The report revealed that in 2018–19, there were 114,000 serious workers’ compensation claims, a decline by 12 per cent from 126,115 in 2017–18 despite the number of workers increasing by nearly 20 per cent over the same period.
But according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), although men accounted for a significant proportion of the physical injuries sustained, women accounted for a greater proportion of diseases, particularly mental health conditions, with women almost three times as likely as men to sustain mental health injuries at work.
Healthcare and social assistance was the top industry where women were disproportionately injured compared to their male colleagues, with women also overrepresented for serious claims made in the education and training sector.
The trade union said the statistics highlight the need for work health and safety regulations that address mental health hazards in the workplace, with over 20 formal workplace health and safety regulations that provide guidance for physical hazards, and none in place for mental health hazards.
It also said that the rise of mental health injuries in the workplace is expected to only be exacerbated in 2019–20 statistics, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating a number of unprecedented issues that affect mental health and wellbeing, as well as a significant increase in reliance on essential services and their workers.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the latest figures illustrate the need for regulations that help employers understand their obligations when it comes to the mental health of their workers.
“Women are overrepresented in the statistics of mental health injuries sustained in the workplace — this needs to be addressed. We need to protect every person whose job has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and women are overrepresented in these jobs,” she said.
“The pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings in our understanding of workplace health and safety around mental health injuries, and we really need to fix this issue before we see any more Australians suffer.
“Every Australian has a right to be safe at their place of work, and that extends beyond physical injury.
“With an increase of conversations around the importance of sound mental health and wellbeing, our workplace health and safety standards should evolve to reflect that.”