What’s Causing Workplace Injuries and Diseases?

We took a look at the stats and uncovered 'body stresses' as the most common cause of workplace injuries and diseases.

Be careful of lifting heavy objects and watch your step during working hours. According to Safework Australia's latest workers compensation statistics, 'body stresses' accounted for 41.70% of total claims. This is followed by falls, trips and slips (22.4%) and being hit by moving objects (14.8%).

Reason for injury or disease Claims Percentage of total claims
1. Body stresses 44,400 41.70%
2. Falls, trips and slips 23,825 22.40%
3. Being hit by moving objects 15,730 14.80%
4. Hitting inanimate objects with parts of your own body 7,560 7.10%
5. Vehicles 6,620 6.20%
6. Heat, electricity and the environment 1,520 1.40%
7. Chemicals and substance accidents 885 0.80%
8. Accidents from biological factors 340 0.30%

FLI - workplace injuries infographic (1)

Source: Safework Australia

Top 8 causes of injuries and diseases in the Workplace

1. Body stresses

In its 2013–2014 report on Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics*, Safe Work Australia found that the leading cause of injuries in the workplace is body stressing.The findings show that there were 44,400 instances of body stressing reported in the workplace during the 2013-2014 period. This is almost twice the amount of falls, trips and slips reported, which is the next leading cause for claims.

This condition describes muscular stress that can involve lifting or carrying objects.

2. Falls, trips and slips

There were 23,825 reported incidents of workplace falls, trips and slips, the majority of which were caused by environmental features such as steps and traffic areas.

These three occurrences can be defined as follows:

  • Falls result from slipping or tripping or falling from low heights such as steps, stairs and curbs or into a hole, ditch or body of water.
  • Slips result from losing traction due to wearing inappropriate footwear or walking on slippery floor surfaces.
  • Trips result from catching your foot on an object or surface such as uneven flooring, loose mats or electrical cables.

3. Being hit by moving objects

The third leading cause of workplace injuries is being hit by moving objects. This includes falling objects, moving machinery and equipment, and being assaulted by another person or persons. There were 15,730 reported incidents in the findings, and more than a quarter of these involved animals, humans or biological agencies.

4. Hitting inanimate objects with parts of your own body

The next biggest cause of injuries is hitting objects with a part of the body. This includes injuries resulting from hitting, grasping or otherwise striking an object. Over 7,500 such cases were reported, nearly half of which involved non-powered hand tools, appliances and equipment.

5. Vehicles accidents

A total of 6,620 vehicle-related incidents were reported between 2013 and 2014. Of these, more than half were attributed to animal, human and biological causes.

Vehicle incidents make up the next highest number of injuries that occur in the workplace and fleet vehicles have been shown through research to have a higher rate of involvement in crashes per year than non-fleet vehicles**.

6. Heat, electricity and the environment

There were 1,520 incidents relating to heat, electricity and the environment, nearly half of which involved contact with materials and substances. Injuries in this category can occur in the following ways:

  • Heat-related illnesses such as fatigue and hypothermia can arise when working in high temperatures, high sunlight and/or high humidity.
  • Electrical shocks and other injuries can result from contact with exposed wires, electrified surfaces and faulty electrical equipment.
  • Environmental injuries can be caused by anything in the physical working environment such as lighting, ventilation and plant and machinery.

7. Chemicals and substance accidents

There were 885 reported cases of injuries due to chemicals and other substances. Just under half of these related to chemicals and chemical products.

Chemical hazards can include:

  • Health hazards: acute or chronic adverse health effects due to exposure to chemicals through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
  • Physicochemical hazards: injuries that are often caused by inappropriate handling or use of flammable, corrosive, explosive or reactive chemicals.

8. Accidents from biological factors

There were 340 workplace incidents involving biological factors reported, the majority caused by animal, human and biological agencies.

Biological hazards are organic substances that pose a threat to human health. They include pathogenic microorganisms, viruses, toxins, spores, fungi and bio-active substances.

Workers most at risk from biological hazards include laboratory workers, healthcare professionals, sanitary workers and those involved with certain industrial processes.

Most common injury and disease claims in the workplace

Type Injury or disease? Male Female Total
Traumatic joint, ligament, muscle or tendon injuries Injury 29,915 18,010 47,925
Musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases Disease 9,630 6,835 16,470
Wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage Injury 11,755 4,140 15,895
Fractures Injury 6,760 3,175 9,935
Mental disorders Disease 2,635 3,560 6,195
Digestive system diseases Disease 2,330 160 2,490
Burn Injury 1,055 605 1,660
Nervous system and sense organ diseases Disease 595 555 1,145
Intracranial injuries Injury 295 225 515
Skin and subcutaneous tissue diseases Disease 325 140 465
Infectious and parasitic diseases Disease 125 110 235
Respiratory system diseases Disease 55 145 200
Injury to nerves and spinal cord Injury 125 60 185
Circulatory system diseases Disease 60 25 85
Neoplasms (cancer) Disease 30 n/a 30

Source: Safework Australia

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Maurice Thach

An insurance researcher and writer for who loves finding an answer to the question "Am I covered for ________?" Maurice has also completed a Tier 1 Life Insurance and a Tier 2 General Insurance Certification under ASIC's Regulatory Guide 146. This means he can confidently provide general advice for life insurance and non-life insurance products.

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