Combating workplace sprain and strain injuries

Last updated on February 13, 2024

Lifting a box, opening a window, or even… data entry. 

Workplace sprains and strains, also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) don’t always look dramatic when they occur but their impact certainly can be; both mentally and physically.

A warehouse worker injured after falling beside a pallet

Our data from WA, NT, TAS and ACT shows that traumatic joint and ligament or muscle and tendon injuries were the most common injury to feature in workers’ compensation claims from 2017 to 2023.

These injuries, which can include torn muscles, back injuries, joint issues, carpal tunnel syndrome and vascular disorders, can occur in many ways at work.

Repeated or continuous use of the same body parts (including awkward static positions or postures), as well as sudden unexpected or strenuous movements, can lead to severe injuries – even in non-physical roles.

“It might just be that a person wants to do what they think is the right thing, like helping move a box,” explains Geoff Horton, Underwriting Manager WA at Allianz. “It can happen anywhere.”

And it’s not cheap. The cost of work-related MSDs for Australia’s workforce totalled more than $24 billion in 2012-2013 (PDF, 1.6 MB). More recent Allianz claims data shows that across WA, NT, TAS and ACT, they accounted for 49% of all serious (more than 5 days off work) lost time claims in the period from 2017 to 2021.

Geoff Horton, Underwriting Manager, WA
Geoff Horton
 Underwriting Manager WA

As per the Workplace Health and Safety Act, a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ has a responsibility to eliminate any risks arising from hazardous manual tasks. If that’s not possible within reason, they must minimise the risks as much as they can.

This includes anyone conducting a business, not just big corporations with a dedicated WHS department. So, if you’re a smaller business, what can you do to prevent workplace MSDs?

Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice for Hazardous Manual Tasks is a good starting point for businesses wanting to reduce risks. This online guide helps you identify hazardous manual tasks, then assess, control, and review the controls. It will lead you through the process of analysing your work environment, with useful examples of design solutions that can reduce the risk of a workplace MSD. For example, adopting workstations that are adjustable in the case of desk work. In the case of construction, this could be using power drills that are lightweight, with a handle under the centre of gravity to reduce vibration.

Workplace sprains and strains can cause pain at every level – but a little prevention goes a long way.

“At Allianz, we’re invested in minimising the impact of this kind of injury,” explains Geoff. Referring to the Iceberg Theory of Safety, which looks at both direct costs and indirect costs of workplace accidents, Geoff says, "This investment helps preserve the wellbeing of employees, and in turn reduces the costs associated with workplace accidents.”

We have online personal injury learning resources to get you started – including specialty masterclasses for businesses, brokers and partners, and on-demand webinars you can access from anywhere.1 Learn more at  Allianz Personal Injury National Training.

View Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice: Hazardous manual tasks (PDF, 1.8 MB).


1 Free for Allianz customers, brokers and partners, fees may apply for others

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 ("Allianz"). In some cases, information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way.

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