Safe Work Australia launches National Return to Work Strategy

The strategy sets a 10-year action plan to minimise the impact of work-related injury and optimise recovery.

Safe Work Australia has launched a National Return to Work Strategy 2020-2030.

The national initiative sets a 10-year action plan to minimise the impact of work-related injury and illness and optimise workers’ recovery and capacity to work.

It was developed in partnership with governments, business, industry and unions, and endorsed by work health and safety ministers.

Consultation was also undertaken with academics, peak bodies, organisations and representatives from the insurance, legal and health sectors to help identify national policy issues and action areas to address them.

Safe Work Australia CEO, Michelle Baxter said workers are at the heart of the strategy.

“We want to help them recover and return to a safe and supportive workplace,” she said.

More than half a million Australians sustain a work-related injury or illness each year at an estimated cost of $61.8 billion.

The rate of serious workers’ compensation claims has improved over the last 10 to 15 years, with the serious claim frequency rate (serious claims per million hours worked) falling by 28 per cent between 2006-07 and 2015-16.

However, the typical duration of time spent off work for serious workers’ compensation claims has been increasing, up by 32 per cent from 4.4 weeks in 2006-07 to 5.8 weeks in 2015-16.

Traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries account for the highest proportion of serious claims, followed by wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage, and musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases.

While psychological injuries only account for 7 per cent of serious claims, these claims typically result in a significantly longer time off work than other types of serious claims (17 weeks compared to 5.8 weeks).

To date, jurisdictions have largely worked separately on issues of return to work. In partnership with governments, business, industry and unions, Safe Work Australia developed a widely supported, evidence-based plan for national action.

“The strategy is built on a shared commitment to improve outcomes for workers and paves the way for ongoing national collaboration,” Baxter said.

The strategy is aimed at those who influence work and workplaces including policy makers, workers’ compensation authorities, employers, union and industry groups, insurers and claims management organisations, treating health practitioners, workplace rehabilitation providers, and other worker advocates.

To view the strategy and related resources, visit the Safe Work Australia website.

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