroy to remember their fallen in Vietnam and the sacrifices of those who survived.

Cooroy observes Vietnam Veterans Day

Search for rural doctor 'drags on'

EMERGENCY CALL: Kenilworth pharmacist Astrid Paget says the town desperately needs a doctor.

Local town needs a doctor

Mayor just 'plan mad' at lack of say

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa

Wendy reunited with the 'heroes' that saved her life

GRATEFUL: Wendy Shaw (second from right) meets (L-R) Dr Vicky Campbell, nurse Jo McMillan and Dr Todd Fraser who helped to save her life.

Wendy wouldn't be here today if it weren't for a lucky coincidence

Patti Smith confirmed for Bluesfest 2017

CONFIRMED: US singer Patti Smith performing in Switzerland last year.

Find out who else in the first line up announcement

What's on the big screen this week

Toby Kebbell and Jack Huston in a scene from the movie Ben-Hur.

AN OLD classic returns to the big screen with a new young star.

Bachelor Richie gives bacon-loving Noni the boot

Noni Janur features on this season of The Bachelor.

TOOWOOMBA swimwear designer still single but focusing on her career.

Zumbo's Just Desserts serves up magical dishes

Gigi Falanga, left, joins hosts Adriano Zumbo and Rachel Khoo on the TV series Zumbo's Just Desserts.

ADRIANO Zumbo’s decadent creations have become prime-time viewing.

Sir Cliff Richard feels 'best' after sex abuse allegations

Sir Cliff Richard is 'back' to his best after sex abuse claims

Blac Chyna sued after car injured 2 women

Blac Chyna is being sued after her friend crashed into another car

Chris Hemsworth surprises kids at hospital as Thor

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston surprised children at hospital

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Coast building approvals at seven-year high: report

The the 2015/16 Development Indicators Annual Highlights Report documents local development activity that took place during the last financial year.

New report shows increasing development on the Sunshine Coast

Top honours for Mackay and Whitsunday builders

The Kerrisdale Gardens property from Paynter Dixon Queensland which won them Project of the Year.

Mackay and Whitsunday builders awarded top honours last night.

Investors eye Gladstone's $4m island with resort approval

UP FOR SALE: Turtle Island is on the market.

CHINESE and Sydney investors flag interest in Gladstone island.