Work strain is estimated to contribute to as many as 4000 new injuries every week or an injury every 2.5 minutes in Australian workplaces, the ACTU said today.
Launching a national campaign to reduce work strain among people with high pressure jobs, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
There is an emerging body of research that links work strain to an increasing incidence of headaches, chronic muscle tension and pain. The research shows that work strain worsens existing musculoskeletal disorders and creates other health problems.
What is most alarming is that the research shows that work strain is affecting large numbers of people in industries traditionally not associated with big health and safety risks.
Call centre workers, nurses, teachers, office and retail workers are increasingly the victims of work strain injury as well as people in more traditional high risk jobs in manufacturing, constructing, transport and distribution.
The research shows that the key factors in work strain are excessive workloads, long hours, job insecurity, and a lack of control over ones work in combination with physical aspects such as lifting and carrying loads, poor posture, and exertion.
Common symptoms of work strain include neck and shoulder pain, stabbing pain in the arms and wrist, pins and needles, aching legs and feet, tension headaches, and exhaustion.
Employers are resisting efforts to reduce the strain of intense and high pressure work practices despite studies which show a strong link between stress and chronic physical pain.
Sprains, strains and musculoskeletal disorders are the most common health and safety problems in Australia, accounting for over half (54%) of all workplace injuries. These injuries can be caused by a single event, such as lifting something heavy but more often they build up over time, causing chronic pain and disability.
Over the next year, the ACTU will campaign to expose the problem of work strain and to highlight the link between stress and physical pain.
The ACTU national health and safety campaign Work strain causes real pain – no body should put up with it calls for:
Injured workers and those affected by work strain are encouraged to contact the Union Hotline on 1300 362 223.