A report by Safe Work Australia has found that Musculoskeletal disorders and injuries accounted for 60% of all serious claims between 2009 to 2014, making it a priority disorder in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022.
The median time off work for people with a serious MSD claim increased by 35%, according to the report. Compensation for claims also increased significantly.
MSD injuries range from soft tissue disorders, muscle or tendon trauma, and joints or ligaments trauma.
The report breaks down the statistics for injuries by occupation, identifying a critical need for companies to be more aware of the risks that can lead to MSDs. Understandably, labourers made up the highest percentage (24%) of serious claims, however Community & Personal Service workers, machine operators and drivers also had a high frequency of MSD related injuries. In terms of industries, the Healthcare and Social Assistance industries ranked as having the most serious MSD claims.
How can your company prevent MSD injuries from occurring?
In any physical task, there is a risk of injury. So it’s important to have a formalised procedure for how tasks can be completed safely, particularly tasks that have the potential for major injury. For example, are there certain tasks that require more than one person? What PPE should be used or worn when carrying out the task? Procedures cannot be formalised unless they are defined and documented, which brings us to the next crucial step in the prevention of MSD and other injuries.
Once you have your formalised procedures documented, the next step is to formally induct any staff member who could be involved in the task. A formal induction needs to go far beyond the old, outdated training video or the practise of simply putting a manual on someone’s desk. New staff need to undergo thorough, well-documented inductions where they have the opportunity to learn from senior staff members and ask questions.
Once inducted, ongoing training of all staff needs to occur regularly so that bad habits are not formed. It is natural for people to find shortcuts once they become comfortable with a task, but this is when injury is most likely to occur. Complacency, over-confidence and demanding workloads also cause people to forget or change formalised procedures. Ongoing training will emphasise the importance of adhering to the procedures and
Culture of Honesty - speaking up when you need help, warning others if you see them doing something harmful or unsafe, reporting to management if you see potential risks/hazards, communicating with teams to ensure they keep safety top of mind.