Body stressing injuries project 2015

In 2015, WorkSafe Tasmania and the WorkCover Tasmania Board conducted a statewide project to reduce body stressing injuries in the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry.

The project aimed to:

  • reduce body stressing injuries and subsequent claims for workers compensation in this industry
  • improve industry and stakeholder awareness of the risks associated with hazardous manual tasks

Injury statistics

During the 2012–13 financial year:

  • this industry recorded 611 body stressing claims, at a cost of $7.6 million
  • the most frequent injuries were soft tissue injuries
  • the back and shoulders were the most common body parts injured.

This project links to the targets for reducing the rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders in these strategies:

WorkSafe Tasmania Strategic Plan 2013-2018

Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022

WorkSafe Tasmania worked with Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) and workers to reduce rates of body-stressing injuries in the industry. It:

  • interviewed workers who have submitted a claim for workers compensation for a body stressing injury
  • interviewed organisations about their current control measures for reducing body stressing injuries
  • provided information to the industry to help prevent body stressing injury.
  • analysed the issues in the industry
  • developed and implemented strategies to address the key issues identified in the industry in Tasmania

The project's initial phase of consultation and collecting data included:

  • analysing workers compensation claims
  • contacting 109 PCBUs and 623 workers who had submitted a claim for workers compensation for a body stressing injury (between July 2013 and December 2014 — inviting them to be part of the research project and help WorkSafe identify key issues in the sector)

WorkSafe Tasmania thanks all PCBUs and workers who gave their time and shared their thoughts on how to manage the growing problem of body stressing injuries in this sector.

Research work and a comprehensive report was prepared by Jeffrey HR on behalf of WorkSafe Tasmania. A summary of this research is provided below.

Policy, procedures and documentation

Policies and procedures for hazardous manual tasks must be seen as realistic and achievable to be implemented as standard operations. However, workers may see current policies (such as 'no lift') as unrealistic given patient-care needs, and therefore may not be able to follow them. Self-audits of systems can be helpful in detecting these issues.

Workplaces may have plenty of good safety documentation (for hazard identification, incident reporting and so on), but this is sometimes used only superficially (for example, to meet minimum compliance requirements). The research found that this documentation can also be used as an improvement tool for identifying trends and developing targeted organisational strategies.

Workplace culture

Workplace culture and management attitude/behaviour have a major impact on the number of claims and on claimant's behaviour/response to body stressing injuries.

In some instances there is too much acceptance of the 'inevitability' of body stressing injuries, both by PCBUs and workers. This complacency can lead to PCBUs and workers paying only superficial attention to good safety practices.

Workforce factors

Factors that may contribute to the difficulty in managing body stressing injuries include the aging workforce; differing physical characteristics; and fitness for work.

Patient factors

The increase in obese patients/clients/residents with specialist needs presents challenges. The use of equipment (such as ceiling-mounted hoists) has been useful, but workers still need to be skilled and appropriately trained to deal with obese patients.

Another significant area of concern and risk raised in the research is the provision of services to patients/residents/clients with unpredictable behaviours associated with a wide range of conditions but notably dementia, anxiety disorders and drug or alcohol use.

Safety topics – Manual Tasks

Hazardous Manual Tasks code of practice Safe Work Australia website

Other states' guidance

The references to legislation in these guides may differ to Tasmania.

A Guide to Designing Workplaces for Safer Handling of People WorkSafe Victoria PDF

Disability services: OHS compliance kit WorkSafe Victoria PDF

Manual handling of people in the healthcare industry ISO PDF

Manual Tasks Guide for Carers WorkSafe WA PDF

Patient Lifting Slings WorkSafe Queensland website

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