WA: 25,000 years of time lost to workplace injuries over a decade

A recent WorkSafe WA report has found that the top 20 workplace hazards have led to 25,000 years of lost time over the period of a decade.

Manual handling was the worst hazard group by total time lost from work, accounting for 40 per cent of all lost time, while “trips on clear ground” was the worst hazard, with 4300 years lost and 17,800 claims at a cost of $700 million.

This was followed by “muscular stress with no objects” (2200 years lost and 10,800 claims at a cost of $400 million) and “trip on cluttered ground” (2000 years lost and 8400 claims at a cost of $300 million).

“Handling other person” (1900 years lost and 5800 claims at a cost of $300 million) and “lifting box” (1800 years lost and 8300 claims at a cost of $300 million) rounded out the top five hazards, according to the report, Worst hazards in Western Australian workplaces 2012-13 to 2021-22.

In terms of overall hazard groups, manual handling contributed to the highest amount (41 per cent) of years lost, followed by trips (17 per cent), moving objects (14 per cent), falls and falling objects (13 per cent) and psychosocial hazards (7 per cent).

In terms of the worst hazards by industry, “handling sheep” and “hit by cow” were the two worst hazards in the agricultural industry, while “truck crash” and “fall from truck” contributed the most years lost in the road transport sector.

In hospitals, the worst hazard was “handling other person” (665 years lost), and “assault” contributed to 330 years lost in schools.

On a more positive note, the statistics show that Western Australian workers have a much lower chance of being fatally injured at work in 2024 than they did 34 years ago.

When the increase in WA workforce numbers is taken into account, a worker’s risk of being fatally injured fell by 83 per cent between 1988/89 and 2022/23.

In 1988/89, WA recorded 49.5 fatalities per million workers, but by 2022/23, this number had reduced to 8.5 fatalities per million workers.

Women were more likely to be harmed by psychosocial hazards and handling other people, while men were more likely to be harmed by falls and vehicle crashes.

Young workers under 25 lost more time to electrocution, gravity hazards and moving objects, while workers over 65 lost more time to trips, handling and assault.

“Although this decrease in the rate of fatalities is good news, we should never become complacent about the safety of workers,” said Acting WorkSafe WA Commissioner Sally North.

“The improvements can be attributed to a number of factors including a steady increase in awareness of workplace health and safety over recent decades.

“Improved regulation has also played a part, along with lots of great work from employers, workers, health and safety representatives, unions and industry bodies.

“A general improvement in understanding of risks and hazards and the maturing of the health and safety profession have also contributed to a steady fall in the relative number of deaths and injuries.

“However, it’s up to both employers and workers to make safety part of the job so everyone can return home safe and healthy at the end of each day.”