Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Workplace injuries in the Australian allied health workforce

Sarah Anderson A C , Rwth Stuckey A , Lauren V Fortington B and Jodi Oakman A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Bundoora Vic. 3086, Australia. Email: r.stuckey@latrobe.edu.au; j.oakman@latrobe.edu.au

B Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention, Federation University Australia, SMB Campus Ballarat, Vic. 3350, Australia. Email: l.fortington@federation.edu.au

C Corresponding author. Email: sarah.anderson@latrobe.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16173
Submitted: 9 August 2016  Accepted: 22 July 2017   Published online: 5 September 2017

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$201 970 000. 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$19 091 per injury for occupational therapists to the highest of A$48 466 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$14 million. 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.


References

[1]  Somerville L, Davis A, Elliott AL, Terrill D, Austin N, Philip K. Building allied health workforce capacity: a strategic approach to workforce innovation. Aust Health Rev 2015; 39 264–70.
Building allied health workforce capacity: a strategic approach to workforce innovation.CrossRef |

[2]  Schofield T. Gendered organizational dynamics. The elephant in the room for Australian Allied Health Workforce policy and planning? J Sociol 2009; 45 383–400.
Gendered organizational dynamics. The elephant in the room for Australian Allied Health Workforce policy and planning?CrossRef |

[3]  Philip K. Allied health: untapped potential in the Australian health system. Aust Health Rev 2015; 39 244–7.
Allied health: untapped potential in the Australian health system.CrossRef |

[4]  O’Toole K, Schoo A, Hernan A. Why did they leave and what can they tell us? Allied health professionals leaving rural settings. Aust Health Rev 2010; 34 66–72.
Why did they leave and what can they tell us? Allied health professionals leaving rural settings.CrossRef |

[5]  Anderson SP, Oakman J. Allied health professionals and work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review. Saf Health Work 2016; 7 259–267.
Allied health professionals and work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review.CrossRef |

[6]  Anderson S, Stuckey R, Oakman JR. Prosthetists’ and orthotists’ experience of their work and workspace – characterising the physical and organisational environment: focus group findings. Prosthet Orthot Int 2016; 40 703–712.
Prosthetists’ and orthotists’ experience of their work and workspace – characterising the physical and organisational environment: focus group findings.CrossRef |

[7]  Safe Work Australia. The cost of work-related injury and illness for Australian employers, workers and the community: 2008–09. 2012. Available at: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/660/Cost%20of%20Work-related%20injury%20and%20disease.pdf [verified 21 August 2016].

[8]  Safe Work Australia. Health and community services: health fact sheet. 2011. Available at: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/17/Health-Fact-Sheet-2011-12.pdf [verified 21 August 2016].

[9]  Cromie JE, Robertson VJ, Best MO. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in physical therapists: prevalence, severity, risks, and responses. Phys Ther 2000; 80 336–51.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in physical therapists: prevalence, severity, risks, and responses.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BD3c3itlOjsA%3D%3D&md5=ad9c8bcbf08a47351695033841db48deCAS |

[10]  Macdonald W, Evans O. Research on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders Stage 1: literature review. 2006. Available at: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/512/Research_Prevention_Workrelated_Musculoskeletal_Disorders_ Stage_1_Literature_review.pdf.[Accessed 23 Feb 2015].

[11]  Safe Work Australia. Australian work health and safety strategy 2012–2022. n.d. Available at: https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/uploaded_files/Australian-WHS-Strategy-2012-2022.pdf [verified 21 August 2016].

[12]  Dawson AP, McLennan SN, Schiller SD, Jull GA, Hodges PW, Stewart S. Interventions to prevent back pain and back injury in nurses: a systematic review. Occup Environ Med 2007; 64 642–50.
Interventions to prevent back pain and back injury in nurses: a systematic review.CrossRef |

[13]  Gropelli TM, Corle K. Nurses’ and therapists experiences with occupational musculoskeletal injuries. AAOHN J 2010; 58 159–66.
Nurses’ and therapists experiences with occupational musculoskeletal injuries.CrossRef |

[14]  Mandy A, Tinley P. Burnout and occupational stress in Australian podiatrists. Australasian Journal of Podiatric Medicine 2002; 36 101–8.

[15]  Black CD and Frost D. Health at work-an independent review of sickness absence. London: UK Department for Wok and Pensions; 2011. Available at: http://www.wellworkingmatters.co.uk/images/resources/health-at-work.pdf [verified 6 August 2017].

[16]  Glover W, McGregor A, Sullivan C, Hague J. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders affecting members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. J Physiother 2005; 91 138–47.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders affecting members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.CrossRef |

[17]  Grooten WJA, Wernstedt P, Campo M. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in female Swedish physical therapists with more than 15 years of job experience: prevalence and associations with work exposures. Physiother Theory Pract 2011; 27 213–22.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in female Swedish physical therapists with more than 15 years of job experience: prevalence and associations with work exposures.CrossRef |

[18]  Gropelli T, Corle K. Assessment of nurses’ and therapists’ occupational musculoskeletal injuries. Medsurg Nurs 2011; 20 297–303, quiz 4.

