The 2022 Work Shouldn’t Hurt survey results are out. There are few surprises for ANMF members.
The Work Shouldn’t Hurt survey is an annual, quantitative, longitudinal tracking program conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Centre for Health and Safety. The long-term aim of this research program is to evaluate any shifts or stagnations in work health and safety issues, so the union movement can determine where best to deploy effort to create healthier and safer workplaces.
Over 11,000 workers participated in the current survey. Some key finding from the report include:
- One in five workers experienced poor mental health due to their work. In particular, this year’s results show a significant propensity for under-reporting mental health injuries as well as a lack of employer support for, and employee willingness regarding, reporting mental health injuries, and taking time off to recover from them. The 2022 survey once again found that these attitudes were significantly more prevalent regarding psychological injuries than they were with reference to physical injuries.
- With a larger cohort of insecure workers compared to previous surveys, the current survey was able to make a number of findings regarding this group. For example, insecure workers reported similar levels of injury/illness to permanent workers but faced limited options in dealing with injury and its consequences. Factors include a lack of paid leave, an inability to afford to stop work, a failure to report mental health injuries and a lower rate of workers’ compensation claims.
- 46 per cent of workers agreed that there was insufficient staff in their workplace to do the job safely over the last 12 months. While these issues were present across the six industries identified in the survey, as they were in 2021, for workers in health, education, administration and professionals the situation has worsened since the last survey – with more workers reporting insufficient staffing.
Members can access the full report at australianunions.org.au. Below is a summary of responses from ANMF members specifically.
ANMF member results
ANMF members responding to the survey indicated that in the 12 months prior they were regularly required to manually push or lift heavy items, stand for extended periods, skip breaks, work unsafe hours, perform work they felt was unsafe and perform work in an unsafe environment significantly more often than respondents from other industries.
Additionally, ANMF members reported being exposed to stress at work at rates far greater than other workers, with 56 per cent experiencing regular work-related stress and a further 21 per cent always experiencing stress at work.
ANMF members reported experiencing violence at work at rates more than double the general response rate. Exposure to work-related traumatic events, distressing situations or aggressive clients/patients was almost double.
Given the above, it is unsurprising that ANMF members reported personally sustaining physical or mental health injuries at work in greater numbers than the population at large (34 per cent physical injuries and 58 per cent mental health injuries in ANMF members compared with a general incidence of 27 per cent and 52 per cent respectively).
It was encouraging to see that 76 per cent of ANMF members know how to report a safety incident or injury, compared with 68 per cent of the general population. It is tempting, however, to assume that this is somewhat necessitated by the higher prevalence of incidents requiring reporting within healthcare settings.
When asked about their specific workplaces, ANMF members reported that their employers complied with their own OHS policies and procedures, fixed health and safety problems promptly and regularly inspect for health and safety hazards less often than the general population.
Members also reported that their workplaces put less importance on psychological hazards than other workplaces did. Members also disagreed more than workers in other industries that their workplaces put staff health and safety ahead of service, production or output.
Members reporting sufficient time, support and staff numbers to safely complete their jobs were also fewer than the in other industries. On the other hand, members reported receiving sufficient training at rates slightly higher than respondents from other industries.
We need more HSRs
Alarmingly, ANMF members reported fewer Health and Safety Reps (HSRs) at their workplaces than were reported overall. ANMF HSRs also reported a greater incidence of disagreements with their employer about time off work to undertake HSR training, the cost of HSR training, and time spent completing HSR duties.
This is even more concerning given that employers are legally required under the OHS Act to allow HSRs to attend training, during work hours, and to pay the costs of that training.
It’s clear from these results that there is more work to be done ensure that nurses, midwives and carers have a safe work environment. While undoubtedly the pandemic has exacerbated issues with a lack of staffing and contributed to psychosocial hazards such fatigue, these issues are not new.
Employers need to be identifying, assessing and putting in place controls for physical and psychological hazards in the workplace, in consultation with HSRs and employees. Health and safety representatives can play a key role in assisting the employer to put in place effective systems and solutions to reduce risks and keep the workplace safe.