Work health
January 28, 2014 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Should I be contacting my Occupational Health clinic for an computer-related injury?

I have a jacked up shoulder/neck due to a jacked up workstation. I had a sit-stand desk installed by my employer at my request using employer-recommended equipment. It sucks and I've had it for about a year now and about 10 months in I started having really bad shoulder and neck pain. I finally realized that the adjustable-height desk is the problem. the monitor can't go low enough so my head is always strained.

I contacted my supervisor to have it assessed and adjusted in December and both the equipment specialist that came out and the ergonomics evaluator agree that my workstation is not right for me and that the monitor is at the wrong height and the keyboard tray it too high and a bunch of other things. And as it turns out, they no longer recommend the equipment that I have because it doesn't offer enough flexibility or a range of positions for anyone sorter or taller than average. So the wheels are in motion to get me a new workstation. That's all fine and good.

In the mean time, they've noted that since I've complained about pain in my neck and shoulder, I have the option to contact the occupational health program and clinic to report my problem. Should I? What benefit is there to me? I had a physical with my regular doctor in the last month and I mentioned the issue and she suggested some stretches but otherwise I haven't done anything except take a lot of ibuprofin. Is there a reason for me to report the issue to occupational health? My supervisor seems to be taking it seriously and is acting accordingly. I don't want to cause a commotion and don't expect to need to take time off or anything.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes! I had some ergo wrist problems and my work paid for some occupational therapy and it helped.
posted by ghharr at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2014

Of course you should! It's there for a reason and yes these things should be reported. You have nothing to lose and potentially they could help you.

Taking ibuprofen on a regular basis is REALLY bad for you. REALLY REALLY bad. You need to stop the ibuprofen and get some pain relief in other ways NOW, rather than waiting until a new work station shows up. My number one suggestion would be to get a massage. You could also try a personal trainer or physical therapist who could help you make the best of a bad situation and give you types on functional body positioning and movement while you still have to deal with this desk. Perhaps your occupational health department can even refer you to someone, or perhaps they have some sort of employee program within the company that could help.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 11:53 AM on January 28, 2014

There is a benefit to you in establishing a paper trail documenting your injury. It will be referred to many times as you go through the process of healing.
posted by Lynsey at 12:00 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well there's definitely a paper trail already. Every consultation and discussion I've had about this has been over email. I have reports from the ergo people and the equipment guy. If I really need therapy, I can get it through my personal health insurance. I guess I just don't understand the benefit to me of going through the work clinic. If it's like any other service through my work, it'll take weeks to get in and have them do an additional assessment so unless there's a clear benefit, I'm likely to skip it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:23 PM on January 28, 2014

Talk to a workers compensation attorney. Workers compensation was set up to deal with work related injuries. The attorney will probably give you a no-cost initial consultation.
posted by ADave at 10:17 PM on January 28, 2014

There are a number of reasons why you should report this to the occupational health clinic. The first is to get it on the record that your desk setup has been causing a problem. You never know when the documentation will be needed. A paper trail is not as good as a report from your occupational health clinic.

If you are in pain and have to see a physical or occupational therapist there may be a chance that you could get Workers Comp. You may be able to get the help you need using your own health insurance but that still will cost you money. Workers Comp will be paid for by your organization.

Finally, think about this: when you report this issue it becomes part of the organization's record and may just help others should they find themselves in a similar position. A precedent might be set that will make it easier for them.

Many years ago the air quality in my work office caused a problem with my eyes. Just just dry eyes but a major and chronic irritation. I wasn't going to do anything about it but the admin of our organization suggested I file a Workers Comp request, in part to help others. I did and the expensive prescription eye drops I will have to take the rest of my life are paid for by my organization. At this point you don't know if your problems will be chronic. If so, you will need to have ongoing care.

Just a few thoughts.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:05 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a difference between OSHA and Workers' Compensation. OSHA regulates unsafe work environments, WC regulates work-related injuries. I believe what you're asking is whether you should report this injury to Workers' Compensation.

