Work shouldn’t hurt: ACTU survey shows 3 in 5 people psychologically injured at work

Work shouldn’t hurt: ACTU survey shows 3 in 5 people psychologically injured at work

by Freya Lucas

August 13, 2019

Nearly 80 per cent of working people have been injured, or become ill, or both, as a result of their work, according to a survey recently released by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). 


The results of the survey point to “an alarming growth” in the rate of psychosocial (mental health) injury as a result of high exposure to hazards at work. Three in five working people surveyed, the ACTU said, had experienced psychological illnesses or injuries such as stress, depression or anxiety at work.


This finding will be of particular interest to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, with contemporary research showing that working conditions, and the complexity of the ECEC regulatory environment is contributing to high numbers of educators leaving the profession, particularly when coupled with the complexity of navigating a number of relationships (with children, families, staff and others) where needs are in a state of perpetual flux. 


The Work Shouldn’t Hurt work health and safety survey sought input from more than 26,000 working people, who responded to questions about their experiences of work health and safety, including the sorts of working conditions they had faced in the past 12 months. Areas surveyed included exposure to traumatic events – like the death of a colleague, occupational violence, hazardous conditions, poor management, and remote or isolated work.


Respondents outlined a range of injuries, both physical and mental, sustained in the course of carrying out their work role. The survey followed the 2018 Boland review, commissioned by the Federal Government to explore the effectiveness of work health and safety legislation. 


The review made 34 recommendations to strengthen work health and safety laws. The ACTU used both the Boland review and their recent survey to call for “a strong commitment from the Federal Government and all states and territories to prevent all workplace deaths and end all forms of workplace injuries, including the increasing level of psychosocial injuries”.


Key findings of the report were:


  • 78 per cent of respondents had been physically or psychologically injured or ill as a result of their work;


  • 78 per cent of respondents knew someone who had been seriously injured or ill as a result of their work;


  • In the last 12 months, 47 per cent of respondents were exposed to traumatic events, distressing situations or distressed or aggressive clients/customers;


  • 66 per cent of respondents experienced high workloads;


  • 31 per cent of respondents had experienced occupational violence (abuse, threats, or assault at work by clients, customers, the public, or co-workers).


  • 61 per cent said they have experienced poor mental health because their employer or workplace had failed to manage of address these poor work conditions;


  • 91 per cent of people did not make a workers’ compensation claims in relation to this poor mental health;


  • Of the 9 per cent that did, only a third of them were approved;


  • 55 per cent said they were aware of existing conditions in their workplace that could cause serious injury or illness if not addressed.


To access the report in full, please see here.