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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
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Contents >> Labour >> Work-related injuries (Article)

FEATURE ARTICLE 4: WORK-RELATED INJURIES

Workplace injuries and illnesses are of interest due to the impact they may have on workers, their families, employers and the community. Work-related injuries range in severity from minor cuts and bruises to death. Various conditions may affect a person's health, through short or long-term pain or disability, and may also affect their financial situation through health expenses and lost income. Employers also incur costs relating to workplace injuries or illnesses, through lost working days, lower productivity and workers' compensation insurance. This article explores some of the job characteristics of those people who experienced a work-related injury or illness (injured workers (End note 1)), using data from the 2005-06 Survey of Work-Related Injuries, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Data on the work-related injuries (End note 2) of Australians was collected in the Multi-Purpose Household Survey, conducted by the ABS from July 2005 to June 2006. The survey provides information on: the most recent work-related injury; the job where the injury occurred; the type of injury sustained; how the injury or illness occurred; the number of days or shifts absent from work due to the injury; sources of financial assistance; and whether workers' compensation was applied for and received.


Overview

There were 10.8 million people who had worked at some time in the 12 months to June 2006. Of these, 689,500 people or 6.4% experienced a work-related injury or illness . Almost two-thirds (63%) of injured workers were men. As there are more employed men than women, a higher number of injured men is expected. However, after taking this into account, it is clear that the difference was mostly due to their higher rate of injuries. During 2005-06, a higher proportion of men experienced a work-related injury compared with women (7.4% and 5.1% respectively). The greater tendency for men to work in hazardous occupations and industries is likely to explain much of this difference.

In 2005-06 the work-related injury rate (End note 3) was 64 per 1,000 employed people (74 per 1,000 employed men and 51 per 1,000 employed women). Graph 8.65 shows that younger men and women experienced higher rates of work-related injuries. People aged 15-19 years had the highest work-related injury rate, at 78 per 1,000 employed people (91 per 1,000 employed men and 65 per 1,000 employed women), with people aged 20-24 years having the second highest rate, at 75 per 1,000 employed people (98 per 1,000 employed men and 51 per 1,000 employed women). People aged 55 years and over recorded the lowest work-related injury rate, with 50 per 1,000 employed people.


8.65 Rate of work-related injury(a), by age
Graph: 8.65 Rate of work-related injury(a), by age


Job characteristics of injured workers

Occupation

The occupation groups with the highest work-related injury rates in 2005-06 were those which were likely to involve physical labour. Intermediate production and transport workers had the highest injury rate (108 per 1,000 employed people), followed by Tradespersons and related workers (107 per 1,000 employed people) and Labourers and related workers (106 per 1,000 employed people). Injured workers in these three occupation groups accounted for 45% of all injured workers. However, these three groups account for only 29% of all employed people. Professionals experienced one of the lowest injury rates, with 43 per 1,000 employed people (table 8.66).

The highest work-related injury rates were experienced by men working as Labourers and related workers (117 per 1,000 employed men), followed by Intermediate production and transport workers (116 per 1,000 employed men). The highest injury rates for women were also experienced by those working as Labourers and related workers (87 per 1,000 employed women), followed by Elementary, sales and service workers (74 per 1,000 employed women).

More than a third (37%) of injured Intermediate production and transport workers and a quarter (25%) of injured Labourers and related workers experienced a sprain or strain as their most recent work-related injury. The most common injury experienced by Tradespersons and related workers was a cut or open wound (33%).
8.66 RATE OF WORK-RELATED INJURY(a), By occupation(b)

Males
Females
Persons

Managers and administrators
64.4
*45.3
58.8
Professionals
38.0
47.8
43.1
Associate professionals
56.2
54.1
55.3
Tradespersons and related workers
111.3
*66.6
106.7
Advanced clerical and service workers
**33.9
*31.3
31.6
Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers
63.3
55.7
57.9
Intermediate production and transport workers
116.2
*52.3
108.1
Elementary clerical, sales and service workers
55.5
74.0
67.5
Labourers and related workers
116.7
87.1
106.0

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
(a) For any occupation group, the work-related injury rate is the number of injured workers divided by people currently employed in that occupation (in their main job).
(b) Classified according to the Australian Classification of Occupations (ASCO), Second Edition, 1997.
Source: Work-Related Injuries, Australia (6324.0).


Industry

In 2005-06, the industries with the highest work-related injury rates were Agriculture, forestry and fishing (109 per 1,000 employed people) and Manufacturing (87 per 1,000 employed). The industries in which men experienced the highest injury rates were Agriculture, forestry and fishing (128 per 1,000 employed men), Personal and other service industries (101 per 1,000 employed men) and Manufacturing (98 per 1,000 employed men). Industries in which women experienced the highest injury rates were Accommodation, cafes and restaurants (98 per 1,000 employed women), Health and community services (71 per 1,000 employed women) and Retail trade (70 per 1,000 employed women) (table 8.67).

