White Paper (Briefing Note) in Word format
A brief on work ergonomics to:
Member of Parliament
Workplace related stress and injuries not only impact negatively on the productivity of workers and but also result into financial burdens on organizations and families. Different workplace factors have been found to contribute workplace stress and injuries including workplace design, demands to undertake tasks beyond and individual’s skills and capacity, excessive work, lifting of heavy materials, psychological stressors, and relationship related stressors such as bullying and harassment (CDC, 2015). Therefore, implementation of an ergonometric policy requirement for all working environments provides an opportunity to address not only costs related implications of poor workplace conditions but also address the health and economic implications of workplace stress and injuries on individuals and families.
Current statistics in Australia show that about 131,170 workers claimed compensation from various organizations for devastating work-related injuries and illnesses in the 2009-10. In the period 2010-11, a survey indicated that 127, 330 serious workers compensation claims in the country, thus depicting a worrying trend in the country (Safe Work Australia, 2013). It important to note that the reported claims only account for serious injuries and does not include initial level injuries and stress suffered daily by workers in their workplace. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report on work related injury indicated that about of 58 of every 1000 workers experienced work related injuries or illnesses (Safe Work Australia, 2013).. In addition, it is estimated that 1.93 deaths out of 100,000 workers occur each year from work-related injuries or illnesses. However, little has been done to prevent or minimize such injuries.
In Australia, much focus has been directed towards ensuring enactment of legislations to ensure compensation of workers but with little focus on prevention of the work related stress and injuries from occurring. Some of the musculoskeletal injuries sustained in workplaces leave workers with devastating effects including endless pain, discomfort, and deformity, which affect their quality of life (McPhee, 2005). Such cannot be compensated through monetary value. In addition, organizations not only incur monetary losses associated with workplace related injuries and disabilities but suffer from immeasurable loss in productivity. Acute ergonomic injuries result into workers not being able to complete their task or taking long to complete tasks thus undermining efficiency and effectiveness in organizations. The Australian legal system like other jurisdictions such as United States has done exemplary well in recognizing the need for sufficient compensation of personal injury arising the course of work but needs to do more to ensure organizations implement ergonometric programs aimed at reducing the occurrence of such injuries and associated stress (Medibank Private, 2008).
As such, the legislative house through its members should establish a law that not only ensure compensation of workers but also include a requirement for all organizations to have approved workplace ergonometric designs. This can be achieved through introduction of an amendment to the existing laws on workplace safety to compel all establishments to undergo ergonometric design assessment and approval before commencement of any activity in such organizations (WorkSafe Victoria, 2005). The new requirements should also stipulate frequent or bi-annual assessment of all organizations to ensure that they meet minimum requirements needed to minimize workplace related stress and injuries. However, full compliance with the ergonomic requirements in workplaces would require establishment of a committee to look into the issue of ergonometric, make recommendations, and pave the way for experts to establish minimum standards that different organizations should adhere to depending on the nature of their operations.
With previous attempts to limit the extent to which employees or workers can attach liability, seek compensation for work-related injuries, and stress, the need preventive approach cannot be overemphasized. In the 1990’s stakeholders pushed for reforms in the compensation provisions, which successfully excluded claim through exclusionary provisions for stress-related claims (Guthrie, Ciccarelli & Babic, 2010). It is important therefore for the legislators to defend innocent workers by ensuring establishment of legislation to compel organizational owners or stakeholders to ensure workplace’s designs that minimize workplace related stress and injuries.
In this regard, it is recommended that an amendment bill should be drafted and proper advocacy conducted among the legislators to sensitize them on the importance of preventing workplace stress and injuries through implementation of ergonometric programs in all organizations. This would ensure that organizations ensure appropriate ergonometric designs for the different organizations in order to prevent workplace injuries and stress. The new policy change will shift the focus away from just compensation and attempts to reduce costs and losses associated with reduced productivity. Legislators should start to see the long-term implications and the far-reaching effects of workplace injuries and stress.
CDC. (2015). Ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ergonomics/
Guthrie, R., Ciccarelli, M & Babic, A. (2010). Work-related stress in Australia: The effects of legislative interventions and the cost of treatment. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 33, 101-115.
McPhee, B. (2005). Practical Ergonomics: Application of Ergonomic principles in the workplace. Coal Services Health and Safety Trust. Retrieved from http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/guidance-by-industry/extractives/documents-images/practical-ergonomics.pdf
Medibank Private. (2008). The cost of workplace stress in Australia. Retrieved from http://www.medibank.com.au/client/documents/pdfs/the-cost-of-workplace-stress.pdf
Safe Work Australia. (2013). Key work health and safety statistics, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/758/Key-WHS-Statistics-2013.pdf
WorkSafe Victoria. (2005). Officewise-A guide to health & safety in the office. WorkSafe. Retrieved from https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/3634/Officewise_web.pdf