Alarming statistics on young workers and compensation

Safe Work Australia has issued some important statistical reports on workplace injury statistics.  One statistic, in particular, stood out:

“…young workers aged 15 to 24 incurred much higher rates of injury than other age groups and were the least likely to apply for workers compensation”

The injury statistic is not surprising and is consistent with other data but why are young workers “least likely to apply for workers compensation”?  Are they unaware of their rights?  Do they work in a situation where claiming compensation is taboo?  Is illiteracy a deterrent?  Has their employer deterred them from applying?  Is their type of work illegal, casual, or in the black market?

SafetyAtWorkBlog asked Safe Work Australia, if not through workers compensation, how are young people funding their medical/rehabilitation costs.  A spokesperson provided the following non-age specific response:

“We are unable to provide an answer to this question as the data has not been analysed separately by age.

However, the last section of the report on workers’ compensation applications shows the various forms of financial assistance that all injured workers used.

For all injured workers, 34% received workers’ compensation, 39% did not access any financial assistance (these were mostly injuries involving no time lost from work) and the remaining 27% did access some form of assistance. Within this latter group regular sick leave was the most common.

Of the injured employees who did not access workers’ compensation, 18% used their regular sick leave, 9% accessed Medicare or other social security benefits, 7% had costs paid by their employer, 5% used other resources such as money from family and friends while 4% access private health insurance or income protection insurance.

Respondents to the survey could select more than one response to this question.”

Inverting some of these stats raises some concerns. (Please note that statistics is not the strongest skill of SafetyAtWorkBlog, so please correct any issues through the comments section below).

For all injured workers, 66% did not receive workers compensation. This should be a big red flag to OHS regulators and deserves more analysis.

Of the 66% over half  (57%) funded their injuries without recourse to health insurance, sick leave, employer contributions, support from family or friends, Medicare or social security.  Expanding the young worker question above to workers generally, how are these injured workers funding their rehabilitation from outside the regulated and social support mechanisms?

Some years ago SafetyAtWorkBlog attended an international conference on OHS.  There were many people at this Melbourne conference who spoke about the Asian and African countries where injured workers must rely on family, or other social security mechanisms, for an income, as workers’ compensation was non-existent.  This is one element of  economic integration into the Asian region that Australia should not be tolerating.

A spokesperson for Safe Work Australia told SafetyAtWorkBlog (read slowly as there are numbers involved):

“The survey estimated that 689,500 workers were injured at work during 2005-06. Of these, 625,900 were employees and hence eligible for workers’ compensation. However, 388,100 did not apply for compensation and 23,800 applied but did not receive compensation.

This means that 66% of injured employees did not receive compensation. While this equates to 60% of injured workers not receiving compensation it is not correct to use this figure as 12% of workers were not eligible for it.

Looking only at the 411 900 injured employees who did not apply for workers’ compensation

  • 75,700 accessed regular sick leave
  • 30,100 had their employer pay their costs
  • 35,500 used Medicare/social security
  • 18,200 used private health insurance/ income protection insurance, and
  • 18,700 accessed money from other sources such as family and friends.

Please note that when looking at these figures that 42% of injuries involved no time off from work and hence costs would be very small.

Analysis of additional data from the survey, that has not been included in this round of reports shows that over 60% of injured workers aged 15 to 24 felt their injury was too minor to claim or that they felt it was not necessary to claim. This is double the percentage for all workers. While this may sound like young people had more minor injuries, this is not the case. Young workers had the same proportion of injuries that involved no time off work as the workforce as a whole and the same proportion that involved longer periods of time off from work.”

The last paragraph cycles this article back to the start.

….over 60% of injured workers aged 15 to 24 felt their injury was too minor to claim or that they felt it was not necessary to claim. This is double the percentage for all workers.

There is something missing from how OHS is promoted to young workers.  The quote above indicates that young workers know about OHS but do not understand OHS.  But that’s not something that can be provided in a 30 minute TV ad, a medium that young people are increasingly less interested in.

Perhaps, we should be spending less time telling people not to stick their hands in a guillotine and more time empowering them in their workplace rights.

Kevin Jones

1 thought on “Alarming statistics on young workers and compensation”

  1. Well said Kevin,
    I have heard the last sentence spoken often – it would be good if WSV took those views on board and changed their youth targeted ads.
    Maybe something like the Canadian safety ads they are good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *