Workers in the meat industry suffer five times the number of workplace injuries of most other occupational groups, it was revealed today.
As well, the meat industry spends an estimated $5.8 million a year on lost-time injuries, according to a report released today by Productivity and Labour Relations Minister Yvonne Henderson.
The document, 'Manual Handling in the Meat Industry - Reducing the Risk', aims to help employers, employees and health and safety representatives to establish and maintain a health and safety program which minimises the risk of injury.
The report is the result of 12 months of detailed observations and talks between the meat industry, the Department of Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare and the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Commission.
The publication was co-written by DOHSWA ergonomist Stroma Lawson and WCRC rehabilitation consultant Jane Rieusset.
Launching the report today, Mrs Henderson said that manual handling injuries - most of which are back and neck injuries - were the most costly type of injury across all industries.
"We cannot under-estimate the significant impact that lost-time injuries have on workers, companies and industry in general," Mrs Henderson said.
"The meat industry spends $2.6 million every year on manual handling injuries alone, and we must emphasise the importance of redesigning the workplace to reduce the potential for these injuries.
"Many manual handling injuries can be prevented simply by good housekeeping, maintenance of machinery and considering health and safety before buying equipment or planning work tasks."
Mrs Henderson said young workers were of particular concern because statistics showed them to be especially vulnerable to manual handling injuries.
"For a young and developing body, most neck and back strain injuries cause recurring discomfort and can have lasting effects on a young person's career.
"This book offers effective strategies for minimising manual handling injuries, along with advice on the services offered by vocational rehabilitation providers.
"I strongly encourage employers to develop rehabilitation strategies at the workplace in order to reduce workers' compensation and staffing costs, as well as alleviate suffering and financial hardship for injured workers."
Copies of the document are available from DOHSWA, telephone 327 8744.