With all the safety systems, training and compliance, why are workplace injuries costing more in time to recover and more in compensation costs? Good question!
SafeWork Australia recently released a report on Australian Workers Compensation Statistics that examines serious injury and illness claims between 2000 and 2015. The key findings are shown in the image for this blog and highlight that over the past fifteen years that the median lost time for a serious claim has risen by 33% and the cost to rehabilitate an injured or ill worker has increased by 30%. Labourers (25% of all claims), machinery operators and the construction industry featured highly as the worst offenders.
In Australia, construction employs 1.05 million workers (9% of the workforce), but injures 8 workers over every million hours worked of which 90% were musculoskeletal disorders (2015–16 statistics) predominantly sustained by workers aged between 45 and 54 years. Construction injuries made up 12% of the total injuries in 2015-16.
Continued development in ongoing construction work is great for the economy but it’s a high cost to business and the community when injury and illness rates remain as high as they do. It’s no surprise that governments, regulators and researchers have the industry squarely in their sights. RMIT’s Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety Research released a final report on the ACT construction sector in September this year with an in-depth look at their safety culture.
Building on the ‘Getting Home Safely’ Report published in 2012 this study worked with four focus groups made up of key construction industry stakeholders. Interesting findings included the focus groups highlighting that industry culture in relation to the protection of construction workers’ health had not kept pace with the recommendation emerging from the 2012 report. In particular, issues of work-family balance and mental health were identified as being a significant problem for construction workers in the ACT.
Stakeholders working in small organisations (less than 200 staff) reported significantly less positive perceptions in relation to safety climate when compared to practices in large firms. Those working in medium-sized companies reported limited influence over sub-contracted workers and they failed to use the informal and personalised management processes which exist in smaller organisations and are perceived to be effective. As the stratum of the business was unpicked it revealed that upper level managers had more positive perceptions of the safety climate than lower level managers, cascading to lower level managers who had more positive perceptions of the safety climate than frontline workers. The findings suggest that:
“There is a ‘disconnect’ between the way that workers at different levels perceive the emphasis placed on WHS and the quality of WHS management in construction organisations”.
The commercial/industrial building sector of the industry showed the lowest in terms of safety climate. Issues that impacted included the intensification of work and challenges with management of subcontractors by principal contractors. The Getting Home Safely report suggested areas in need of improvement that the focus groups determined had not been adequately addressed:
● the quality, effectiveness and consistency of WHS training,
● the effectiveness of WHS management systems, and
● the effectiveness with which principal contractors manage subcontractors’ WHS.
Of considerable interest to Tap into Safety was the recommendation the focus groups that management should use various types of training to ensure employees’ understanding of risk assessment documents. This is where our Platform is useful in providing interactive situated examples of workplace settings to identify and rectify workplace risk.