Safe Work Australia (SWA) has released its latest ‘Australian workers’ compensation statistics’ (AWCS) report, which provides detailed statistics about workers compensation claims lodged in Australia between 2000–01 and 2018–19, including preliminary data for 2018–19 and trend analysis to 2017–18. The report brings together data supplied by jurisdictional workers compensation authorities. It reveals that there were a total of 114,435 serious workers compensation claims in 2018–19 and also provides industry, occupation and injury data.
“The statistics provide an indication of Australia’s work health and safety performance and include data broken down by gender, age, occupation, industry, nature of injury or disease, mechanism of injury or disease, and bodily location of the injury or disease,” SWA CEO Michelle Baxter said. “The report shows that the rate of serious workers compensation claims declined by 40% from 2000–01 to 2017–18. However, the decrease in rates has steadied in recent years.”
The three occupations with the highest rate of serious claims (per million hours worked) were: labourers; community and personal service workers; and machinery operators and drivers. The three industries with the highest rate of serious claims (per million hours worked) were: agriculture, forestry and fishing; manufacturing; and transport, postal and warehousing. A trend analysis from 2008–09 to 2017–18 further reveals that the rate of serious claims per million hours worked decreased by 26%, from 7.7 to 5.7 serious claims per million hours worked; while across the same period, the median time lost for a serious claim increased by 24%, from 5.0 to 6.2 working weeks.
The most common injury type was traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries, comprising 39% of all serious claims, while ‘wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage’ and ‘musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases’ each made up 16% of all serious claims. “One area in which significant progress has been made is body stressing injuries, such as muscular, joint and ligament damage due to handling objects,” Baxter said. “This reduction in body stressing claims accounts for around 80% of the total reduction in all serious claims since 2000–01. However, serious claims for mental health conditions have increased by 28% over the same period.
“These statistics highlight the need for Australian workplaces to focus not just on preventing physical injuries, but also psychological harm,” Baxter said. “This is becoming more important than ever as we all grapple with the impacts of COVID-19. Employers should be aware of their obligation to eliminate or minimise risks to mental health at work. The Safe Work Australia website has information and resources to help employers manage workplace risks to psychological health and safety.”
The report covers the period before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Australia, so does not include information about the impacts of COVID-19 on Australian workers. SWA publishes the AWCS report annually. The next edition will include preliminary data for 2019–20 and trend analysis to 2018–19, Baxter advised.
The latest AWCS report is available here, via the SWA website.