Serious workers compensation claims still occurring

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Serious workers compensation claims still occurring

Between 2000 to 2018, the number of serious Australian workers’ compensation claims decreased by 20 per cent to a total of 107,335, the latest Safe Work Australia report showed.

Safework Australia latest report on workers compensation claims showed the number of serious Australian workers’ compensation claims decreased by 20 per cent to a total of 107,335 between 2000 to 2018.  A serious claim is considered an accepted workers’ compensation claim for an incapacity of one or more working weeks.
 
Despite the overall decrease in claims, the data in the last period of the report 2017-18 showed approximately 9 in every 1,000 employees still had a serious incidence and a frequency rate of 5.5 serious claims per million hours worked which is the national average. The frequency rate is a more accurate measure of work health and safety as it is the number of injuries and diseases per hour worked, which accounts for the number of different employee hours worked such as part time hours.
 
Trends were reviewed over the period 2000-2017, with the median time lost for a serious claim increasing 38 per cent from 4.2 working weeks to 5.8. Over the same period, the median compensation paid for a serious claim rose by 181 per cent from $4,300 to $12,100. 
 
Overall, the report focussed on serious claims submitted between 2000-2018 giving an indication of the Australian work health performance in various categories of gender, age group, industry, occupation, mechanism and nature of injury or disease. 

Gender 

Males are more likely to have a serious claim. The frequency rate of serious claims per million hours worked were 6.0 for men versus 4.8 for women. There were two categories of serious claims; injury and musculoskeletal injuries and diseases.  The former was by far the highest claims category for both genders with males at 90% versus 85% for women. The frequency rates of serious claims for both males and females have been trending downward, albeit at a faster rate for males. 
 
In 2016–17, the median time lost for a serious claim was higher for females at 6.1 working weeks and 5.6 working weeks for male employees. The median compensation paid for a serious claim was slightly higher for males at $12,900 and $10,500 for female employees.  Females were paid less from 2007 onwards which may reflect gender pay gap differences.

Age

In the year 2017-18, mature workers were more likely to make a serious claim, particularly between the ages of 45-54 making up 25 per cent of the age groups.  The highest frequency rate of 7.7 was amongst employees aged 60-64 years and the number of serious claims for this group rose by 114 per cent between 2000-2017.  The report showed the median time lost and median compensation paid increased with age. 
 
The increase in the number of serious claims for older workers is in line with the general Australian trend of an ageing population and workforce and further enhances the need for role and work design for mature age workers to ensure their physical ability and training equates to executing the role safely. 
Conversely, the lowest frequency rate of 4.3 was held by employees 30-34 years in age.  The largest percentage drops in numbers of serious claims were recorded in the 15–19 years age group (down 47 per cent) and 35–39 years age group (down 44 per cent). Perhaps more effective training, supervision and on the job experience could be a reason for the lowest rates in these age groups

Industry

Three industries combined accounted for 41 per cent of all serious claims yet only 29 per cent of the workforce: -
  • Health care and social assistance industry (16 per cent of serious claims in 2017–18)
  • Construction (13 per cent) and
  • Manufacturing (12 per cent) 
Agriculture, forestry and fishing had the highest frequency rate in 2017-18 of 8.6 serious claims per million hours worked, followed by manufacturing (8.1) and transport, postal and warehousing (7.7).  
Some of the lowest frequency rates of approximately 1.5 and below were financial services, professional and telecommunications. Although, the public administration and safety industry frequency rate for diseases was 1.5 which was more than twice the all industry average.

Occupation

Not surprisingly, labourers accounted for a quarter of all serious claims in 2017–18 and had the highest frequency rate of 16.9 serious claims per million hours worked, followed by community and personal service workers at 18 per cent and 11.1 frequency rate. Combined employees working in these occupations accounted for 43 per cent of all serious claims and represented 21 per cent of the workforce.
 
The remaining occupations all had frequency rates below the national average rate of 5.5 serious claims per million hours worked. With respect to diseases; community and personal service workers recorded the highest frequency rate of 1.4 serious claims per million hours worked, followed by labourers (1.3), both more than double the national rate of 0.6.

Direct cause of injury

In 2017–18, the three most common mechanisms of injury or disease resulting and accounting for 75 per cent of serious claims were: -
  • Body stressing at 36 per cent
  • Falls, trips and slips at 23 per cent; and 
  • Being hit by moving objects at 16 per cent
The largest percentage decrease of serious injury and musculoskeletal disorder claims was wounds, lacerations, amputations, and internal organ damage, down by 28 per cent over the period. However, mental health condition, serious claims are continuing to increase.
 
The median time lost increased for all mechanism categories except for heat, electricity and other environmental factors which recorded no change. Future reports may show a different result with the recent Australian environmental factors and extreme heat.

Nature of injury, body area and breakdown agency

41 per cent of all injury and musculoskeletal disorders claims were traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries. Diseases were responsible for 11.5 per cent of serious claims, with mental health conditions the most common and more prevalent in females.
 
Upper limbs accounted for over one–third of all serious claims in 2017–18 with a rise in shoulder claims. Otherwise, the number of claims declined for all other bodily locations. There was a 41 per cent overall decrease in serious trunk claims.
 
Non–powered hand tools, appliances and equipment consistently contributed to the highest number of serious claims between 2000-2017 whilst reducing overall by 29 per cent during this period.
 
Whilst positive steps of a reduction in serious claims has occurred over the 18-year period of the report, there is still more work to be done to reduce and prevent serious claims even further.

To find out other interesting statistics, read the full Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2017–18 report here.
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