Focus on a worker’s skills and experience and not their injury is the message an injured truck driver wants to get out to employers looking to hire new staff.

Stephen Morgan is urging businesses to consider other employment options after he gained new employment through a WorkSafe program that matches vacancies with workers who cannot return to their old job after suffering an injury.

The 45-year-old Teesdale man still remembers the day his back “just went” two years ago. Despite having undergone back surgery years before to treat his injury, his days of manually unloading goods were over.

“It was a frustrating feeling knowing I had the skills to do the job but had limitations on my physical capability,” he said.

“Not working started to affect my wellbeing; I just wanted to get back into it. The reality is there are a lot of people out there, like me, who want the same.”

Stephen was eligible to be registered with WISE – a WorkSafe Incentive Scheme for Employers that encourages organisations to employ injured workers who cannot return to their original job.

Employers who offer ongoing employment are paid up to $26,000 over one year.

Lara-based transport company, Pineville Enterprises found out about WISE through Stephen after he called them to enquire about a truck driver job vacancy they had advertised in their local paper.

“I wasn’t quite sure how they were going to react after I told them about my situation and about the WISE program but to my surprise, I was asked to come in for a job interview and they made a decision to sign up,” Stephen said.

What followed was a workplace assessment to ensure Stephen had the skills and capacity to safely perform the requirements of the new job.

As the role didn’t require Stephen to manually unload goods, he was identified as a suitable match and successfully landed the job in July 2010 – four months after his injury.

“There is a perception out there that there are risks involved with hiring someone who has been injured, which makes it hard for us to get back into the workforce,” Stephen said.

“Fortunately, Pineville were able to look beyond the injury and offer me an opportunity to work with them.

“They recognised my existing skills could add value to their company and while dealing with the injury is an ongoing process, it’s great to work for a company that continue to be supportive and understanding.

“For me, it was great to get back to work because I could get back to doing what I enjoy while continuing to support my family.”

Director of Pineville Enterprises, Brett Ormesher, encouraged other employers to give it a go.

“There’s a pool of qualified and skilled workers out there who, for various reasons, cannot return to their old jobs but are more eager than ever to get back into the workforce,” he said.

“Stephen has been a great addition to the team and he is still working for us. You have more time to get other things done and focus on business operations.”

“Signing up was easy and it’s a good feeling knowing we were able to help Stephen out along the way. It’s worked out very well for everyone involved.”

The Director of WorkSafe’s Return to Work Division, Ross Jones, says WISE is good for business.

“It provides employers with a financial boost up to $26,000 and injury insurance protection for workers if they suffer a new injury for the first 12 months of employment,” he said.

“On top of that, if there is a recurrence with the existing injury, all costs and any premium rest with the previous employer.”

“Most of the 29,000 workers injured at work in Victoria each year return to their old jobs quickly, but some cannot go back to their old job or employer.

“The WISE program can help match jobs with people who are skilled, experienced and keen to work.”

“We want companies which have a vacancy to consider WISE and for treatment providers, occupational rehabilitation providers and injured workers to discuss the program as an option.”

“As Stephen’s story pointed out, the end result can be rewarding for all involved.”

To register any current job vacancies with WISE or to find out more about the program, visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/wise