Altered Lives Project: Kim’s Story, UFCW 175
Mississauga, Ont. – January 10, 2018 – Kim is a long-time employee at a grocery store in central Ontario where she works in the floral department. While unpacking and displaying a large volume of tropical plants at work, Kim suffered an injury to her lower back.
Severe back pain resulted in total disability at times for Kim. She could no longer participate in routine things that she previously took for granted. Regular household chores and activities that she enjoyed, like puttering around her garden in the summer, became impossible. The injury affected her well-being and her quality of life. It was a difficult time for Kim.
Kim’s injury prevented her from spending any prolonged time standing, sitting, or walking. “My injury dominated my life,” Kim explains.
“I remember seemingly endless medical appointments. I am grateful for the care that I received from my family doctor and the referrals too,” she says.
Over time, some of the treatments that Kim tried started to improve her injury and give her some relief. In particular, she found comfort in aqua therapy. In time, Kim’s injury healed. She remains guarded, however, during physical activity, because one wrong move could bring a recurrence of the injury and pain.
In 2016, lower back injuries accounted for 17 percent of all lost-time claims at Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
The injury had a significant financial impact on Kim’s life as well. She went through a time when she had no income at all, before she could return to work on modified duties. Before the injury, Kim contributed to the household income and set aside funds to save for other things. She had not anticipated undergoing a lengthy appeal process to get her rightful compensation benefits.
Kim got married not too long before her injury. She credits her partner with being her rock and supporting her throughout the physical and emotional rehabilitation.
“This injury made me realize that you must take care of yourself and your co-workers on the job. We have to be persistent and try to prevent injuries,” she says. “And if you feel something is unsafe, report it and keep at it until it is corrected. It might mean asking for help to do a job, or getting the employer to redesign how work gets done. Whatever it takes to make it safe!”
This story has been adapted from the UFCW Canada Locals 175 & 633 Altered Lives Project, which aims to promote participation in the development of healthy, safe, and supportive work environments and relationships. To read the full story, click here.