Workplace injuries in the Australian allied health workforce Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Objective This study aims to identify the number, costs and reported injury mechanisms of serious injury claims for allied health professionals.Methods Using Australian Workers' Compensation injury data, the number, mechanism, and costs of injury claims were calculated for eight groups of allied health professions (chiropractors and osteopaths, speech pathologists and audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, podiatrists, social workers and prosthetists/orthotists) between the 2000-01 and 2013-14 financial years. Workforce injury rates were calculated using the 2011 Australian Census Workforce data (denominator) and 2011 Workers' Compensation Statistics claims data (numerator).Results Across the allied health professions, 7023 serious injuries (minimum 5 days absence from work) were recorded with an associated total compensation cost of A$201970000. Fewer than 1.5% of each allied health professional group had an injury claim, with the exception of prosthetists/orthotists who had a rate of 25.9% serious injury claims (95% confidence interval 21.9-30.4). The average cost per claim varied across the allied health professions, from the lowest cost of A$19091 per injury for occupational therapists to the highest of A$48466 per claim in chiropractic and osteopathy. Body stressing followed by mental stress were the most common mechanisms of injury.Conclusions Mechanism of injury, both physical and psychosocial, were identified. Prosthetists/orthotists are at the highest risk of workplace injury of all allied health professions. This suggests the need for further investigation and development of appropriately targeted injury prevention programs for each allied health profession.What is known about this topic? Retention of allied health professionals is a significant issue, with workplace injuries identified as one contributing factor to this problem. Healthcare workers are potentially at high risk of injury as they are exposed to a range of physical and psychosocial hazards in their workplace.What does this paper add? This paper is the first to report on serious injuries, minimum 5 days absence from work, from Australian Workers' Compensation data, across a range of allied health professions. Various allied health professions were examined to identify the number, mechanism and cost of serious workplace injuries finding there is an average of 500 serious claims per year at a cost of A$14million. Prosthetists/orthotists were identified as having the highest proportion of claims per workforce population.What are the implications for practitioners? These results suggest highly varied injury rates across allied health professions. Compensation data does not enable accurate identification of causal factors. Further work is required to identify relevant causal factors so that targeted risk reduction strategies can be developed to reduce workforce injuries.

publication date

  • 2017