Workplace Injuries and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Safe Work Australia has recently published its Australian Workers Compensation Statistics of 2015-2016.  This should be of particular interest to those working in the OHS/WHS and allied health (osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors, myotherapists and exercise physiologists) space due to either working within businesses to either prevent or manage hazards and risks associated with the cause of these complaints or for practitioners working with clients within the compensation systems.

I have tried to summarize some of the key aspects from this rather large document below so that you are up to speed with where things are at currently and compared to previous years.  Download the publication below if you would like to read it in more details.

In 2015-2016

  • Males accounted for 64% of serious claims (these claims encompass all ).  Males did work more than females (accounting for 59% of hours worked).
  • 90% of serious claims relate to injury and musculoskletal disorders for males and females.  Diseases only accounted for 10%.
  • Injury and MSDs claims did not differ too greatly across all ages groups (20-24, 25-29 etc through to 55-59 years).  Those under 20 years and over 60 years were less likely to make a serious claims.
  • The highest frequency rate for injuries occurred in workers aged 60-64 years.  Workers aged 25-39 and 30-34 had the lowest frequency rate.
  • Generally older workers recorded the highest incidence rates for serious claims.
  • Labourers accounted for a ¼ of all serious injury claims, followed by technicians (18%) and community/personal service workers (16%).  Together they account for > 50% of all serious claims, however they only represent 34% of the workforce.
  • Traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injury accounted for 43% of claims.
  • 39.3% of serious claims can be attributed to body stressing (non powered hand tools, appliances and equipment, materials and substances and animal, human and biological agencies).   Falls, trips and slips of a person was the next most common cause of serious claims at 23%.
  • Of the body stressing causes, the upper back and lower back accounted for 39.2% of serious claims.  When combined with the neck (2.4%), the spine account for over 40% of claims.   The shoulder came in next at 17.8%.  When combined with the elbow (3.1%) and hand (3.6%) , the upper limb accounted for over 24% of serious claims.
  • Overall trends reported by safe work Australia shown when comparing 2000-2001 and 2014 – 2015.
  • 17% decrease in the number of claims.
  • Younger age groups (15-19 and 35-39 years) have shown a reduction in serious claims compared to 55-59 and 60-64 years showing an increase in claims.  The increase in the number of serious claims for older workers is in line with an ageing workforce.
  • All occupations reviewed have shown a decrease in the frequency and incidence rates over the years.  Labourers being the largest reduction (down by 30%) and clerical and administrative workers (down by 29%).
  • Incidence rates by industry have also shown a reduction as similar to the frequency rates.   These have reduced across all industries, with mining (61% reduction), financial and insurance services (53% reduction) and administrative and support services (53% reduction) showing the greatest change over time.
  • Serious claims related to injury and MSDs fell by 17%.  Largely due to a decrease in traumatic/ligament and muscle/tendon injury and musculoskeletal connective tissues (down by 36%).
  • The upper limb accounts for 1/3 of all serious claims. With the shoulder showing a 12% increase.  Serious claims related to the trunk account for ¼ of all serious claims (with a reduction in upper and lower claims).
  • Body stressing accounts for 40% of all serious claims, of which there has been a substantial fall in claim numbers (23%) and 60% of the reduction in body stress claims.
  • Non powered hand tools, applicances and equipment recorded the highest number of claims, however this has fallen by 24%.

Time Loss Statistics

  • Median time lost for a serious claim rose by 33% from 4.2 weeks to 5.6 weeks.  The median compensation claim rose by 112% frm $5200 to $11000.
  • Time loss has shown an increase across all age groups.
  • Median compensation generally increases with age, however it levels out for workers over 50 and then falls slighty for those 65 and over.
  • Sales workers recroderd the largest increase in time lost from work (up by 103%). Technicians and trades had the lowest time lost from serious claims.
  • The median time lost for injury and MSDs claims has increased from 4.0 to 5.1 working weeks.  Claims involving diseases has risen from 6.8 to 9.2 working weeks.  Claims related to mental disorders has increased from 11.2 to 16 weeks.
  • Mental stress claims consistently had the longest median time lost from work.

This summary post was written by osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia.