Those most likely to be injured are laborers whose work involves repetitive and often strenuous tasks, with definable risk factors. Despite occupational health and safety standards, there are simply jobs that are perilous due to the very nature of the work settings.
I routinely ask injured workers what are the factors that would likely impede their looking for work in alternate settings. Their responses are uniformly:
- I do not have the education for other work
- I do not fit in an office setting
- I like to choose my own hours
- I do not like being under direct supervision.
Summing those preferences, the numbers of job options become narrow.
Many industrial workers terminate their education when still quite young. They “want to go out and make money” or “my family cannot afford me staying in school” or “I am going to have to work full time because I must get married.”
Often, education ends by age 16 and/or 8th grade. Many will acknowledge that subjects such as math, science, and English were difficult as well as disliked.
For some, a G.E.D. is an option. For others, there are trade and tech schools, but for many, the motivation to return to the classroom is likely very low. And the motivation to return to the classroom with much younger students is almost nonexistent.
By the age at which many are injured, they have realized a level of independence through hard, and sometimes dangerous, work in the trades, and the idea of less income and more accountability is inconceivable. Additionally, they may lack spousal support for a lower standard of living in order to support re-education and re-training.
The injured worker with carpentry, concrete, roofing, trucking, landscaping, and other labor-intensive pursuits, may have created an economic structure based upon seasonal work changes, anticipated pay grade, and have adjusted home and family expenses accordingly. They have not considered “what would I do if…”, and in the months following injury, there comes the dawning awareness that “I had better get back to my job because I have no idea how else to make money.”
Although there are adult education programs, grant monies and loans, and online educational paths, this is not where most injured workers immediately apply themselves. They become passive, awaiting complete restoration of all physical functioning, and expecting that their employer “and friend” eagerly awaits their return. Considering the financial need of the employer is not an immediate or conceivable concern for the injured.
We go to school for several reasons:
- to obtain a baseline understanding of how to function as adults;
- to create a skill set that enables job mobility;
- to satisfy a quest for knowledge in specific fields;
- to appease parents who have an educational standard for us;
- to find a meaningful adult and family life.
When workers have short-circuit their education, they have created a path with few alternatives.
The true misery of their injury is that they do not know how to carve a new future for themselves and their families.