3 ways to improve future work-related disease compensation outcomes

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 28 January, 2022 - 12:30
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National News

A number of important steps need to be taken to improve compensation outcomes for projected work-related diseases in Australia, according to Lin Fritschi, Professor of Epidemiology at Curtin University.

OHS by definition covers both safety and health, however, she said safety (prevention of injuries) gets a lot more attention than health (prevention of disease).

“Prevention of disease is more difficult because of the time delay, multiple possible causes, diseases are often rare, there are many different diseases and exposures which cause them,” said Professor Fritschi, who recently spoke at the Australian Institute of Health & Safety (WA Branch) Perth Safety Symposium.

She referenced a recent WHO report, WHO/ILO joint estimates of the work-related burden of disease and injury, 2000-2016, which found that globally in 2016, a total of about 1.88 million deaths and 89.72 million disability-adjusted life years were estimated to be attributable to a specific number of occupational risk factor and health outcomes.

Diseases accounted for 80.7 per cent of deaths and 70.5 per cent of the disability-adjusted life years, and injuries accounted for 19.3 per cent of the deaths and 29.5 per cent of the disability-adjusted life years.

The occupational risk factor with the largest number of attributable deaths was exposure to long working hours, followed by occupational particulate matter, gases and fumes, and occupational injuries.

The health outcome with the largest work-related burden of deaths was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, followed by stroke, and ischaemic heart disease.

“So, the UN needs data in order to monitor these and track progress,” said Professor Fritschi.

“Comparing the UN report of projected numbers of deaths for Australia with compensation statistics shows that the injuries are a little bit undercounted by our statistics, but only about 10 per cent of the projected work-related diseases in Australia receive compensation.”

Professor Fritschi said there are three important steps that need to be taken in order to improve this:

·       Better identification of deemed diseases when they occur

·       Easier access to compensation for work-related diseases

·       More focus on exposure to disease-causing agents to prevent disease rather than compensate