New study reveals that construction, transport workers at high-risk of spinal injuries


A new study says more effective safety measures are urgently needed to protect workers in the construction and transport industries as workers in these industries experience high rates of traumatic spinal injuries.

According to the study led by experts from the University of Sydney, workplace spinal injuries accounted for 13,000 acute-care bed days in hospital.

The study evaluated 824 cases of people admitted to NSW hospitals over three years with workplace-related traumatic spinal injuries. Their investigation revealed that these injuries accounted for 13,302 acute-care bed days with a cost of $19.5 million for time off work and medical costs.

“Our study reveals that 50 percent of work-related spinal injuries happened in the construction industry and 31 percent occurred in transport vehicle crashes,” said Dr. Lisa Sharwood, the study’s lead author.

“In the construction industry, 78 percent of spinal injuries were due to falls. These were predominantly falls from height, such as from building structures, scaffolding or ladders.

“This study demonstrates that the construction industry is still experiencing a high burden of work-related spinal trauma, particularly related to falls, despite safety measures being in place.

“Increased local surveillance of safety systems and stricter enforcement of relevant legislation is needed to reduce risks and fall-related injuries.”

Transport crashes accounted for 31 percent of spinal injuries, with heavy vehicle crashes being the most common cause at 24 percent.

Half of all transport injuries happened ‘off road’, which means the injuries most likely happened on farms or rural properties and are not covered by the compulsory third party (CTP) insurance scheme.

“Industry safety for heavy vehicle drivers has a long chain of responsibility and all parties need to work together to reduce overall risk,” said Dr. Sharwood.

“Work-related traumatic spinal injuries represent a significant burden of cost and disability to the Australian workforce, but they are preventable.

“Work-related traumatic spinal injuries are a current focus of Safe Work Australia policy aiming to reduce serious injury compensation claims by 30 percent by 2022.

“There is an urgent need for more effective policies, risk management strategies and countermeasures for prevention.”

Professor Rebecca Ivers, who’s a co-author from the University of NSW said the study shows the importance of having stronger regulation and education in the industries affected.

“Prevention is by far the best approach and we know that effective regulation is the most cost-effective means of reducing injury,” she said.

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