AMSJ » Miners racking up Australia’s highest medical bills
MINERS HEALTH

Miners racking up Australia’s highest medical bills

WHEN it comes to workplace injury, Australia’s mining sector incurs the highest treatment cost per worker, with the longest average treatment duration, according to the latest report from organisational health group Konekt Ltd.

The report found that the average cost for an injured worker in the mining sector is $3659 – the highest of all industries in the report.

It also found that mining has the longest average service duration of 25 weeks, with an average delay to referral of 33 weeks and an 88% return-to-work rate.

It was revealed that about 16% of workplace injuries in the mining sector are for back injuries.

The research shows most are reluctant to take action if they injure themselves – especially when it comes to back pain. 

The Konekt Market Report analysed more than 113,000 cases of workers compensation and non-compensable cases over a six year period and found that while lower back pain is the second-greatest contributor of disability in Australia, employees either take their time reporting injuries or ignore them until they become debilitating.

Musculoskeletal injuries represented the largest workplace injury category, with back injuries accounting for almost one third. And in the compensable environment back strain injuries represented almost one in five serious injury claims over the last decade.

About three million Australians suffer from low back pain, and according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, $5.7 billion was spent on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions in 2008-2009, with $1.18 billion of that specifically on back problems.

A cost-of-illness study carried out in Australia estimated the indirect costs associated with low back pain to be $8.15 billion due to loss of earnings and productivity.

“Last financial year saw an increase in the number of referrals being made relating to back injuries,” Konekt product manager Nicholas Ward said. 

While the total number of claims is decreasing and the average time lost associated with back strain injuries halved between 2000 and 2001 and 2010 and 2011, alarmingly we noticed an increase in the average delay from when an injury occurs to when it is reported and then referred for support and return to work services.

The Konekt Market Report also showed males aged between 30 and 39 had the highest incidence of back injuries, and were more likely to report them (65%).

Back injury claims made by women to employers/healthcare professionals rose from 33% to 39% over the past decade.

Tips for helping address back pain:

  • Speak with your doctor or physio if the pain is not settling with simple selfcare measures
  • During an episode limit bed rest; try to stay active at home or work
  • Use your back wisely
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle
  • Be physically active; avoid prolonged sitting
  • Don’t smoke; moderate alcohol intake
  • Make time to enjoy life– e.g. spending time with family or friends

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AMSJ April 2022