An understanding of the effect of pathology on an individual’s capacity to work, places physiotherapists in an important and unique position in injury management and vocational rehabilitation. This, combined with excellent clinical reasoning ability, refined observation and communication skills and expertise in physiology and biomechanics, enable physiotherapists to provide a broad range of high-level consulting services to the business community, in the areas of injury prevention and injury management.
In the mid-1980s Occupational Health, Safety & Welfare legislation was introduced and updated in all Australian jurisdictions. At about the same time the occupational health group was formed. Members of the physiotherapy profession recognise the need to contribute to the health and well-being of workers using a risk management approach to injury prevention and management, in line with this workplace legislation.
Occupational health group members work collaboratively with a range of people including employers, employees, other health professionals, engineers and designers to offer a range of measures aimed at reducing health and safety risks for people at work.
These can be grouped into the following categories:
• primary prevention—protecting healthy people from developing disease or injury at work through health promotion, training and identification, assessment and control of potential hazards (such as whole body vibration [rough rides], manual tasks, postural stresses and sedentary work)
• secondary prevention—limiting long-term disability and preventing re-injury through early intervention and provision of suitable return to work duties. This includes identification and management of risks such as physical, psychosocial and organisational factors
• tertiary prevention—helping people to manage complicated long-term health problems such as chronic pain, disability and, where appropriate, return to modified work.