‘Work Shouldn’t Hurt’ survey paints grim picture of workplace health and safety in Australia

By Portner Press on August 22nd, 2019
  1. Risk Management
  2. Workplace Safety

A recent survey conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has painted a grim picture about workplace health and safety throughout Australia.

The ACTU surveyed more than 25,000 union and non-union workers from a number of industries in every Australian jurisdiction.

Its report, Work Shouldn’t Hurt, has revealed some concerning statistics which include:

  • 78 per cent of people have suffered a mental or physical injury at work;
  • 52 per cent have experienced a physical injury at work;
  • 77 per cent know someone who has been seriously injured or ill because of their work;
  • 16 per cent know someone who has been killed at work or died from a work-related disease; and
  • 61 per cent have experienced poor mental health because their employer did not manage hazards in their workplace

Employers are only paying lip service to health and safety

The report states that “workers are aware of serious threats to their physical and mental health which are being tolerated or ignored by their employers”.

“A majority of workers have witnessed a near miss – an incident where a co-worker was nearly seriously injured or killed. A majority have experienced poor mental health as a result of hazards in their workplace which their employer failed to manage,” it says.

“In too many workplaces hazards of all kinds are ignored or tolerated.

“Workers’ responses demonstrate a widespread belief that employers will politely listen to complaints about unsafe work conditions. However, workers do not believe that employers either know what to do or are willing to take action on serious threats to their safety.

“[W]hile many workers feel confident that they could raise an issue of workplace health and safety with their employer, more than half were aware of an existing, unresolved issue in their workplace which could result in serious injury or illness to a co-worker or themselves.

“These findings suggest a level of box-ticking by employers [that are] willing to meet the most basic requirements by taking meetings with staff and appearing open to complaints, but not willing to make the changes in workplaces which will actually prevent further injuries or deaths.

“This is reinforced by the knowledge that penalties which companies might face for wrongdoing can often be claimed against insurance, a practice that almost all workers believe should be stopped.”

The survey found that 79 per cent of respondents believe that the current penalties employers can face for the serious injury or death of workers aren’t significant enough.

Employers ignore mental illness too

The survey shows that psychological workplace hazards – which are just as dangerous as physical ones – are under-regulated and consequently under-recognised by many employers.

Mental health issues are the most common type of work injury caused by conditions of employment.

“More than 60 per cent of respondents to the survey had experienced poor mental health because of unaddressed psychological hazards in their workplace,” the report states.

The survey found that:

  • 48 per cent of respondents work long hours;
  • 66 per cent have high workloads, to the extent that they feel they cannot do everything they are asked to;
  • 47 per cent have been exposed to traumatic events, distressed or aggressive clients, patients or customers;
  • 38 per cent work unsociable hours;
  • 46 per cent report a lack of support in their job from supervisors and insufficient training or resources; and
  • 49 per cent say they have experienced bullying, aggression, harassment, or other forms of conflict with co-workers.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents said their employer failing to address these issues had caused mental health issues for them and 67 per cent of respondents did not believe their employers knew how to address mental health issues in the workplace

The full Work Shouldn’t Hurt report can be viewed here.

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