The Accident Compensation Act, which officially commenced operation in full on 1 September 1985, established a single Government insurance scheme known as WorkCare which replaced more than 50 insurers. Powers to regulate workplace health and safety were given to the organisation in 1996.
Known for its powerful and emotional TV advertisements, WorkSafe has released more than 70 major advertising campaigns over the past 30 years. Along with its injury prevention and enforcement activities, they have contributed to a dramatic improvement in workplace safety in Victoria, with the number of injuries more than halving from 58,700 in 1985 to 26,500 in 2014.
Since September 1985, almost 1.27 million Victorian injured workers have been supported by the scheme, which has paid out more than $31 billion in compensation, medical assistance and rehabilitation services.
According to an analysis of claims data over the past 30 years, there have been a number of significant changes in Victorian workplaces:
Injuries to young workers aged 15-24 made up more than 18 per cent of all claims in 1985. This has fallen to 8.6 per cent in 2014.
Injuries in the health care sector amounted to more than 9 per cent of all claims in 1985. This has risen to almost 16 per cent of all claims in 2014.
Almost 39 per cent of injury claims came from the manufacturing sector in 1986. In 2014, this had fallen to 17 per cent of all claims.
In 1985, mental injury claims accounted for 2.8 per cent of all injury claims. In 2014, they accounted for 11.4 per cent of all claims.
WorkSafe’s Chief Executive, Clare Amies, said approaches to workplace health and safety had improved significantly over the past 30 years, aided by the modernisation of many workplaces.
“The changing nature of work, particularly the introduction of safer machinery and mechanical aids, has meant that historically dangerous and injury-prone industries, such as manufacturing, health care and construction, are now better at managing risks to health and safety,” Ms Amies said.
“However, body-stressing type injuries, and injuries as a result of slips, trips and falls remain the most common types of injuries, just as they have done every year for the past 30 years.
“WorkSafe is continuing to educate employers and workers on the importance of safe manual handling and general workplace housekeeping.”
Ms Amies said the gradual increase in mental health injuries was a warning to employers to pay more attention to issues such as stress, workload and conflict in the workplace.
“But we also believe this increase has been caused by a greater understanding of and societal acceptance of mental health injuries, which has meant that more and more workers are comfortable speaking up about stress and workplace bullying than ever before. And that’s a good thing.”
Ms Amies said WorkSafe had forged an enviable reputation Australia-wide for its injury prevention strategies, which had helped make Victoria the safest state in Australia in which to work.
“However, while prevention is critical, supporting injured workers and helping them make an effective recovery from injury or illness so they can return to safe work remains a clear priority for WorkSafe,” she said
“That we can do this, while keeping premiums low for employers and still deliver a financially sustainable compensation scheme, is a credit to the people who founded WorkCare, and to everyone who has helped improve the workers compensation scheme over the past 30 years.”
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