[19]  Vieira ER, Svoboda S, Belniak A, Brunt D, Rose-St Prix C, Roberts L, da Costa BR. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among physical therapists: an online survey. Disabil Rehabil 2016; 38 552–557.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among physical therapists: an online survey.CrossRef |

[20]  Ulrich C, O’Donnell P, Taylor C, Farrar A, Danis M, Grady C. Ethical climate, ethics stress, and the job satisfaction of nurses and social workers in the United States. Soc Sci Med 2007; 65 1708–19.
Ethical climate, ethics stress, and the job satisfaction of nurses and social workers in the United States.CrossRef |

[21]  Safe Work Australia. Workers’ Compensation data. Available at: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/statistics/workers-compensation-data/pages/wc-data [verified 21st August 2016].

[22]  Australian Bureau of Statistics. Labour Statistics: concepts, sources and methods, 2013. 2013. Available at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/6102.0.55.001Chapter252013 [verified 1st May 2017].

[23]  Australian Bureau of Statistics. How Australia takes a census, 2011. 2011. Available at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/lookup/2903.0Main%20Features112011 [verified 21 August 2016].

[24]  Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA). About AHPA. 2013. Available at: http://www.ahpa.com.au/Home/aboutAHPA/BenefitsofMembership/CurrentMembership.aspx [verified 12 July 2016].

[25]  Santos MC, Barros L, Carolino E. Occupational stress and coping resources in physiotherapists: a survey of physiotherapists in three general hospitals. Physiotherapy 2010; 96 303–10.
Occupational stress and coping resources in physiotherapists: a survey of physiotherapists in three general hospitals.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BC3cblsVKktA%3D%3D&md5=7c8847ad4c8f4f6a4aded8a66a2646b7CAS |

[26]  Hignett S, Carayon P, Buckle P, Catchpole K. State of science: human factors and ergonomics in healthcare. Ergonomics 2013; 56 1491–503.
State of science: human factors and ergonomics in healthcare.CrossRef |

[27]  Oakman J, Chan S. Risk management: where should we target strategies to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders? Saf Sci 2015; 73 99–105.
Risk management: where should we target strategies to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders?CrossRef |

[28]  Oakman J, Macdonald W, Wells Y. Developing a comprehensive approach to risk management of musculoskeletal disorders in non-nursing health care sector employees. Appl Ergon 2014; 45 1634–40.
Developing a comprehensive approach to risk management of musculoskeletal disorders in non-nursing health care sector employees.CrossRef |

[29]  Hignett S. Intervention strategies to reduce musculoskeletal injuries associated with handling patients: a systematic review. Occup Environ Med 2003; 60 6e
Intervention strategies to reduce musculoskeletal injuries associated with handling patients: a systematic review.CrossRef |

[30]  Alnaser MZ. Psychosocial issues of work-related musculoskeletal injuries and adaptation: a phenomenological study. Work 2009; 32 123–32.

[31]  Ridgewell E, Dillon M, O’Connor J, Anderson S, Clarke L. Demographics of the Australian orthotic/prosthetic workforce 2007–12. Aust Health Rev 2016; 40 555–561.
Demographics of the Australian orthotic/prosthetic workforce 2007–12.CrossRef |

[32]  Lizarondo L, Turnbull C, Kroon T, Grimmer K, Bell A, Kumar S, McEvoy M, Milanese S, Russell M, Sheppard L, Walters J, Wiles L. Allied health: integral to transforming health. Aust Health Rev 2016; 40 194–204.
Allied health: integral to transforming health.CrossRef |

[33]  Duckett SJ. Health workforce design for the 21st century. Aust Health Rev 2005; 29 201–10.
Health workforce design for the 21st century.CrossRef |

[34]  Stuckey R, Lamontagne AD. Occupational light-vehicle use and OHS legislative frameworks: an Australian example. Int J Occup Environ Health 2005; 11 167–79.
Occupational light-vehicle use and OHS legislative frameworks: an Australian example.CrossRef |

[35]  Azaroff LS, Levenstein C, Wegman DH. Occupational injury and illness surveillance: conceptual filters explain underreporting. Am J Public Health 2002; 92 1421–9.
Occupational injury and illness surveillance: conceptual filters explain underreporting.CrossRef |

[36]  Safe Work Australia. Work-related injuries in Australia 2005–06. Factors affecting applications for workers’ compensation. 2009. Available at: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/426/Work_Related_Injuries_2005_06_factors_affecting_application_WC.pdf [verified 21 August 2016].

[37]  Rodger S, Webb G, Devitt L, Gilbert J, Wrightson P, McMeeken J. A clinical education and practice placements in the allied health professions: an international perspective. J Allied Health 2008; 37 53–62.



Export Citation