A workplace injury can cause ongoing health issues and impact your future ability to earn a living and provide for your family. It is therefore important to take steps to understand your rights and entitlements as an employee.
Under the law your place of work should be safe at all times
Workplace health and safety is governed by legislation, regulations and codes within various jurisdictions across Australia. Employers must abide by their statutory duty of care under these laws and provide safe systems of work and a safe workplace for their employees, trainees, contractors, and visitors.
Managing risk in the workplace requires a systematic approach to:
- identify reasonably foreseeable health and safety hazards;
- implement systems and processes to eliminate, control or minimise hazards;
- maintain, measure and review systems to ensure their effectiveness; and
- identify new or persistent hazards and implement systems to control those risks.
Managing risk requires that systems are in place to:
- ensure a safe working environment;
- provide adequate and accessible facilities;
- provide access to first aid;
- ensure emergency plans are in place and made known to workers;
- manage risks associated with airborne contaminants, flammables and combustibles; and
- manage slips, falls and risks associated with falling objects.
As a worker, it is important to immediately report any workplace hazards or dangerous incidents you witness or in which you are involved, to your employer.
Common workplace risks causing injury
Working at heights
Working at heights is inherently risky. You are more vulnerable if you fall from a height, as your injuries are likely to be more significant than a fall at ground level. Falls from ladders or scaffolding are particularly common on construction sites.
Work involving repetitive movement
A Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is an injury that occurs as a result of repeating a movement or series of movements in an awkward position over a prolonged period of time, which causes strain on the body resulting in soft tissue damage.
Construction sites and other dangerous work areas
The construction industry features high on the list when it comes to workplace accidents. Each year, many workers in the building industry sustain permanent injuries and disability, with statistics for catastrophic and fatal injuries dire. The nature of the construction industry itself presents risk, however many workplace accidents are caused by unsafe work practices.
Construction sites are often large areas with many different trades operating at the same time, using a range of machinery and tools. They are also noisy which can be distracting and pose a risk to workers developing impaired hearing (industrial deafness).
Heavy, awkward or repetitive lifting
A lifting injury is a common work-related injury and usually occurs when workers either lift an object awkwardly or lift an object that is too heavy, causing strain on the body. Common lifting injuries involve lower back, neck and shoulder strains.
What to do if you are injured at work
If you are injured at work, you should report the incident to your employer as soon as possible after it occurs, and no matter how minor the injury may seem at the time.
Following any injury, your employer should advise details of its workers compensation insurer and provide a compensation claim form if requested.
If medical treatment is required for your injury, you have the right to consult your own doctor. He or she should complete a SIRA Certificate of Capacity (formerly known as a WorkCover certificate) even if you initially do not require time away from work.
A claim for workers compensation should be made as soon as possible to ensure you receive appropriate support for your recovery and to protect your legal rights.
Strict time limits apply to make a claim so it is in your interests to speak to an experienced lawyer who can advise you confidentially and quickly and ensure your legal rights are protected.