There are still too many injuries and illnesses arising from work.
On average each year just under 200 workers are fatally injured at work. In 2021 over 130,000 claims were accepted for work-related injury or illness. Body stressing, falls, slips and trips, and being hit by moving objects are the cause of most workplace injuries in Australia. While vehicle incidents, being hit by moving objects and falls from a height continue to account for most fatalities.
Musculoskeletal conditions still account for the vast majority (87%) of workers’ compensation claims for serious injuries. While their frequency has declined from 4.7 claims per million hours worked since 2007-08, to 3.4 claims per million hours worked in 2019-20, the reduction rate has slowed in recent years.
Meanwhile, psychological injuries are rising in number and severity. National data showed a 28% increase in workers’ compensation claims for mental health conditions between 2007-08 and 2019-20. In addition, time off work in these cases is almost four times longer than for other injuries.
Cancer and other diseases caused by work remain difficult to distinguish in official health statistics; however, we know that they remain prevalent, and some conditions are on the rise. Two people on average are diagnosed with mesothelioma each day, and certain respiratory diseases have also re-emerged as a challenge. Results from health screening of stonemasons and engineered stone workers indicate that 1 in 4 workers screened have evidence of silicosis.
High priority must be given to the six industries in which workers face the highest rates of harm.
According to the latest data, 70% of fatalities and 58% of serious workers’ compensation claims occur in just six industries:
- healthcare and social assistance, and
- public administration and safety.
The first five of these industries also represent those with the highest frequencies of serious claims per million hours worked. Based on the most recent claims data, psychological hazards including workplace harassment and bullying occur most frequently in public administration and safety, and health care and social assistance.