- What is a Work-Related Stress Injury?
- What are the Risk Factors of Work-Related Stress Injuries?
- Legal Advice for Workers Experiencing Stress Injuries
- Managing Stress Injuries in the Workplace
- Stress Injury Lawyers Near You
In Australia, you have the legal right to claim compensation when work-related stress injuries cause you to suffer a loss. Sadly, stress-related injuries are becoming increasingly common as employers demand greater productivity in an attempt to improve profitability.
Long hours, insufficient breaks, and physical requirements can all contribute to the development of these injuries. Without proper care and prevention methods, workplace stress can lead to chronic pain and disability.
Your Right to Claim Workers’ Compensation
Generally, you have the legal right to make a workers’ compensation claim and pursue common law damages when injured at work, so our comprehensive guide helps you know the following:
- Recognise stress injuries in the workplace
- The risk factors that cause physical and psychological damage
- Your options for seeking compensation while you recover
- How to prevent future damage
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What is a Work-Related Stress Injury?
A work-related stress injury occurs when someone sustains physical or psychological harm due to exceptionally high-stress levels at their job. Typically, this harm happens when an employee can’t handle a heavy workload, prolonged hours, challenging working conditions, or insufficient resources.
Stress-related illnesses caused by work can include post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional trauma brought on by persistent work pressures. In contrast, physical stress injuries frequently include carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive motion injuries that damage soft tissues in muscles and joints.
Is Stress a Work-Related Injury?
Work-related stress injuries are those where stress causes a physical injury or psychological illness due to a significant source of excessive work pressure or a traumatic event (or series of incidents) related to the job.
Psychological Stress Injuries
Long-term exposure to demanding working conditions can result in psychological injuries related to stress at work, which frequently cause burnout, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Often, the psychological effects of occupational stress are more difficult to detect than the physical ones. Mainly because they aren’t visible and become apparent in less obvious ways that are easily overlooked or dismissed.
However, please understand that work-related psychological conditions are more prevalent than physical ones and often result in larger compensation payments due to lengthy recovery times.
Physical Stress Injuries
Physical injuries related to work stress are often cumulative and occur over time. This soft tissue damage develops gradually in tendons, muscles and nerves resulting in RSI. Repetitive motion injuries occur in various industries but are more prevalent in manufacturing and office workers. Physical harm can also result from working in a place with unsafe noise levels or dangerous chemicals.
People suffering a repetitive stress injury experience pain in their hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, neck or shoulders due to repeated actions like swiping at a cash register or lifting heavy objects. Other examples of soft tissue damage include:
- Typing on a keyword causing carpal tunnel syndrome
- Severe back pain caused by repetitive lifting
- Sitting in an awkward position for long periods
Sometimes your occupation can escalate or worsen an existing physical injury in a part of your body. Regardless of whether your work-related damage is new or an escalation, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits for your medical costs and lost income for time off the job.
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How to Recognise a Stress Injury in the Workplace
The key to identifying a work-related stress injury is to pay careful attention to your body and mind, noticing changes in how you feel. Generally speaking, there are three types of symptoms including behavioural, physical, and psychological.
- Behavioural symptoms vary considerably but can include heightened aggression, panic attacks and fear of interaction with others (isolating behaviours)
- Psychological symptoms include anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed, often accompanied by difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and low self-esteem.
- Physical symptoms are more prominent, including body aches and pains, muscle tension, frequent headaches, and irregular heartbeat.
Employers must be aware of the symptoms of workplace stress injuries in their staff to address the health and safety risk before it worsens. They can achieve this by establishing policies that allow employees to express their concerns without worrying about consequences. Additionally, they can offer programs like stress management training and wellness benefits to help employees manage their stress levels.
What are the Risk Factors of Work-Related Stress Injuries?
Depending on the job and workplace, different factors increase the risk of physical stress injuries. Long-term exposure to hazards like the repetitive lifting of heavy objects or working daily with corrosive chemicals can lead to physical harm in any industry. Additionally, extended periods of repetitive actions or monotonous tasks without sufficient breaks related to:
- Production line manufacturing
- Excessive scrolling and keyboard typing
- Swiping items at a register
- Working as a hairdresser
- Holding and squeezing objects repeatedly
As well as:
- Sitting or standing in a poor position at work
- The threat of violence (working with the risk of violence)
On the other hand, psychological work hazards are often associated with workplace bullying and harassment, unfair management practices, a single major traumatic event or series of incidents, fatigue, and long-term work pressure. Common causes include:
- Unrealistic workloads and expectations
- Lack of control over work hours and workload
- Lack of support from management and peers
- Unclear Job Expectations or Responsibilities
- High-Pressure Work Environments
- Job insecurity
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Long Hours with Limited Time Off
Long hours and limited time off can cause workplace stress injuries. To keep up with their workload, someone might feel compelled to work excessive hours, leading to physical and mental stress that can result in serious injuries. Tips for managing long hours and limited time off include:
1. Set Boundaries for your work hours
2. Maintain a healthy balance by taking regular breaks
3. Ask for Help from your manager or co-worker
4. Seek Professional Help by speaking with a doctor or medical health practitioner
Unclear Job Description or Role Clarity
Clear job descriptions help reduce stress and prevent work-related injuries. Lack of role clarity can cause confusion, frustration, and increased stress levels, harming physical and mental well-being.
When expectations are unclear, it’s difficult to prioritise or know how long it should take to complete a task, leading to unnecessary stress and dissatisfaction with the work.
Employers should write detailed job descriptions to avoid this and ensure their workers receive regular performance reviews and feedback.
