30 January 2023 posted by Recovery Partners

There are very few success stories of injured workers returning to similar roles after 10 years out of the workforce.

Often, the longer someone is out of work, the more challenging it can be to help them return.


Robert* had been a diesel mechanic for many years when he suffered a horrible back injury in 2013.

Robert eventually had a spinal fusion several years later in 2017, which unfortunately led to a prolonged post operative recovery, long term lack of capacity and a workplace injury of 27%. This meant nearly a third of his body was injured, a significantly high impairment.

After being out of a job for 10 years, it was going to take a special someone to help him return to work.

How Recovery Partners helped

Jenelle Thomson is an Occupational Therapist with Recovery Partners. Originally hailing from beautiful Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Jenelle joined the Recovery Partners team in early 2022, which is around the time she met Robert.

Jenelle completed a vocational assessment with Robert to help determine his occupational options moving forward.

Robert had heard about a job opportunity as a boat mechanic and moved his entire family interstate to pursue the role, including four children.

Jenelle was determined to support Robert with a smooth return to work and understood there might be challenges ahead after such a long time out of the workforce. She attended a worksite visit for the new job to ensure the environment and role were suitable and requested medical approval from the nominated treating doctor.

Using the JobCover Placement Program, Robert was able to secure the boat mechanic role.

The JobCover Placement Program allows support to the injured workers and the new employers to navigate a new role that is more suitable for the injured worker’s new level of functional capacity after sustaining a workplace injury. Robert and his new employer have regular guidance and support from Jenelle to ensure that everyone is feeling confident in the return to work for Robert.

Fitness for work

Fitness for work means that an individual is in a physical, mental and emotional state where they are able to perform assigned tasks competently and in a manner which does not endanger the health and safety of themselves or others.

Once the worksite visit and medical approval were finalised, Robert was eager to jump back into work. However, due to the nature of his back injury and having been removed from the work force for such a long time, Jenelle had to constantly monitor Robert and remind him to slow down.

At times, Robert struggled with work fitness and experienced some pain and discomfort.

With help and guidance from Jenelle, he eventually realised the importance of taking his time to ease back in and get back into a routine.

A new licence on life

Jenelle is currently helping Robert to attain his forklift licence.

This involves sourcing quotes, completing piles of paperwork and liaising with a variety of stakeholders including medical professionals and employer.

The result and key achievements

Recovery Partners and Jenelle assisted with treatment to increase Robert’s functional capacity and attain a forklift licence.

  1. Helping an injured worker return to the work force after nearly a decade out of work.
  2. Not only that but helping them return to a similar role where the worker was able to use similar skills and qualifications.
  3. Robert is expected to return to full time employment in early 2023.

Well done, Jenelle, for helping Robert return to meaningful work. After a long time out of the work force, it was a long time coming!

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/