40,000 work years lost to illness each year

40,000 work years lost each year to workplace illness - Newsreel
New research shows more than 40,000 work years are lost each year in Australia due to work-related injury and illness. | Photo: New Saetiew (iStock)

Australia is losing more than 40,000 “work years” each year as a result of work-related injury, disease and mental health conditions.

A new “Working Years Lost” metric, developed by researchers at Monash University , has cast new light on the burden of workplace health issues.

Professor Alex Collie from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine said normally work-related injury and disease was tracked by counting the number of people making compensation claims or the amount of time they spent off work.

“This new measure combines those two concepts and presents it as something more meaningful, which can be summarised as the number of people off work for a full year,” he said.

“The impact of some types of injury and disease are more accurately represented in this new metric.

“For instance, mental health conditions have a much higher percentage of working years lost than of workers’ compensation claims. This is because we take the long time off work for each mental health claim…whereas simply counting claims does not do this.”

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found 41,194 work years were lost annually due to work-related injury, disease and mental health conditions.

This effectively meant the loss of more than 41,000 jobs out of the economy.

The study was based on workers’ compensation claims and wage replacement benefits for time off work, lodged between July 2012 and June 2017.

Male workers accounted for 61.6 percent of the lost time. Traumatic injury resulted in 40 percent of the lost years, followed by musculoskeletal disorders 20.7 percent and mental health conditions 13 percent.

 “The distribution of burden reflects the higher labour force participation of males, slower rehabilitation in older workers, and the relative impact of common occupational injuries and diseases,” Professor Collie said.

“Effective occupational health surveillance, policy development and resource allocation will benefit from population-based monitoring of working time loss.”