Four in five workers injured or ill due to work: survey

Nearly 80 per cent of working people have been injured, or become ill, or both as a result of work, according to ACTU survey.

Nearly 80 per cent of working people have been injured, or become ill, or both as a result of their work, according to a survey released today by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

The same number of people say existing penalties for employers are not enough to make them take safety seriously.

The Work Shouldn’t Hurt survey, conducted by the ACTU in July, received responses from more than 26,000 working people about their experiences of work health and safety, including the sorts of working conditions they had faced in the past 12 months.

Areas surveyed included exposure to traumatic events – like the death of a colleague, occupational violence, hazardous conditions, poor management, and remote or isolated work.

In their survey responses, working people talked about injuries as a result of their work, from being physically assaulted, being held hostage by a patient, to being crushed, electrocuted, or burnt at work. Others said they had broken major bones or had been left traumatised or depressed by work conditions.

The results highlight an alarming growth in the rate of psychosocial (mental) injury as a result of high exposure to hazards at work. Three in five working people surveyed had experienced psychological illnesses or injuries such as stress, depression or anxiety at work. This needs immediate attention and regulation.

In 2018, the government commissioned a report into model work health and safety legislation resulting in the Boland review, which made 34 recommendations to strengthen work health and safety laws. The ACTU has called for all recommendations to be implemented across all states and territories.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • In the last 12 months 47 per cent of respondents were exposed to traumatic events, distressing situations or distressed or aggressive clients/customers
  • 66 per cent of respondents experienced high workloads
  • 31 per cent of respondents had experienced occupational violence (abuse, threats, or assault at work by clients, customers, the public, or co-workers)
  • 61 per cent said they has experienced poor mental health because their employer or workplace had failed to manage of address these poor work conditions
  • 91 per cent of people did not make a workers’ compensation claims in relation to this poor mental health
  • Of the 9 per cent that did, only a third of them were approved
  • 55 per cent said they were aware of existing conditions in their workplace that could cause serious injury or illness if not addressed
  • 91 per cent said employers or companies who cause the death of a worker through gross negligence should face serious jail time (up to 20 years)
  • 98 per cent of respondents said they believed unions had a role in work health and safety
  • 91 per cent said unions should be able to immediately enter workplaces to address health and safety issues
  • 97 per cent said unions should be able to take employers and companies that break health and safety laws to court

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