Now, it's tough love time. I want you to notice that nearly every single word you've written here is an excuse not to do what needs to be done. It's such an obvious request for permission to ignore your injury and do nothing, you've pre-dismissed options that are available to you without even doing any research.

You're being entirely too ambivalent about the situation. You're worried about "causing a commotion" but you're not worried about actually taking care of your ongoing medical problem. Ibuprofen is not going to solve this problem, and prolonged use of ibuprofen is not recommended (due to risk of stomach bleeding and NSAIDS being linked to kidney cancer).

Let me ask you this: do you want permanent nerve damage because you waited months to seek adequate treatment for this condition? No? Then stop ignoring it.

Note that for the purposes of official WC documentation, your emails and reports are not the same as filing a claim and being medically evaluated. You need to document the fact that you're injured, that it was work-related and it has to be noted by a doctor. If you can't prove without a doubt when and where the injury occurred, you may have trouble receiving compensation for this injury should it become a problem again in the future.

Also, be aware your private insurer may not cover work-related injuries. If they find out that they've paid for the treatment of a work-related injury that should have been covered by Workers' Compensation, they may demand reimbursement or deny future care for the injury, even if treatment is ongoing. You should definitely check your private policy to confirm your plan benefits before you go that route.

In your area (SF), filing a WC claim means that the employer must provide medical treatment within one work day and continue providing treatment until your claim is either accepted or denied.

Check out your local Workers' Compensation website (SF). There you can find out how to file a claim and download the claim form (pdf). (The claim form actually contains a lot information and can answer many of your questions.)

In SF there are designated treatment facilities for workers' comp injuries. The WC website lists the facility locations.

Try to make sure your examination is thorough and not just a cursory glance. If the doctor is rushing you, you need to impress upon them that this is a serious matter that could have repercussions on your future health and that you need to get as complete a diagnosis as possible to document the extent of your work-related injury. If possible, you should keep a record of your pain levels and symptoms with dates and times so that you can provide an accurate account of the extent of your injury. This is because when you're feeling relatively well, you can forget how much pain or discomfort you're in at other times.

Hopefully you'll get a physical therapy referral and a better pain management plan. They can and do prescribe medication at WC appointments if it's necessary, so make sure to bring that up. Don't be afraid to suggest treatments that you think will help.

Above all, you have to advocate for yourself. I wish you the best. Be well.
posted by i feel possessed at 2:22 AM on January 31, 2014

Response by poster: Be assured, I'm NOT ignoring or being ambivalent about this. AS I've said, I'm having my workstation completely replaced and I've seen my personal doctor about it. And no, I'm not necessarily talking about WC. My work (a large public entity) operates an Occupational Health Clinic that sees employees seeking help for work-related injuries. I'm mostly interested in the difference between going there and going back to my regular doc if things don't improve.

However this part: "be aware your private insurer may not cover work-related injuries. If they find out that they've paid for the treatment of a work-related injury that should have been covered by Workers' Compensation, they may demand reimbursement or deny future care for the injury, even if treatment is ongoing" is EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:28 AM on January 31, 2014

That last part is true and this is the main reason you should go to your Occupational Health office. To get it on the record. This may not preclude you also going to your regular physician but they need to be separated. For example, when I go to my ophthalmologist I tell them when I check in whether this is a workers comp issue or just a regular eye appointment. As it turns out, my doc does take WC. But seeing him for that requires different billing, etc.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:59 AM on February 3, 2014

Response by poster: Just as an update, since I had been at my regular doctor and mentioned the issue I got a note in the mail from my insurance, clearly trying to ascertain if my "injury" was work-related, presumably to deny any further responsibility. So clearly that avenue was closed.

So, I stopped in at the Occupational Health Clinic and they're going to refer me to some acupuncture and massage resources so that's all good.

On the flip side, this has inadvertently also all put into motion a huge and complicated institutional process for worker's compensation claims. I guess I hadn't realize this would automatically happen if I went to the clinic but now my poor supervisor is under a barrage of emails and paperwork related to all this. This aspect is what i was hoping to avoid, though I recognize that it's for my protection.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2014

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