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COVID-19: Challenges of Returning to Work or Staying at Work During a Pandemic

Free 1.5 Hours
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented workplace disruptions for the past 10 months, and there is growing evidence of its toll on worker health and well-being. The ability of workers to continue working under difficult circumstances and their willingness to return to the workplace will depend on extraordinary efforts by workers, employers, and health care systems.

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In this presentation, three researchers in occupational health and safety reflect on current events and share data and suggestions for adapting worker health and rehabilitation programs to this new reality. Topics will include mental health impacts, job stress, bullying and incivility, organizational climate, use of telehealth for injured workers, impact of broader socioeconomic changes, and the effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable workers.

Brief take-home message:

COVID-19 is changing the way we work and significantly rearranging priorities in occupational health and safety, worker well-being, rehabilitation, and return-to-work. The combined effect of widespread unemployment, altered physical and social workplace activities, and continuing risks of infection require that employers and health care providers adopt an expanded view of injury protection, rehabilitation, and disability management for workers.

Learning Outcomes

Identify sources of growing health concerns among workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Describe issues of miscommunication, incivility, and job stress related to COVID-19
Describe special challenges in return-to-work and injury rehabilitation
Consider changes to organizational leadership and services to support workers

Speakers

William Shaw
Dr. William S. Shaw, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chief, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut, USA. He also has adjunct scientist appointments at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, Ontario and the Research Institute for Enhancing Prevention of Injury and Disability at Work at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Dr. Shaw has more than 20 years of research experience in the field of occupational health and safety. His training background is in engineering and clinical psychology, and his primary research focus has been workplace disability and return-to-work, especially with respect to psychosocial and organizational factors affecting outcomes for workers with acute musculoskeletal injuries or chronic health conditions. His research has contributed to current knowledge of effective employer policies, supervisor training, job modification, disability management, psychosocial screening, and return-to-work coordination. Current research projects aim to improve the organizational response of employers to the opioid crisis in heavy physical occupations, to develop patient screening protocols for pain management, and to develop early intervention strategies that can be implemented at the system level. He currently serves as Associate Director of the Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW), one of six NIOSH-funded Centers for Excellence in the US. He has more than 125 published scientific journal articles in the fields of occupational medicine, pain, health psychology, and occupational rehabilitation, and he served as a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation for more than ten years. He is involved in collaborative research projects in the USA, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and The Netherlands.
Vicki Kristman
Dr. Vicki Kristman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Lakehead University and the Inaugural Director for a new Research Institute at Lakehead University: [email protected] – Enhancing the Prevention of Injury and [email protected] She also holds appointments in the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto. Dr. Kristman is currently the Lakehead University Delegate for CIHR and sits on the University Delegates Executive Committee. She holds a doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Toronto and completed the CIHR Work Disability Prevention strategic training program as a postdoctoral fellow at the University Health Network in Toronto. In 2014, Dr. Kristman was awarded a prestigious CIHR New Investigator Award for her program of research on "Preventing Work Disability through Accommodation". She is currently leading projects to test the effectiveness of a supervisor training program to prevent prolonged work disability; to identify factors associated with Indigenous work, health and safety, and to determine factors associated with supervisors' support for providing work accommodations for workers with mental health disorders.
Doug Gross
Dr. Gross is Director of the Rehabilitation Research Centre (RRC) and a Senior Associate Editor with the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. Dr. Gross studies the prevention of disability in people with physical and mental health disorders. This includes investigating the effectiveness of clinical and public health interventions, the validity of clinical decision support and other assessment tools, as well as factors associated with disability. He has given numerous national and international presentations and published over 100 peer-reviewed articles.

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