Increases in economic growth levels could result in more workplace injuries, according to new research.
A new Edith Cowan University (ECU) study of over half a million occupational injuries in Western Australia between 2003 and 2019 found that injuries in the manufacturing and construction industries increased as the economy improved.
ECU Ph.D. candidate Tanya Jenke said the findings highlight a concerning trend as Western Australia’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“WA’s manufacturing industry is typically built on small to medium-size businesses, which are often sensitive to rapid changes in the economy,” she said.
“In boom times more people are hired, more work comes in, and the demands on the workforce and infrastructure increases. This puts a lot of strain on small businesses and sometimes workplace safety is compromised.”
“With a growing focus on manufacturing in WA’s future, it’s more important than ever for businesses to understand their workplace risks and ensure they have the resources and structures in place to protect their workers.”
The manufacturing industry had the highest relative rise in workplace injuries as business expanded, with one percent growth in gross state product (GSP) resulting in a 0.2 percent increase in injuries.
This is nearly double the rate of the construction industry, which recorded a rise of 0.12 percent in injuries over the same period.
Jenke said there was likely that an increased reliance on contract and casual workers with limited knowledge of manufacturing hazards and processes during ‘boom time’.
“In manufacturing, there’s machinery and processes that have safety risks. Increased workloads can lead to less downtime for machinery, longer work hours, higher stress, new staff and the combination of these factors can sometimes lead to more work injuries,” said Jenke.
“When the demands are high mistakes can happen and the safety structures and systems in place can be stretched.”
Interestingly, in the mining industry, workplace injuries actually decreased as economic conditions improved.
“It was quite interesting to find that a typically high-risk industry actually improved safety,” said Jenke.
“This could be because mining has very high safety standards and employee training programs due to the high-risk nature of the work.”
“Western Australia’s mining industry is also dominated by large global companies with the resources, infrastructure, and organisational resilience to withstand fluctuating economic conditions.”
Jenke said this information will help organisations ensure they can implement more effective and resilient safety systems and quickly identify when they might need to act.
myosh Smart Inspections
Backed by a powerful Rules Engine (REng), key inspection responses invoke foolproof processes.
- Include images/photos in your questions for extra context
- Trigger notifications based on responses
- Define conditional logic – nested and branching
- Drag-and-drop builder / quick setup via spreadsheet import