Low Job Control or Autonomy
Low job control or autonomy is an essential factor in determining the level of work stress and potential for injuries. Job control refers to an employee’s say in how they do their work, including decisions about completing their tasks.
Workplace dynamics, including a lack of authority, poor decision-making power, strict rules, and an absence of resources, can lead to problems with inadequate job autonomy.
Poorly Defined Employment Contact
An employment contract that isn’t clearly defined can lead to stress-related illnesses at work. Without clear expectations, staff may feel overwhelmed or anxious, compromising their physical and mental health.
To avoid this situation, business owners should provide a detailed job role outlining responsibilities, hours of work, and any other expectations.
Lack of Management Support
Physical and psychological health risks can increase when employees don’t feel supported by their managers. Without the support of their boss, workers might feel isolated and overburdened, leading to exhaustion and frustration. Stress has many physical effects on our bodies, including elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and tense muscles, which, if left untreated, can worsen into more severe physical and mental health conditions.
Employers should ensure managers give their staff good direction and support to avoid this workplace hazard, including:
- Setting reasonable expectations
- Providing frequent feedback and check-ins
- Making resources available to staff members who require assistance or guidance
- Enabling frank communication between managers and staff
High Levels of Workplace Conflict
Multiple workplace stress injuries can result from high levels of workplace conflict, including physical violence or verbal abuse. It can sometimes be caused by poor workplace relationships like bullying and harassment, gossip or deliberate exclusion of a staff member. Furthermore, high levels of conflict at work, regardless of the type, frequently negatively impact team morale, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.
Employers should create a secure and respectful workplace by resolving conflicts as soon as they arise, giving employees plenty of chances to do so, and enforcing appropriate disciplinary measures when needed.
Feeling uncertain about the security of your job can cause significant emotional reactions, including physical or mental injury. You could believe your role was threatened when you have irregular work hours (or reduced hours) or feel you might be sacked or retrenched with short notice.
Triggers for feeling you have endangered job security include performance management, a dodgy economy, technological improvements and a changing labour market.
Treating Work-Related Stress Injuries
When a worker gets a stress injury on the job, they must get immediate, qualified medical attention, including options like cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation exercises, or medication, depending on the damage.
Treatment for physical stress damage can include RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation), anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy and exercise, and a splint to support the injured area.
During recovery, it is common for injured people to take time off work, often requesting stress leave. For those suffering severe harm that stops them from working again, claiming disability insurance benefits may be an option. (see below)
Legal Advice for Workers Experiencing Stress Injuries
If you have suffered an injury due to work-related stress, you must get legal advice as soon as possible, knowing the process can be long and complicated. You may be able to lodge a workers’ compensation claim or seek common law damages when your job has caused you harm.
Workplace stress injuries can be physically and mentally debilitating, disrupting your life and causing significant financial losses. But, a safe and healthy workplace is a primary duty of care for Queensland employers, as shown in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Hence, you can seek compensation when your boss fails to provide adequate employee health protection, and you suffer an occupational injury. If you have experienced a workplace stress injury, you must get legal assistance by consulting a solicitor or lawyer about your rights as an injured worker.
Compensation Claims for Work-Related Stress Injuries
With the help of a qualified lawyer, you can make a personal injury claim for a workplace stress injury and receive the compensation you deserve. The Queensland worker’s compensation scheme aims to provide financial support during your recovery. When you have a successful WorkCover claim, you can access monetary damages for lost wages and super, medical expenses, travel costs, pain and suffering and lost quality of life.
For nearly three decades, Splatt Lawyers has provided expert help and effective legal representation for injured Queensland workers. Rely on us for free, informed legal advice from our knowledgeable personal injury lawyers concerning your legal rights. Relax knowing all our legal services are offered on a 100% no-win no, fee basis, which means you pay when you win and nothing if you lose. Furthermore, when you have a valid physical or psychological injury claim, we fund your rehabilitation costs until settlement. It’s free to start, so Call Now – 1800 700 125.
Disability Insurance Claims (TPD)
You could be eligible to make a disability insurance claim (otherwise known as a TPD claim) when a mental disorder or physical injury stops you from working again in your regular role. Lodging a report with your boss is the first step for any workplace injury claim. Second, you should see a doctor or GP to have them document your condition and provide treatment.
Next, contact our skilled disability insurance lawyers. You will know if you have a valid case, your estimated TPD payout value, your chance of success, and our upfront fixed (or capped) price for help claiming a successful lump sum payout.
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Safe Work Australia’s Statutory Rights and Responsibilities
According to Safe Work Australia, employees and employers have statutory rights and responsibilities regarding workplace stress injuries. This owed duty includes managing or removing environmental stressors, resolving safety issues, and maintaining good mental health strategies.
As an employee, Queensland safety laws give you the right to a safe work environment and the responsibility to ensure that your well-being is protected from the actions or negligence of others.
Generally, business owners have a legal obligation under occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation to take reasonable steps to ensure their workers’ safety, including providing a safe working environment. Furthermore, they should offer information and instruction on how to do your job safely and develop policies and procedures to minimise the risk of workplace stress injuries.
Managing Stress Injuries in the Workplace
There are several methods employers can implement to reduce the risk of work-stress injuries. Some include:
• Developing a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations and deadlines for employees
• Providing employees with resources and support, such as counselling services or Employee Assistance Programs
• Offering flexible working hours and providing ample opportunities for rest and relaxation.
• Encouraging open communication between supervisors and employees so that any problems are addressed quickly and effectively
• Recognising employee accomplishments and offering rewards to motivate employees
Stress Injury Lawyers Near You
When you need expert legal advice for a work stress injury, it’s good to know there’s an experienced Splatt Lawyer near you. Choose your location: