Injuries hidden to save jobs

WORKERS may be hiding back injuries from their employers for fear of losing their jobs, says Curtin University of Technology physiotherapy school senior ergonomics lecturer Leon Straker.

“It’s difficult to say how big this problem is but we do know there is a gap between how many people experience work-related back pain and how many report it,” he said.

Dr Straker said when organisations introduced workplace injury programs and let it be known they accepted workplace injury occurred, many injured workers came out of hiding.

“Often there’s quite a few of them,” he said.

Dr Straker said Australia had adopted a national plan for reducing manual handling injuries in 1989 and a Code of Practice in 1990.

“Since that code of practice came into effect there has been a general downturn in the number of manual handling injuries in WA,” he said.

“However, we have no evidence the decline in injury reports is due to preventative interventions.

“It is also plausible workers are reluctant to report injuries because they fear losing their jobs and a reduction of unionism has made workers feel more vulnerable.”

Dr Straker said the reduction in injury reports could also be due to an increased mechanisation of manual handling tasks and better, early and ‘at work’ management of workers with injuries.

He said manual handling injuries accounted for 30 per cent of all reported injuries and the average duration of lost time due to these injuries was greater than other injuries.

The average number of days lost with a manual handling injury was 30 for males and 42 for females – compared with 20 and 25 for non-manual handling injuries.

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