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Home » Latest Articles » Effective Management of Workplace Injuries

Effective Management of Workplace Injuries

Workplace injuries and illnesses are a major cost to businesses. In 2010/2011 there was 28,179 workers compensation injuries in NSW. The cost of these injuries to the community, employer and worker was $872 million. The construction industry continues to have one of the highest number of injuries & cost for labour and related workers.  The most common injuries continue to be sprains & strains, this makes up 59% of all claims (WorkCover NSW).


A two prong strategy needs to be implemented by businesses: Firstly to prevent the injuries and secondly the early intervention and return to work coordination of work injuries.


Research has shown that worker satisfaction with their employer has a significant influence on return to work. A 2007 study titled “It Pays to be Nice” demonstrated that a worker’s satisfaction with their employer was the single most important influence on employment stability in return to work after the onset of back problems. Please refer to Butler RJ, Johnson WG, Cote P. It pays to be nice: employer‐worker relationships and the management of back pain claims. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine 2007;49:214‐25.


The following have been shown to influence motivation to return to work:


  • Work systems — people are more motivated to work if they feel they can do as much work and as good a job as their workmates;
  • Communication in the workplace;
  • Work content — people have increased motivation to return to work if their job is meaningful and helps others;
  • Relationships with workmates;
  • A sense of belonging and being appreciated — a strong reason for wanting to return to work;  and
  • A bad relationship with a supervisor, and little communication and support are de‐motivating factors for return to work. Please refer to Gard G, Sandberg AC. Motivating factors for return to work. Physiotherapy Research International 1998;3:100‐8.




Building companies with low injury costs have a significant competitive advantage.  Any workplace injury inflicts varying levels of pain and suffering on workers but also impose a significant financial burden on workers, businesses and external stakeholders.  There is not only an increase in the employer’s premium, the employer in turn, has to commit invaluable resources .The cost of workplace Injuries: lost wages; medical treatment; compensation for pain and suffering; legal fees; fines and penalties; lost productivity; poor morale; and expenditures associated with retraining, recruitment and the hazard mitigation to prevent recurrence.


The table above shows the continued upward costs of Workers compensations costs in Australia.


Issues in the measurement and reporting of work health and safety performance:
a review, Safe Work Australia, Safety Institute of Australia and CPA Australia Nov 2013


The financial impact on the employer’s workers compensation premium for claims is calculated by using the employer’s experience component (based on the cost of the claim to date, potential costs and industry rating). Employers (within their industry classification) who have lower claims and manage their claims well (i.e. lower costs) will not be changed as much as those who have expensive claims and/or numerous workers compensation incidents. Effective injury management can reduce the cost of a claim by over 50%.


Common causes of high premiums:

  • Employer was unaware that the worker had aggravated his injury and was no longer employed by the organisation.
  • Dismissal of a worker when unfit for work and within 6 months of injuring themselves.
  • Not providing suitable duties.  When the insurer is paying wages, it has the greatest effect on the experience estimate and forms the majority of claims costs.
  • Ineffective rehabilitation of the worker and no return to work strategy.
  • Breakdown in the employer/employee relationship.


There are a number of strategies that should be used by employers to reduce workers compensation costs.  Risk management, planning and analysis being the primary actions.


The employer’s management of the claim is essential.  Unfortunately, if employers have the attitude that the problem will ‘just go away’ or ‘it won’t cost me’ they could be unexpectedly shocked by a higher premium.  Trying to rectify the incurred cost of the claim is not possible.  Employers must ensure they have a process to review their claims and the cost of each claim throughout the year.  Early intervention at the commencement of the lodgement of the claim is critical. By lodging a claim within 5 days of becoming aware of the incident will save a company the excess, which is based on the first week of the workers average wages.




There continues to be a resounding emphasis on the provision of suitable duties for the benefit of the employer and worker. The statistics continue to indicate that the earlier a worker returns to work the better the outcome.  This also means a reduction in the individual claims cost and therefore effect on the premium calculations.


Research has shown that the following if the person is off work for:


  • 20 days the chance of ever getting back to work is 70%;
  • 45 days the chance of ever getting back to work is 50%; and
  • 70 days the chance of ever getting back to work is 35%.


(Johnson D, Fry T. Factors Affecting Return to Work after Injury: A study for the Victorian WorkCover Authority. Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research; 2002).


Diagnosis is not a predictor to RTW (OECD, 2007) and as outlined it has been shown that the workers job satisfaction can be a greater predictor of a RTW outcome.


The cost of paying an external professional to provided assistance and rehabilitation on a claim is minimal, making up only 3% of the total cost of most claims.  However, the effect of rehabilitation on the overall claims cost can be high.  If a worker can be placed on suitable duties, even on reduced hours, whilst undertaking retraining it will have a profound effect on reducing the claims cost.  In the building and construction industry it can be difficult to identify and provide suitable duties, an experienced health professional can assist in the identification and negotiation of a worker’s RTW and suitable duties.


Reducing Your Claims – Immediate Strategies


  • Have a strong emphasis on Return to Work as safely and as quickly as possible. The changes to NSW Workers Compensation from 30th June 2015 will reward employers who avoid lost time injuries.


  • Appoint a Return to Work Coordinator within your organisation.  If you have a basic tariff of over $50,000 this is a legal obligation.  The Return to Work Coordinator must be accredited. Mend conducts this training in association with the MBA. Alternatively, appoint an external RTWC if you do not have the resources. Recent studies on the return on investment has shown a saving of $3 for every $1 spent. Mend is able to act as your RTWC. Employers need to maintain communication and ensure the injured employees have sufficient information and understanding about their condition so they can self-manage with confidence.


  • Claims reviews are essential.  This is where the insurer provides you with all the current claims relating to your workers compensation premium.  They outline the current costs associated with the claim and its current status.  It provides you with a forum to review the strategies being implemented to manage the claims, ensure they are effective and costs are contained.


  • Identify and locate suitable/modified duties for injured workers and plan for a return to pre-injury duties. Formulate a suitable duties register before you need it. Employees need to be supported to understand they should not expect to be completely better or pain‐free in order to successfully return to work, to either alternative duties or normal duties.


  • Monitor your incidents at work, claims submitted and time lost.  This provides an overall view of the organisation’s current systems and effectiveness.  It allows the prevention of injuries rather than just reaction.


  • By managing your workers compensation claims, you can minimise the effect on premium calculations.


  • Invest in Risk Management, safety and training. The changes to NSW Workers Compensation from 30th June 2015 will give employers incentives to spend money which were not previously available.


  • Review your Workers Compensation processes and resources. Do you have the right people and assistance to operate?


For more information please refer to The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Policy on preventing work disability, Sydney 2010.


Contact Cherie Marantz at Mend Services on 0417243743 if you require more information.

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