Phys­i­cal in­jury risk blights trans­port

Trans­port work­ers are five times more likely to be in­jured than other Aus­tralian work­ers, a Lin­fox-funded study shows

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PHYS­I­CAL IN­JURIES around trans­port ve­hi­cles and men­tal im­pacts driv­ing trains are heavy costs to the work­force and in­dus­try, a new re­port finds.

Find­ings from the Lin­fox-funded Monash Uni­ver­sity study, by the lat­ter’s In­sur­ance Work and Health Group, finds trans­port work­ers are up to five times more likely to be in­jured at work than any other Aus­tralian worker, with rail driv­ers 30 times more likely to de­velop a men­tal health con­di­tion than any other worker.

The high in­jury rate will come as no sur­prise on the face of it, given trans­port and lo­gis­tics is the sec­ond-high­est ranked in­dus­try for work­place fa­tal­i­ties. But it will raise ques­tions about how far ahead the rate is against pri­mary in­dus­tries, which have the high­est fa­tal­ity rate. There is also likely to be huge dis­quiet at is­sues re­lated to rail.

The find­ings are in the first re­port of the Na­tional Trans­port In­dus­try Health and Well­be­ing Study. Lin­fox Lo­gis­tics part­nered with Monash and the Trans­port Work­ers Union (TWU) to sup­port the re­search, which forms part of a de­tailed na­tional study in­ves­ti­gat­ing the health of work­ers in the trans­port in­dus­try.

“This study forms part of our on­go­ing work to de­velop proac­tive strate­gies that em­power our peo­ple to look af­ter them­selves and each other,” Lin­fox Lo­gis­tics gen­eral man­ager of HR Lau­ren Pem­ber­ton says.

“Gain­ing deeper in­sights into com­mon risk fac­tors will al­low us to re­fine our strate­gies and help shape the fu­ture health of our in­dus­try.”

Alex Col­lie, pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the In­sur­ance Work and Health Group at Monash Uni­ver­sity, sees trans­port work­ers be­ing sub­ject to a unique set of health risks in their work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing seden­tary jobs, long work­ing hours and shift work, iso­la­tion, fa­tigue and sleep de­pri­va­tion, among oth­ers.

“This study presents a na­tional pic­ture of the health of peo­ple work­ing in the trans­port and lo­gis­tics in­dus­try,” Col­lie says. “Prior stud­ies have fo­cused on safety and on spe­cific groups of work­ers.

“We used a large and de­tailed na­tional data­base of work in­jury claims to ex­am­ine a range of dif­fer­ent in­juries and dis­eases that af­fect work­ers across the whole in­dus­try.

“Our ul­ti­mate aim is to de­velop pro­grams and ser­vices that can pre­vent ill­ness and in­jury in the trans­port sec­tor, and help peo­ple re­cover and re­turn to work when they be­come sick.”

There are strong links be­tween peo­ple’s health and their abil­ity to work, Col­lie adds, so un­der­stand­ing and im­prov­ing the health of an in­dus­try which em­ploys 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple is im­por­tant for the work­ers, their em­ploy­ers and the Aus­tralian econ­omy.

Chronic fa­tigue

TWU na­tional as­sis­tant sec­re­tary Michael Kaine says the re­port’s find­ings show that the “pres­sures on trans­port work­ers, in­clud­ing long hours away from fam­ily, chronic fa­tigue and the stresses of meet­ing dead­lines are clearly tak­ing their toll.

“It should serve as yet an­other ex­am­ple of the need for a check on the trans­port sup­ply chain, to en­sure that the ma­jor clients at the top are be­ing held to ac­count for the pres­sure they ex­ert on the in­dus­try and its work­force.”

The re­port finds that of the 3.5 mil­lion to­tal ac­cepted work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claims in Aus­tralia dur­ing 2004-2015, 249,000, or 7.2 per cent, were from peo­ple em­ployed in the ‘trans­port, postal and ware­hous­ing’ in­dus­try.

Truck driv­ers ac­counted for more than 120,000, in­clud­ing nearly 60,000 from driv­ers em­ployed in in­dus­tries other than trans­port. De­liv­ery driv­ers, bus driv­ers and rail driv­ers were other sub­stan­tial oc­cu­pa­tional groups, in ad­di­tion to work­ers in non-driv­ing oc­cu­pa­tions, a to­tal 151,000 claims.

The rate of claims was up to five times higher in trans­port worker groups than in other work­ers.

Rail driv­ers recorded a rate of 99 claims for every 1,000 work­ers per year, fol­lowed by truck driv­ers at 70.3 per 1,000 work­ers per year. This com­pares to a rate of 21.2 for all other work­ers.

Frac­ture risk

Mus­cu­loskele­tal con­di­tions were the most com­mon in all of the trans­port worker groups. De­liv­ery driv­ers and bus driv­ers had the high­est pro­por­tion of mus­cu­loskele­tal con­di­tion claims.

Truck driv­ers have the high­est rel­a­tive risk of frac­ture, with an in­ci­dence about 380 per cent higher than all other work­ers.

Rail driv­ers were at a 33-fold greater risk of making a work­ers com­pen­sa­tion claim for a men­tal health con­di­tion than other work­ers. Ve­hi­cle in­ci­dents ac­counted for be­tween 6 per cent and 23 per cent of claims de­pend­ing on oc­cu­pa­tion.

More com­mon mech­a­nisms of in­jury and ill­ness were mus­cu­loskele­tal stress, or body stress­ing, falls and trips, and be­ing hit by ob­jects. There was wide vari­a­tion in du­ra­tion of time loss to in­jury and ill­ness be­tween oc­cu­pa­tion cat­e­gories.

The long­est du­ra­tion was in au­to­mo­bile driv­ers at 24 work­ing days per claim, fol­lowed by truck driv­ers at 17 work­ing days, and then de­liv­ery driv­ers. The oc­cu­pa­tion with the short­est du­ra­tion of time lost was rail driv­ers at six work­ing days.

“These data demon­strate that work­ers in the trans­port sec­tor are at in­creased risk of work-re­lated in­jury and dis­ease than work­ers in other oc­cu­pa­tions,” the re­port states.

“Some groups of trans­port work­ers have sub­stan­tially longer pe­ri­ods of time off work af­ter in­jury than work­ers in other oc­cu­pa­tions. The find­ings pro­vide in­sights that can sup­port in­jury and ill­ness pre­ven­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­turn to work pro­grams in the in­dus­try.

“For ex­am­ple, tar­get­ing pre­ven­tion pro­grams to groups at great­est risk (e.g. rail driv­ers) or large co­horts at high risk (e.g. truck driv­ers) may have the great­est po­ten­tial im­pact on health and pro­duc­tiv­ity across the in­dus­try. Sim­i­larly, de­sign­ing pre­ven­tion pro­grams to ad­dress the mech­a­nisms of in­jury and ill­ness ac­count­ing for the great­est pro­por­tion of work-re­lated in­jury and dis­ease (e.g. body stress­ing, falls and trips) may de­liver a larger im­prove­ment than fo­cussing on less com­mon mech­a­nisms.”

“Chronic fa­tigue and the stresses of meet­ing dead­lines are clearly tak­ing their toll.”

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