Did you know that if a workplace injury occurs, research has shown that it’s the employee who bears the brunt of the cost? As an employee in Queensland, you are insured by WorkCover and can make a worker’s compensation claim if you suffer a workplace accident or illness. However, only a percentage of your usual income is covered, not your full income.

While your employer has a legal obligation to provide you with a safe and healthy working environment, workplace injuries can still occur. In a statistical report produced by Safe Work Australia, it was found that there were a total of 104,770 personal injury claims for work-related incidents in 2017. Of these personal injury claims, 25% of them were brought by Labourers, 18% by Technicians and Trades Workers and 16% by Community and Personal Service Workers.

What can you do as an employee to reduce your risk of personal injury at work? A good place to start is to be aware of the hazards associated with your line of work and to understand your rights when it comes to Workplace Health and Safety.

Below we look at the leading causes of workplace personal injuries and provide tips and suggestions on how you can avoid them.

1. Body stressing / repetitive strain (39.3%)

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is the most common type of workplace injury sustained by employees. RSI is typically associated with hands and wrists, but repetitive strain can also result in severe neck and back injury.

Repetitive strain injuries can occur in multiple industries but are often associated with white-collar workers who work mainly on a computer doing repetitive tasks. Both white and blue-collar employees are at risk of developing RSI, and workers in the age range of 35 to 54. If your job requires you to do these tasks, you have a higher risk:

  • Doing repetitive movements that stress your muscles
  • Having a prior injury in that area of your body
  • Keeping the same physical position for an extended period
  • Bad posture while working
  • Having overall poor physical health

If you work in these industries, you at more at risk of acquiring RSI:

  • Hairdressing and beauty
  • Construction and mining
  • Manufacturing on an assembly line
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Using a keyboard for extended periods
  • Massage and other physical therapy
  • Packing Goods
  • Playing a musical instrument

You can prevent muscular and joint stress by: having adequate training and supervision for carrying out tasks (such as training for proper lifting techniques), having a qualified Workplace Health and Safety inspector regularly check workstations for risk of muscular stress, practising good posture and taking regular breaks.

2. Falls, trips and slips (23%)

Are you aware that the number two cause of workplace injuries in Queensland is slips, trips, and falls? These kinds of accidents account for nearly a third of all reported injuries. Workplace harm due to a slip, trip or fall is most often caused by physical conditions of the workplace, such as:

  • Inadequate lighting
  • Unsafe surfaces
  • Wrong footwear

And physical hazards such as:

  • Cabling
  • Goods not stored

And behavioural factors such as:

  • Running instead of walking
  • Distracted by electronic devices
  • Lack of Sleep

Typical physical damage from a slip, trip or fall includes:

  • Bruising and abrasions
  • Cuts and bleeding
  • Dislocation of joints
  • Fractures of joints

Back injuries are a common outcome of an accident at work caused by a slip, trip or fall.

3. Toppling incidents / being hit by moving objects (15.4%)

Safe Work Australia’s report found that falling objects accounted for 29% of all workplace fatalities, making it the second most common cause of workplace fatalities, after vehicle accidents, in 2016.

If you operate with heavy objects or work in an environment that has shelves, you may be susceptible to abrasions or concussions and the like. To ensure prevention of such injuries, it’s crucial that you follow the Workplace Health and Safety procedures implemented by your employer and ensure you wear correct safety gear.

4. Psychological or Mental Health Injuries (5.8%)

The causes of mental health injuries at work are many and varied. Workplace stress and trauma can originate from several circumstances.

  • Workplace bullying and harassment
  • Exposure to workplace violence
  • High-pressure working environment
  • Working too many hours
  • Poor job role clarity
  • Failure to manage change
  • Poor working conditions
  • Inability to control workplace behaviour
  • Micromanagement
  • Repetitive and Boring tasks

These factors can all contribute to high levels of stress, which if prolonged, can lead to work-related psychological or physical injury. Under Australian legislation, your employer has a duty to protect you from psychological stress. To prevent workplace mental stress, your employer should encourage regular breaks and create work processes that maintain good office morale for you and your work colleagues.

5) Vehicle incidents (2.4%)

Workplace accidents resulting from vehicle incidents are frequent causes of personal injury. This includes accidents such as:

  • Forklift/ motor-vehicle operation accidents
  • Road accidents of employees commuting to work
  • Cargo/ delivery truck accidents

These accidents can have serious implications. It’s therefore important to ensure that you wear seat-belts when driving and to follow all other safety precautions implemented by your employer to protect your safety and health in the workplace.

Top Ideas for Minimising Your Risk of Injury

Often injuries at work happen when workplace health and safety are not the main focus. Your employer has a duty of care to provide a Safe and Healthy workplace; however, all employees should engage in keeping each other safe. Being active in raising awareness of risks in your workplace is an excellent place to start.

a) Workplace Health and Safety

Large employers typically have an official Workplace Health and Safety program that monitors injuries and takes steps to prevent them in the future. Employers can take action to minimise future risks when workplace harm is documented in one place.

b) Raise Workplace Risk Awareness

Understanding the circumstances by which employees are harmed in your workplace presents a chance to raise awareness. Training workers in safe manual handling procedures and monitoring their performance will help minimise risk. Ensuring that employees take breaks and are not distracted by devices when engaging in hazardous tasks can also help.

c) Work Health and Safety Audit

When organisations strive to reduce workplace injury rates, they often conduct a WHS risk assessment. This report seeks to document work hazards, measures risk and reviews the controls that are currently in place. By doing this, employers improve their workplace and provide a safer working environment.

Infographic - top tips for avoiding workplace accidents and injury

What to do if you’re injured at work?

If you suffer a workplace injury or illness, you may be eligible to make a worker’s compensation claim. This area of compensation law can be complex and daunting but you can get help from an expert workplace accident lawyer who can guide you through the process.

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