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Women sitting on the floor weaving and spinning

Rehabilitation – focus on the work place

“Managing disability in the workplace” is an ILO code of practice formulated in Geneva, International Labour Office, 2002. This code has been drawn up to guide employers to adopt a positive strategy in managing disability-related issues in the workplace. It is intended to be used in the context of national conditions and to be applied in accordance with national laws and practice. The code describes the general duties of employers, workers representatives and also the responsibilities of authorities. When a worker develops health problems, making it difficult to work, the employer should be able to find solutions to help out. The aim should be to keep the worker at the work place. When a sick worker loses their job, it is very possible that huge problems may arise. Welfare systems, such as sick leave and compensations are important, but it is also important to be aware of the need of support from the work place as well. Simple things be very helpful and may help to keep workers active at work, rather than staying home with their problems.

Two hands and a keyboard. Wrist pain in the right hand _COLOURBOX11400919.jpg An office worker with pain in the wrist coming from the computer work.
© Colourbox

The photo shows an office worker. She developed pain in her wrist, due to long periods of work at her computer with an awkward position for the wrist. Wrists need support to avoid developing this type of pain. She has now got a small pad to put under the wrist to use when she is writing on the computer. This small gadget has removed her pain completely. She does not have pain anymore. The pad makes her wrist rest and work in a better position than she had without, and the strain on her tendons and muscles in the wrist is no longer present. This example illustrates the need for a good ergonomic evaluation of a work place when someone develops pain from their work. It is a much better solution than having people have to quit their job due to pain.

Office worker standing by her desk_CIMG5555.JPG Office worker in standing position © University of Bergen

Some persons with back problems cannot sit for long periods, as the back pain develops during sitting. An office worker with this problem needs not to stay at home. Why not give her a high desk to stand at instead?

Wheelchair in front of staircase_COLOURBOX15490520.jpg How to get access for a wheelchair user? © Colourbox

Earlier in this lecture, we have described the need for wheelchairs, for instance, for persons with paralysed legs. A wheelchair can make it possible for the worker to get around and come to work. However, work places must be designed to allow for wheelchair access. A ramp for rolling the wheelchair up stairs for instance, can be necessary. For wheelchair users, help from the employer on such practical issues is fundamental. Disabled workers sometimes develop psychosocial problems at work, as the other workers may not know how to handle the situation with this type of colleague. It is of uttermost importance that the employer at workplaces with disabled works informs other workers about the situation. Good leadership here involves giving clear information about any changes related to the presence of the disabled worker to the other employees. The leader must also provide the standard for the attitudes towards the disabled colleague; for example, stating that this worker is highly welcome, and that everyone will do their best to help him or her if needed.

A house with a wheelchair ramp_3871.jpg The ramp to the right can be used for wheelchairs. © G. Tjalvin

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This article is from the free online course:

Occupational Health in Developing Countries

University of Bergen