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Work shouldn’t hurt

A survey on the state of work health and safety in Australia
Occupational health and safety Public safety Working conditions Trade unions Australia
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Work shouldn’t hurt (survey report) 945.73 KB

This major survey of Australian workers and their experience of safety and injury at work shows a system which is failing to keep workers safe. While only one in every hundred workers is compensated for a workplace injury every year, our survey shows that over their lifetimes almost 80 per cent of respondents have suffered physical or mental injuries as a result of their work. Sixteen per cent know someone who has died at work or from an illness caused by their work.

The survey shows that psychological workplace hazards are under-regulated and consequently under-recognised but just as dangerous as physical ones. 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.

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.

Key findings:

  • 78% of respondents had been physically or psychologically injured or ill as a result of their work;
  • 78% of respondents knew someone who had been seriously injured or ill as a result of their work;
  • 16% of respondents knew someone who was killed at work, or died from a work-related disease;
  • In the last 12 months 47% of respondents were exposed to traumatic events, distressing situations or distressed or aggressive clients/customers;
  • 66% of respondents experienced high workloads;
  • 31% of respondents had experienced occupational violence (abuse, threats, or assault at work by clients, customers, the public, or co-workers).
  • 61% said they has experienced poor mental health because their employer or workplace had failed to manage of address these poor work conditions;
  • 91% of people did not make a workers’ compensation claims in relation to this poor mental health;
  • Of the 9% that did, only a third of them were approved;
  • 55% said they were aware of existing conditions in their workplace that could cause serious injury or illness if not addressed.
  • 80% said the penalties were not significant enough to make employers or companies take safety seriously;
  • 91% said employers or companies who cause the death of a worker through gross negligence should face serious jail time (up to 20 years);
  • 98% of respondents said they believed unions had a role in work health and safety;
  • 91% said unions should be able to immediately enter workplaces to address health and safety issues;
  • 97% said unions should be able to take employers and companies that break health and safety laws to court;
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