Northam businesses told to buy insurance after $28m worth of workers’ compensation claims

Injury cover: Wheatbelt businesses are being urged to ensure they have workers' compensation insurance.
Injury cover: Wheatbelt businesses are being urged to ensure they have workers' compensation insurance.

Northam businesses are being urged to ensure they possess appropriate workers’ insurance, with over $28 million worth of compensation claims in the Wheatbelt region in the 2016/17 financial year.

WorkCover WA is a Government agency that oversees the workers’ compensation and injury management scheme, with compliance officers visiting regional WA this week to undertake audits.

Statistics show 960 compensation claims after workplace injuries were made in the Wheatbelt region in 2016/17, which combined were worth $28,725,126.

The average claim was for $29,922.

WorkCover WA chief executive Chris White said it was a legal requirement for businesses to possess workers’ compensation insurance and not having it could have dire commercial repercussions.

“If employers don’t have cover the implications can include bankruptcy – they are taking quite a risk if they are employing people and an accident occurs – it could be the end of their business,” he said.

“For small businesses, the risk is simply not worth taking – it can have a huge impact if they are not insured.

“Insurance costs are not that substantial. The average premium rate is 1.5 per cent of wages. It is not onerous and it is at a historic low level. 

"While businesses obviously have their own stresses and cash-flow issues, this isn’t an area to skimp on.”

The biggest cause of the Wheatbelt injuries related to sprains and strains (39 per cent), with wounds, fractures, bruising and diseases also leading to claims.

“Manual-based industries are typically the highest risk but aged-care and hospital-based work are also areas where those kinds of injuries can occur,” Mr White said.

“It varies from sector to sector but far and away the most-common injury is muscular-skeletal sprain or strain, usually to the upper body.”

Mr White said close to $1 billion worth of compensation claims were made across Australia each year and policies were bought through brokers.

Infringements for businesses not possessing insurance can range from cautions and small fines to prosecution and legal proceedings.

Mr White said audits into regional WA businesses had led to a number of further investigations and companies had a statutory requirement to possess insurance.

“It is a binary thing – you either have cover or you don’t – there is a standard policy,” he said.

“Our overall goal is the sustainability of the scheme and the protection of workers and employers – it goes hand in hand.”

For a list of approved insurers or for help meeting your workers’ compensation responsibilities call WorkCover WA’s Advice and Assistance line on 1300 794 744, or visit www.workcover.wa.gov.au/employers.