Back injuries core concern for quarry industry

According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA), approximately $60 billion is spent on work injuries each year, with one in five serious workplace-related injuries involving trade professionals such as quarry workers.

“While workplace injuries are on the decline, each year we spend billions of dollars on work-related injury and illnesses, many of which should be prevented – and tradies are among those highest at risk,” APA national president Marcus Dripps said. “This is the time of year to review your safety procedures, retrain and educate your staff, develop a supportive return to work culture, and make sure you’ve got the best measures in place to prevent injuries.”

While quarry-specific information was not available, Safe Work Australia’s Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2012–13 report indicated that for the broader mining industry, a total of 2880 serious workers’ compensation claims were made in the 2012–13 financial year – an incidence rate of 11.3 claims per 1000 employees.

While details on time lost and compensation for this time period was unavailable, the statistics noted that for the 2815 claims in 2011–12 (an incidence rate of 12), the median time lost was seven weeks while the median compensation paid was $20,100.

The report also stated, “Between 2000–01 and 2011–12, the mining industry recorded the largest percentage increase (48 per cent) in the number of serious claims [of all recorded industries].”

Get to know your seat

APA occupational health chairman Greg Borman told Quarry that within industries that involved heavy machinery use, such as the quarrying industry, back injuries were the most common grievance encountered by physiotherapists.

“People in these industries spend long periods of time sitting in vehicles – whether that be an excavator, dozer or haul truck – so there’s definitely some risks associated with that,” he explained, adding that these risks also extended to when machinery was being loaded and unloaded.

Borman said that most modern machines incorporated various controls designed to both protect and make operators more comfortable, but that most workers were either not aware of how to properly adjust their seats or would simply not bother.

He advised machinery operators to “get to know their seat again”.

“Find out what it is capable of doing and get some help in terms of how to set it up properly,” Borman suggested. “Operators need to make sure that if they’re going to be spending 10 or 12 hours in the seat, they’ve set it up properly for themselves.”

Borman added that the seat set-up should be changed a number of times throughout the day. “We’re not designed to stay in one particular posture for a whole shift of work,” he explained. ”Operators should move about regularly. If you’ve got a chance to take a break – even if it’s only for a minute – get up and stretch.”

Further to this, Borman recommended quarry owners encourage their workers to take breaks when they were needed to prevent the development of injuries as well as to improve productivity throughout the day.

APA is the peak body representing more than 16,000 Australian physiotherapists and their patients.

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