The West Australian
An ageing public workforce susceptible to trips and slips is being blamed for a 43 per cent blowout in the number of days off through workplace injury.
The latest snapshot of the WA public sector reveals government workers took 153,000 days off to recover from workplace injuries in 2011-12, up from 107,000 in 2008-09.
A worsening severity of injuries is driving the increase, with 28 per cent of workers requiring absences of more than 60 days last year compared with 22 per cent four years earlier.
WA’s public servants are on average five years older than the rest of the workforce and almost one in four is aged over 55, according to the Public Sector Commission’s State of the Sector report.
Government insurer Riskcover said a possible explanation for the worsening injuries and longer recovery times was the ageing workforce.
“Older employees are more likely to suffer an injury and in general require longer rehabilitation periods before returning to work,” a spokeswoman said. Of the 2836 injuries last financial year, the most common were soft tissue injuries such as muscle strains and back injuries (1090), followed by falls, slips and trips (676), both of which increased.
The number of workers hit by a moving object (531) and experiencing mental stress (249) both fell.
Acting Premier Kim Hames said he was concerned that people were injured in high numbers in government workplaces.
He said it was heartening that the overall proportion of public servants injured during the period dropped from 4.03 per cent to 3.87 per cent.
“Although the injuries occurring are resulting in more time off, there are fewer people experiencing workplace injury, so our strategies to reduce injury are working,” he said.
Other key findings of the report included widespread pessimism of the sector’s resilience to corruption, with 39 per cent of public servants saying they believed purchasing decisions were affected by gifts or incentives.
Seventy-six workers’ compensation claims relating to bullying and harassment in 2011-12 cost $4 million.
‘Older employees are more likely to suffer an injury and in general require