Injuries can happen anywhere and at any time. But no one wants to sustain a serious injury while they’re at work. Over the years, governments and organisations have put in place measures to reduce workplace injuries. Staff training, policies and procedures, state and federal regulations and safety commissions have helped reduce workplace deaths and injuries.
Australia’s worker fatality rate has decreased by 53% since the peak in 2007. Machine operators and drivers have the highest fatality rate of 8.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers compared to the next category of labourers with 2.3.
In 2018-19, the work-related injury and disease incidence rate was 9.4 claims per 1,000 employees, a total of 114,435 workers compensation claims.
Being aware of the injuries that occur most frequently allows organisations to focus on the risks and work to improve them.
Slips, trips and falls accounted for 23% of serious workers’ compensation claims between 2003-15. They were caused by environmental factors in 56% of cases. These factors include poor lighting, slippery surfaces, inappropriate footwear and hazards such as electrical cables or deliveries on the ground.
Slips, trips and falls cause musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures and dislocations. Knees, ankles and backs are most impacted.
RSIs is a term for overuse injuries that impact soft tissues of the neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands. Many people associate RSIs with office workers who spend long hours in front of a computer but they can occur in most industries.
Psychological stress occurs due to work-related stress, low role clarity, poor organisational management change, high or low job demand, poor environmental conditions and remote or isolated work. Worker's compensation claims for mental health conditions are much higher ($24,500) compared to the average claim ($9,000). The average length of time off is 15.3 weeks compared to 5.5 weeks for all claims.
Manual handling involves lifting, pulling, restraining, carrying and pushing objects in the workplace. A muscular injury can occur when a worker lifts a load awkwardly, lifts a load that is too heavy, when they don’t warm up cold muscles or take enough breaks. Upper limb and back injuries account for more than half of all manual handling injuries.
Most jobs require some form of manual handling at some stage so the number of injuries is high with 327 claims per week occurring between 2013-14 and 2017-18.
Manufacturing industry workers not only have the highest fatality rate, they are at increased risk of serious injury compared to other industries. In the five years to 2012-13, more than 87,000 serious injuries were reported. The moving parts of machinery, plant equipment and tools can cause fractures, broken bones, internal organ damage, amputations, joint and open wounds. Workers can become entangled in machinery or the materials being used in the machine, or be struck by parts or material ejected by the machine.
Becoming proactive at injury prevention in the workplace is possible with the right systems in place which allows for the organisation to learn from previous mistakes.
In large organisations, a WHS management system helps keep track of injuries and how they occurred. Once information is recorded in the same place, it’s possible to see recurring events and make changes.
Injuries have a bad habit of repeating themselves in workplaces. If one staff member suffers a fall, the chances of another staff member falling in the same location is high if no changes are made. It may only require someone to investigate the cause such as damaged floor covering, slippery surface, or poor lighting in order to make a change.
One worker may suffer a repetitive strain injury because there is little task variation in their role. Other staff members who do a similar role could suffer the same fate if they aren’t made aware of strategies to prevent RSIs.
Knowing the cause of injuries in the workplace can identify training opportunities. Effective training of staff in manual handling techniques and reminding them regularly can reduce the number of injuries. Teaching good posture while using a computer can reduce RSIs. Training staff in identifying, reporting and eliminating hazards ensures everyone is working towards making the workplace a safe environment.
Some organisations commission a third-party to conduct a WHS audit and risk assessment rather than conduct them in-house. The audit is used to highlight potential risks and put in place systems for reducing the risks.
Altius Group provides comprehensive WHS audits and risk assessments both onsite and remotely, to ensure compliance with WHS standards and a safe work environment for employees. For more information contact us online.