Workplaces 'not doing enough' to protect employee safety

Published 27 Oct 2014

Australian employers may need to do more to keep employees safe during the course of their duties, new research has suggested.

The University of Melbourne's Centre for Workplace Leadership revealed that nearly 130,000 workers made serious injury compensation claims between 2011 and 2012.

This is more than 12 claims per 1,000 staff, and the average time spent away from the workplace due to a major injury is 12 weeks.

Many people who suffer a severe ailment at work may encounter financial problems, as they are unable to earn money until they can return to their job. In these cases, income protection claims can help dramatically.

Income protection provides individuals with benefits, usually on a monthly basis, to ensure they remain solvent while they recover from an injury.

However, Director of the Centre for Workplace Leadership Professor Peter Gahan said businesses must focus more on providing a safe environment for employees.

"There is a strong case to be made that Australian businesses need to invest more to protect employees from accident, and to protect themselves from the costs associated with workplace injury," he explained.

"Productivity declines when poor safety means that employees are injured in and out of the office. Finding and training suitable replacements is far more expensive than reducing risks in the workplace in the first place."

Death benefits claims

According to the university's data, during the 2011-12 period, there were also 228 people who died due to accidents or injuries sustained on the job.

Not only do these fatalities often cause significant heartache to the friends and family of the deceased, the cost to businesses was estimated at up to $19 million.

When an accidental death occurs, loved ones of the individual who has passed away may be able to make a death benefits claim. This means they could receive money from the decedent's superannuation, as many accounts have specific death payments in addition to other insurance payouts. 

The Centre for Workplace Leadership's research was commissioned by Safe Work Australia, with the organisation's Acting CEO Michelle Baxter claiming it has an important message.

"This report lifts the debate from the traditional but understandable focus on the costs of workplace incidents to also recognise the benefits to business productivity of good work health and safety," she explained.

Ms Baxter advised companies to set out clear workplace health and safety protocols and ensure everyone in the company is aware of the existing rules and regulations.

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