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Too many Australian workers continue to face the dangers of high stress and not enough exercise.

Although the proportion of Australian workers feeling stressed has decreased, the figures remain high, fluctuate and, in some cases, are incomplete. From 2004 to 2014, the proportion of Australian workers feeling moderate to high levels of stress fluctuated between 58 and 71.8 per cent, said the recently released ‘Health Profile of Australian Employees’. “The lowest rate was recorded in 2014, however, the data were incomplete in that year, which may contribute to the lower results,” the profile added.

A similar situation characterises psychological distress, which a large proportion of Australian workers continue to feel. “Over a six-year period (2009–2014) psychological distress levels fluctuated, with the proportion in the ‘implement lifestyle strategies’ or ‘recommend to GP’ categories peaking at 40 per cent in 2011 and dropping to 36.2 per cent in 2014,” the profile reported.

The profile also examined the physical health of Australian workers, showing that a large proportion of workers still fail to participate in adequate physical activity. “Overall the proportion of workers with inadequate aerobic activity or no regular exercised declined between 2004 and 2014 (from 64 per cent to 46.1 per cent). This is despite a peak of 66.5 per cent in 2012,” the profile said.

The risk of harm from alcohol consumption has improved. “The lifetime risk of harm from alcohol consumption fluctuated from 12.1 per cent in 2004 to a peak of 15.5 per cent in 2009. The prevalence then tended to decrease, and remained below the national prevalence (20 per cent) during this period,” the profile reported.

The proportion of smokers continued to decline, decreasing between 2004 and 2014 from 20.5 per cent to 10 per cent, the profile added.

Lack of exercise, psychological stress and distress, alcohol consumption and smoking “have been associated with chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and mental illness”, said the Workplace Health Association Australia (WHAA) in a media statement.

WHAA, in conjunction with the University of Wollongong, conducted the research for the profile, drawing upon the workplace health assessments of 30,000 Australian workers over the past decade.

For more details, download the profile

Published on 18 June 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin.

A Victorian abattoir has been convicted and fined $250,000 following the death of a driver in September 2013.

The driver was using a hoist on the loading ramp at the abattoir when the hoist broke apart above him and the ramp collapsed, said WorkSafe Victoria in a media statement. He sustained severe head injuries and died several weeks later.

The abattoir in Stawell was prosecuted and pleaded guilty for breaching Victorian occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

Leanne Hughson, Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety at WorkSafe Victoria, said in a media statement that the design of the hoist, a lack of maintenance and poor driver training in relation to the loading ramp and hoist contributed to the incident.

“The court heard that when a new loading ramp and safety mechanism was installed at the abattoir in 2010, the hoist lug was moved 300mm. However, the new position made it more susceptible to fatigue damage, stress and corrosion,” WorkSafe said in a media statement.

On top of this, the company had failed to get an expert opinion before moving the lug, failed to regularly inspect the hoist system, and failed to put in place a system to train, direct or induct drivers in the use of the loading ramp and hoist, Worksafe added.

For more details, visit WorkSafe Victoria

Published on 18 June 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin.

The owner of a roofing company has been hit with a nine-month suspended jail sentence for threatening and intimidating a WorkCover NSW inspector.

The business owner threatened and intimidated the inspector while the inspector was visiting the owner’s workplace and for a number of days after the visit, said WorkCover NSW in a media release. During the visit, the inspector had asked the owner not to work at heights unless he and his worker used the required safety equipment, WorkCover added.

Following the incident the owner was charged and prosecuted for not following a WorkCover inspector’s direction and obstructing the WorkCover inspector. He pled guilty to breaching work health and safety (WHS) laws in NSW and was fined a total of $16,000.

The owner was also ordered to pay $5000 to cover WorkCover’s legal costs.

“Inspectors are required to ensure workplaces comply with obligations under the Work Health & Safety Act. Inspectors have legislated powers to enter workplaces and assess site safety and workplace compliance. Employers need to respect this and allow inspectors to do their job to reduce the risk of serious injury or harm,” said Peter Dunphy, WorkCover’s Executive Director of Work Health and Safety, in a media release.

“WorkCover will take appropriate action, including enforcement action through the courts, with regard to any conduct that subjects its inspectors to the risk of harm to their health and safety.”

For more details, visit WorkCover NSW

Published on 18 June 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin.

Australians are risking an early death by sitting up to 11 hours per day.

Prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and early death, said the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in a media release.

“It is thought that excessive sitting slows the body’s metabolism – which affects our ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure and metabolise fat – and in the long term may cause weaker muscles and have detrimental effects on our bones,” the institute said.

A recent institute-commissioned survey that found that less than 25 per cent of Australians made an effort to reduce long periods of sitting, despite many sitting for at least 7.5 hours a day and 10 per cent sitting for 11 hours a day.

Although 60 per cent of Australians agreed that sitting is bad for their health, most were unlikely to do anything about it, the survey found.

Many reported they didn’t think about standing up, “while one in seven said they would feel self-conscious in front of their colleagues”, the survey said.

“Nor were people inclined to seek opportunities to stand in their workplace. Less than 40 per cent wanted greater support from their employer to promote standing during their work day.”

“Australians have really got to start making changes, even small, gradual changes to their work day. Our love affair with the chair has got to stop,” said Professor David Dunstan, head of Physical Activity Research at Baker IDI, in a media release.

“The changes don’t have to be costly,” he suggested. “Stand while you talk on the phone, go for a walking meeting, use smart phone prompts to remind you to stand.”

For more details, visit the institute

Published on 18 June 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin.

The doctor in the Pel-Air plane crash near Norfolk Island has been awarded $959,478 in the Supreme Court of NSW.

In November 2009, Dr David Helm and nurse Karen Casey were working for CareFlight, transporting a seriously ill patient and her husband from Samoa to Melbourne on a plane operated by Pel-Air Aviation Pty Ltd when it crashed near Norfolk Island.

Helm sustained scratches, bruising and multiple soft tissue injuries and an injury to his spine. He returned to work at CareFlight on modified duties. Over time the pain in his back worsened. He will never recover from his injuries, which have not only affected his work but also his study, his ability to interact with his children and his leisure pursuits.

He sued Pel-Air Aviation Pty Ltd in the Supreme Court of NSW and last week was awarded $959,478.

Casey, who was more severely injured than Helm, also successfully sued Pel-Air Aviation Pty Ltd, however, the decision on the amount of damages to be paid has been adjourned until 1 July.

For more details, visit the ruling and the award

Published on 18 June 2015 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin.


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