Workers’ compensation claims for mental health on the rise

Workers’ compensation claims for mental health on the rise

There were 120,355 serious workers’ compensation claims in 2019-2020 according to a new Safe Work Australia report, which found that 31 per cent of serious claims were for illness and diseases – and of these, mental health conditions were the most common.

The Australian workers’ compensation statistics 2019-20 report from Safework Australia found that three industries accounted for 43 per cent of all serious claims: health care and social assistance industry (18 per cent), followed by construction (13 per cent) and manufacturing (12 per cent).

Furthermore, agriculture, forestry and fishing had the highest frequency rate of any industry (9.6 serious claims per million hours worked), followed by manufacturing (9.1), transport, postal and warehousing (8.9), health care and social assistance (8.6) and construction (8.5).

Within the broader agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, the agriculture industry sub-division accounted for 75 per cent of serious claims in 2019-20, with 8.5 serious claims per million hours worked and 16.9 serious claims per 1000 employees.

And within the broader transport, postal and warehousing industry, the road transport industry sub-division accounted for nearly half of all serious claims with 10.7 serious claims per million hours worked and 20.6 claims per 1,000 employees.

The industries with the lowest frequency rates were financial and insurance services (0.8 serious claims per million hours worked), professional, scientific and technical services (1.2), and information media and telecommunications (1.4).

Overall, the median time lost for a serious claim was seven working weeks while the median compensation paid was $14,500.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry recorded the highest frequency rate for injury and musculoskeletal disorders (9.0 serious claims per million hours worked), almost twice the average for all industries (5.3).

The public administration and safety industry recorded the highest frequency rate for diseases (1.8), more than twice the all industry average (0.8). Most disease claims (88 per cent) in this industry related to mental health conditions.

Overall, the three occupations with the highest frequency rate of serious claims were labourers, community and personal service workers, and machinery operators and drivers.

The report found 69 per cent of serious claims were for injuries, and the three most common injury types were: traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries (38 per cent of all serious claims), followed by musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases (18 per cent) and wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage (16 per cent).

The report also found male employees accounted for 63 per cent of serious claims and 58 per cent of hours worked, while female employees accounted for 37 per cent of serious claims and 42 per cent of hours worked.

Further, there was a larger difference between males and females in the incidence rate (serious claims per 1,000 employees) than the frequency rate of serious claims (serious claims per million hours worked).

This reflects the higher prevalence of part-time work among females. Both rates show that male employees were more likely than female employees to have a serious claim.

A higher percentage of male employees’ serious claims arose from injury and musculoskeletal disorders (89 per cent compared with 83 per cent for female employees). A higher percentage of female employees’ serious claims arose from diseases (17 per cent compared with 11 per cent for male employees).

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This article was written by the ASWA Wellness Solutions Team. We are a talented team of qualified wellness leaders, trainers, mentors and advocates with real life and relevant leadership experience and a common passion for integrating wellness into lives and workplaces.