The types of injuries sustained by workers varied across industries. Sprains or strains represented the highest proportion of injuries for workers in the Agriculture, forestry and fishing (32%) and Manufacturing (27%) industries. Cuts or open wounds accounted for the highest proportion of injuries for workers in the Electricity, gas and water supply (52%) and Mining (42%) industries.
8.67 RATE OF WORK-RELATED INJURY(a), By selected industries(b)

Males
Females
Persons

Agriculture, forestry and fishing
128.2
*62.9
108.8
Manufacturing
97.7
55.6
86.6
Retail trade
78.2
70.5
74.1
Accommodation, cafes and restaurants
*51.7
97.9
76.5
Transport and storage
94.0
*54.3
84.7
Government administration and defence
83.0
59.8
71.9
Education
*45.2
55.4
52.2
Health and community services
95.9
71.3
76.7
Personal and other services
101.3
*45.2
72.9

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
(a) For any industry group, the work-related injury rate is the number of injured workers divided by the number of people currently employed in that industry (in their main job).
(b) Classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 1993 edition.
Source: Work-Related Injuries, Australia (6324.0).


Most recent work-related injury

Almost a third (30%) of injured workers in 2005-06 reported a sprain or strain as their most recent work-related injury. Almost a fifth (19%) of injured workers reported a chronic joint or muscle condition as their most recent injury. The same proportion (19%) reported a cut or open wound. Cuts or open wounds were more common for men than women (22% compared with 14%), while chronic joint or muscle conditions were more common among women than men (23% compared with 16%). Almost two-fifths (38%) of injured workers aged 15-24 years reported a cut or open wound as their most recent work-related injury (graph 8.68).

8.68 Most recent work-related injury(a), by type of injury sustained
Graph: 8.68 Most recent work-related injury(a), by type of injury sustained

Almost a third (32%) of injured workers reported that their most recent work-related injury occurred by lifting, pushing or pulling an object. Hitting or being hit or cut by an object accounted for just over a quarter (27%) of reported injuries. A higher proportion of injured men experienced this type of injury occurrence compared to women (31% and 19% respectively).Shift work

Certain fields of work are more likely to involve shift work than others, including medicine, transport and protection services. Being part of a global business may also increase the requirement for work to be performed in non-standard hours. While shift work may be essential to the economy, evidence suggests that it can have a physical or emotional toll on workers. In Australia, shift workers accounted for a sixth (16%) of all people who worked at some time in the 12 months to June 2006. The work-related injury rate of shift workers was 113 per 1,000 employed people, almost twice the rate of those who worked regular day time hours (60 per 1,000 employed people). Almost a third (31%) of the injuries sustained by shift workers were a sprain or strain and a fifth (20%) experienced a chronic joint or muscle condition. Of the shift workers who experienced a work-related injury, 19% were Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers and 17% were Labourers and related workers.

8.69 Rate of work-related injury(a), by selected occupations and whether worked shifts
Graph: 8.69 Rate of work-related injury(a), by selected occupations and whether^worked shifts

For most occupation groups, people who worked under shift arrangements had a higher work-related injury rate than people who did not. Professionals working under shift arrangements were almost three times more likely to experience a work-related injury compared with those who did not undertake shift work (a rate of 97 compared with 35 per 1,000 employed people). Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers working under shift arrangements were more than twice as likely to report an injury than those who did not (109 and 46 per 1,000 employed people). However, the injury rate of Tradespersons and related workers was similar for those who did or did not undertake shift work (108 and 107 per 1,000 employed people) (graph 8.69).
End notes

1. An injured worker is a person who worked sometime in the 12 months prior to June 2006 and experienced their most recent work-related injury or illness during that period. The injury may have occurred in the current job or in a previous job.

2. A work-related injury is an injury, illness or disease which first occurred in the 12 months prior to June 2006, where a person suffered either physically or mentally from a condition that arose out of, or in the course of, employment. Work-related injuries that resulted in death are excluded.

3. The work-related injury rate for all employed persons and for those by sex and age are calculated by dividing the number of injured workers by the number of people employed (in that group) sometime in the 12 months to June 2006. The injury rate for all other groups is calculated by dividing the number of injured workers by the number of people employed (in that group) during the survey reference week.


References

Shields M, 2002, 'Shift work and health', Health Reports, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 11-33, July 2002, Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Canada





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