What are the most common work injuries in NSW?

Have you ever wondered about the most common workplace injuries? Here's the rundown.

How many workplace injuries happen each year?

There were 92,124 serious workplace injuries recorded by the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) in SIRA's 2015-16 report on workplace injuries. A total of $2.6 billion was paid in workers compensation claims. In order to protect yourself and your workers, depending on the size of your business, you need to take out a workers insurance policy. Knowing your responsibilities and obligations to your workers can help you to protect your business as well as your employees. If an injury occurs in your workplace, you can notify us online

How do most workplace injuries occur? 

Most workplace injuries result from diverted attention, inadequate training or unsafe work practices. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that workers have the appropriate knowledge, training and confidence before working with heavy machinery or in environments which might pose a risk to their health if they are not adequately equipped. Have a look at SIRA's Guide to Workers Compensation for Beginners for tips on how to avoid workplace injuries, and procedures to follow when injuries do occur. If an injury does occur in your workplace, there are lots of ways to help your employees to get back to work. SIRA requires all employers to have an up-to-date return to work program.

What are the most common workplace injuries? 

The most common workplace injuries in NSW are to the arms, shoulders and hands in data collected from 2003-2016, as reported by SafeWork Australia. From the period 1 January 2019 to 29 July 2019, icare received 13,317 claims relating to arm, shoulder and hand injuries. Injuries to the legs, including hips and feet, are also common (7,398) and injuries to the back (5,920).

Mental health or psychological injury claims are less common, however we know that workers are less likely to submit claims around mental health. This means that the number of psychological injuries could be significantly higher than the number of claims icare receives.

Are slips and falls a common cause for injury?

Slip and fall injuries in the workplace can be serious. Claims for injuries to the back, legs, hips and feet are some of the most frequent claims icare receives. The most common injuries caused by falls are fractures, bruises, cuts and dislocations. Slips and falls are often easily prevented by:

  • providing adequate signage if floors are slippery
  • providing adequate lighting
  • appropriate workplace procedures, such as storing objects appropriately, avoiding a build up of items which may cause workers to trip
  • educating workers in appropriate footwear for work conditions.

How do I prevent back injuries in the workplace? 

Back injuries can be debilitating and can require lifelong treatment. Preventing these types of injuries requires good work practices and safe options for employees. 

  1. If your workers are required to lift objects, make sure that appropriate machinery and tools are available to workers.
  2. Make sure that workers are taking adequate breaks. Moving around, going for a walk or having a stretch are good ways to keep backs flexible and strong. 
  3. While heavy objects should never be lifted by hand, if absolutely necessary, ensure that workers are skilled in lifting correctly. This means bending from the knees and maintaining a straight back.

Computer-related injuries in the workplace

Workers are more likely to suffer from computer-related injuries in workplaces without adequate workplace health and safety oversight. Workstations need regular review and adjustment to ensure that workers are sitting with correct posture. Arm, neck, shoulder and back injuries are commonly caused by workstations which are not correctly set up. Adequate breaks are necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries, which commonly effect hands, wrists and arms. The Better Health Channel gives a comprehensive overview of computer-related injuries, how to avoid them and what to do when they do occur. 

What percentage of workplace injuries are caused by manual handling?

Some of the most common causes of workplace injuries are due to manual handling, with more than 145,000 workers injured in NSW workplaces, as reported in data collected by SafeWork Australia from 2012-2015. Of these, seven people died and 1300 were permanently injured.

It is vital that good workplace procedures are set up to prevent injuries to workers through manual handling. Identifying hazards and ensuring good lifting technique for items which can be safely carried are good ways to prevent injuries. 

If workers need to do manual handling for their work, the following things may cause them strain. Look for these red flags and address them immediately with better procedures:

  • heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or gripping
  • positions which are unnatural or awkward, such as over-reaching, arching and twisting
  • any activities which cause vibrations to the hands, arms or body
  • repetitive or sustained movements
  • the length of time workers must sustain tasks for (i.e. without taking a break)

Most common hand injuries in the workplace

Hand injuries in the workplace are among the most common causes for workers compensation insurance. Outside of repetitive strain injuries, the most common cause for workplace hand injuries according to SafeWork Australia are:

  • having hand caught, crushed, jammed or pinched in between other objects such as machinery.
  • contact with power tools 
  • contact with knifes
  • puncturing of hand
  • woodworking machinery
  • having hand caught or crushed in a door
  • contact with lawnmowers.

Preventing hand injuries in the workplace

There are many ways to avoid hand injuries in the workplace. 

  1. Identify potential risks to workers. These include potential pinch points.
  2. Adequate signage warning workers of risks around machine functionality, and safety procedures
  3. Turning off all equipment before performing maintenance
  4. Always make sure machinery has adequate safety guards

Read the SafeWork Australia Guide to Hand and Wrist Injuries for a comprehensive report on hand and wrist injuries in the workplace.

How to prevent back injuries in the workplace

If workers are undertaking manual tasks, they risk doing damage to their back. It is essential to have adequate safety procedures in place and to educate all workers on how to undertake their tasks safely. To find out more about how to set up a safe work environment for workers undertaking manual tasks, read about Manual tasks on the Safework website.

How long after an injury at work can I make a claim?

You need to report a work-related  injury within 48 hours of becoming aware of the injury. If you don't report a work-related injury within 5 days of becoming aware of the injury, you may be required to pay a 'claims excess payment', which is equivalent to one week of the worker's weekly payments.

Once reported, your Claims Service Provider will provide you with an injury notification number (sometimes referred to as a claim number). To learn more about making a claim, read our Notify us of an injury or make a claim page.


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