Hand injuries costing industry

The first report on hand injuries in Australian workplaces shows more than one-third of Australian companies are unaware of how much hand injuries are costing their business.

The independent research into hand injury rates, reporting and management practices in Australia found only 28 per cent of employers track hand injury costs. What’s more, just less than half of these employers (48 per cent) have a partial picture of the full cost of hand injuries.

In Safe Hands: The state of hand protection in Australia 2016 was undertaken in response to the Australian safety community’s need for benchmarking data about safety performance and best practices within the occupational health and safety (OHS) / work health and safety (WHS) industry.

A survey was carried out across 17 different industries, with the objectives to evaluate current safety practices and procedures; the measurement and rating of hand injuries; cost of hand injuries; and a review of which best practices have been implemented.

Key findings emerged as a result of the survey include:

  • 73 per cent of organisations indicated safety performance has improved year-on-year.
  • Safety leaders rated cultural initiatives as more useful or successful than technical or PPE improving safety performance.
  • 75 per cent of organisations measure lagging indicators such as LTIs (complete day or shift time loss) and MTIs (medical treatment injuries) and other lost time, while 73 per cent measure leading indicators such as training hours and near hit reports.
  • 93 per cent of organisations reported injuries to hands, with cuts (64 per cent) abrasion (44 per cent and impact (42 per cent) being the most common.

Responses clearly showed an ongoing debate between leading versus lagging indicators. Many respondents pointed to time constraints, reduced resources and cost-cutting by management as the primary challenge in managing safety.

National Safety Council of Australia Foundation general manager Jamie Burrage said it was interesting to note the value placed on an effective safety culture and employee engagement through coaching and mentoring, rather than a top-down prescriptive approach to safety at work.

“Many respondents identified the emerging new practice of mentoring to influence behavioural change as less useful. There appears to be a conflict in how senior management views the effectiveness of mentoring compared to the view of other management levels and workers,” he said.

“Mental health is identified by some as the biggest challenge for the future workforce. There is a need to examine the circular nature of ever changing workplaces and fluid work culture to gauge the cause of mental health concerns at work. Employers may also need guidance in how to enhance the resilience of workers to manage these concerns.”