Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in early November 2011 has revealed that 18.5% of people injured at work in 2009-10 received no OHS training prior to the incident.
The basic findings of the 2009-10 data are not all new as a December 2010 media release shows but the new report, “6324.0 – Work-Related Injuries, Australia, 2009-10” does include new data on OHS training.
“82% (522,400) had received occupational health and safety training in the job prior to their work-related injury or illness occurring…”
and that 18.5% did not.
A legitimate question is “what is meant by occupational health and safety training?” Table 13 includes these categories
“Received training in OH&S risks
- As part of a process to obtain licence/qualification
- As part of induction training
- Refresher/on-going training
- Included demonstration of safe procedures
- Involved workplace assessments
- Other OH&S training”
The efficacy of this training, or whether there is a direct cause and effect, is difficult to determine from this statistical report.
One of the downsides of this type of statistical report is that over-reliance may encourage OHS regulators to pursue a strategy that does not reflect the reality. For instance, the ABS report states that
“Sprains/strains were also the most commonly reported work-related injury or illness sustained across the majority of industries, followed by cuts/open wounds and chronic joint or muscle conditions…”
but England’s Trade Union Congress in February 2011 that workplace stress is
“now by far the most common health and safety problem at work.”
Certainly trade union surveys are not representative of the national population but they should be considered in the development of a suitable safety management program for specific industries or workplaces in the future.
With any OHS statistics there are major equivocations on the validity of the statistics but the ABS should be best placed to minimise variations and vagaries. One of the major benefits of ABS statistics is that background data is readily downloadable in Excel or Winzip format, as are relatively simple explanatory notes.
The summary in the new “full” report paraphrases the 2010 data release:
“Of the 12 million people who had worked at some time in the last 12 months, 5.3% experienced a work-related injury or illness during that same period. The majority (88%) of the 640,700 people who experienced a work-related injury or illness continued to work in the job where their injury or illness occurred. Approximately 5.2% had changed jobs and the remaining 6.9% were not employed in the reference week.
More than half of people who experienced a work-related injury or illness were men (55.6%). This can be partly attributed to the nature of their work and to the fact that a larger proportion of those who worked at some time in the last 12 months were men (54%). However, even after this factor is removed, men were still more likely than women to experience a work-related injury or illness. In 2009-10, 5.5% of men who worked in the last 12 months experienced a work-related injury or illness, down from 7.4% in 2005-06. The proportion of women who experienced a work-related injury or illness in the last 12 months was the same as 2005-06, at 5.1%.”
The production of work-related injury statistics is very important but they require translation in order to be relevant to the real world and in order to provide some guidance on what type of interventions work best. The ABS report provides the data for others to interpret. Let’s hope someone does soon.