THUNDER BAY - Suffering an injury in the workplace can be a traumatic and frightening experience, but the effects of that injury can carry on for a life time.
A local support group for injured workers is hosting a special presentation on the long-term effects of workplace injuries, and to let injured workers know they are not alone.
“I want more awareness that people know the injury didn’t just happen and it was done,” said Becky Casey, a post-doctoral fellow at York University. “It does have lasting effects and that the quality of life is impacted, the family is impacted, and what is going to happen in old age with some of these workers.”
Casey will be presenting research from her article, Diagnosed Chronic Health Conditions Among Injured Workers with Permanent Impairments and the General Population, which was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on Chronic Health Conditions Among Injured Workers.
Casey’s research has found injured workers have much higher rates of high blood pressure, ulcers, arthritis, back problems, stomach problems, and depression as they age.
“They are likely related to the injury, whether directly or indirectly, but they are not always recognized by the compensation board as being linked or related,” Casey said. “Just trying to manage your life with these chronic conditions could lead to chronic pain.”
Experiencing chronic problems as a result of a workplace injury can lead to accelerated aging, but Casey said workers who have suffered an injury are not always aware of the lasting effects.
“Part of it is we think of the work injury being one point in time, but we forget that this will have a lasting impact on the injured worker,” she said. “A lot of them don’t heal and they are going to age.”
Steve Mantis, treasurer of the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group, said he has developed problems with the right side of his body after losing his left arm in a workplace accident in 1978.
“I sought therapy, I’ve always been active to maintain my health, so the doctor said this is the result of you losing your left arm,” he said.
“I go for therapy, the worker’s compensation board says we are not going to approve that because it is unrelated,” he continued. “It took me 10 years to continually bring medical information forward from a variety of different health care practitioners until they finally said: ‘Okay, you convinced us.’”
According to Mantis, the ministry of labour has mandated a fair workers compensation system that also lowers the rates that employers pay. However, he said workers still have to fight to be compensated.
“Here is the group that is supposed to help me and it is saying: ‘no,’ even though I have all this documented over and over that this is the result,” he said.
Mantis said he does not want to see any injured workers have to go through the same experience he did, and is hopeful that new research will support injured workers.
“With advocacy and research, we are hoping the government will say here is the evidence we need to make the proper policies,” he said.
“I hope people realize that if they are an injured worker that they are not alone, that these health problems are happening to people other than just themselves,” Casey said.
Casey’s presentation will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Church.