If claims data from the public fund workers' compensation system is merged with the relevant census data, the relative distribution of occupational injury risk in the system can be calculated. A reconstituted occupational code, made from combining the present occupational and industrial codes, can be used to differentiate occupations in relation to hazards. A four-part injury severity index, generated in the claims settling process, can be used to further differentiate occupations, tasks and activities in terms of priorities for intervention.
Occupational injury incidence and severity in Victoria between 1992 and 2000 were analysed. Among large and small occupational groups the combined criteria of high annual injury incidence and extreme injury severity identified the occupational groups which represent the top priorities for occupational trauma prevention counter-measures in Victoria (Larsson & Field, 2002a, 2002b). All claims for over-exertion and soft tissue injury ("sprains and strains") between 1996 and 2000 (45% of the total claims volume) were analysed with specific control for age and gender. Detailed information on accident processes and exposures commonly involved were retrieved from the claims files. The top priority groups in terms of countermeasures were identified with a combination of the variables industry, occupation, age, gender and hazardous activity associated with the trauma (Larsson et al, 2001).
However, the development of systematic and detailed prevention information does not necessarily generate any prevention activities or interventions actioned by the combined public fund workers' compensation and industrial safety inspectorate system. In fact, it seems that systematic injury information is not commonly used for prevention by the public fund workers' compensation system and this might be due to a number of factors like:
· actuaries determine policies in the insurance and prevention is not properly defined,
· no proper agents for injury prevention exist in the system,
· legislation and regulation is built for prosecution, not prevention,
· safety and health is seen as commodities to be left to market forces, demand and private investment,
· the only suitable workers' compensation insurance intervention is information (pamphlets, posters, advertising campaigns, etc).
The roles of public fund workers' compensation systems, unions and collective and individual employers in practical and applied occupational injury prevention needs to be critically appraised. To move from statistics and dinner speeches to measurable reduction of clearly identified work-related injury problems, the methods and the appropriate agents for cost-efficient and systematic intervention against occupational trauma must be credibly defined.
2003. Vol. 7, no 1