In Australia, hundreds of injuries occur in the workplace every day affecting workers of all ages. While some workers recover quickly, others may experience serious disabilities or long term conditions. Injuries affect not only the worker, but the worker’s family and the employer. The safest workplaces are those that take a proactive approach to prevent injuries over a reactive approach (managing them after they occur). This article will outline high risk industries, common workplace injuries, how to prevent injuries at workplaces, and the potential benefits of implementing a work health and safety program.
Industries with significant rates of workplace injuries include agriculture, fishing, transport, construction, manufacturing, mining, and healthcare. Industries with trade workers, machine operators and drivers record higher rates of work-related injury, illness and death. Other industries experience injuries from activities such as heavy lifting, repetitive movements, or standing for long periods with restricted movements.
Common workplace injuries are physical injuries which include cuts, burns, wounds, fractures, joint, ligament, muscle, and tendon injuries. Psychological injuries are mental health conditions which include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Workers could potentially contract a workplace related disease such as industrial deafness, Q fever, and respiratory diseases such as asbestosis. Workers with pre-existing medical conditions are at risk of aggravating their injury or exacerbating current symptoms (WorkSafe Queensland, 2020).
Measures to prevent injuries at the workplace include implementing a Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) program. A WHS program directly benefits the workplace with improved health and wellbeing of employees, increased employee engagement, and higher levels of creativity and innovation. Components of a WHS program may include providing employees with pre-employment and current health assessments, fitness classes and programs, health promotion programs, mental wellbeing programs, fatigue management, injury prevention, and health and wellness seminars. A key component of every WHS program is a WHS Management System which provides safe working policies and procedures. Workplaces must ensure these are communicated to all workers and that workers are trained in their role.
A WHS program is essential in every workplace in order to create a safe work environment. To prevent injuries, workplaces must be able to identify specific hazards and risks, and to assess these and put adequate controls in place. These controls must be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are still working for the right purpose and not creating further hazards and risks.
Preventing workplace injuries benefits the worker and the employer with decreased sick leave absenteeism, workers compensation, and disability management costs. Encouraging and providing a safe and healthy workplace is a critical for preventing workplace injuries which is good for both workers and business.