The total cost of work-related injury, illness and disease stands at more than $60 billion, or 4.8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, a year, according to a new Safe Work Australia report.
It found that the actual cost borne by workers rises significantly with severity, with workers who are permanently incapacitated estimated to contribute, on average, over 1 million dollars in economic costs (including estimates for future income lost).
The most severe incidents account for the bulk of total costs, with work-related injury and disease cases resulting in partial or full incapacity or fatality accounting for 90 per cent of total costs from only 14 per cent total cases.
“Generally, the more severe the incident, the higher the unit and total cost associated with that incident,” said the report, The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09.
“Employers tend to bear most of the burden for minor and short-term incidents while the workers and the community bear a majority of the burden for more severe and longer-term incidents, such as full incapacity or fatality.”
The report found that more than one third of the total number of cases and total economic cost are associated with body stressing or manual handling cases, and while mental stress cases comprise 4 per cent of the total number of cases, they contribute 9 per cent of the total economic cost.
On an industry-by-industry basis, manufacturing, health and community services, construction and the retail trade had the highest rates of injury and death, while the industries with the highest cost per case were communication services ($175,200 per case), mining ($170,000 per case), finance and insurance ($157,100 per case) and electricity, gas and water supply ($147,400 per case).
While managers and administrators as well as advanced clerical workers have the highest unit cost ($670,500 and $508,200 respectively, due to their average wage level), the report found they comprise only 3 per cent of cases and 20 per cent of costs.
And while workers in the trades, intermediate production, transport and labourer sectors comprise 28 per cent of the workforce, they contribute 59 per cent of total cases and 40 per cent of total costs.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said of the report’s findings: “What we need is real change in all workplaces so people feel confident to speak up about safety issues and indeed where necessary tell the boss the bad news.”
He also noted that work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities had a huge impact on Australian society.
“This latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy,” he said.
“Workplace safety is not just about avoiding human tragedy; it is also about reducing economic cost for the nation.”