Recovering at work helps industry protect its skills

Manager on minesite

The mining industry leads the way in keeping injured workers at work while they recover. Yet the industry struggles when workers take time off to recover, with just 83% of workers returning to work, compared with 93% across all industries.

The table below shows how mining compares with other Queensland industries* regarding workers’ compensation and some of the contributing factors.

Queensland mining workers’ compensation performance versus all Queensland industries


Mining industry

All Queensland industries

Contributing factors

Stay at work rate



Onsite rehabilitation and medical services help workers stay at work.

Return to work rate



Physically demanding jobs can make it harder to obtain clearance to return to original role. Location or commuting may also be an issue. Alternative duties should be sought.

Average days off work

62 days

30 days

As above, physically demanding jobs can mean a delayed return to work. Alternative suitable duties can help a worker rehabilitate quicker before returning to their pre-injury role.

Average annual claim costs



Claim costs are higher due to the sector’s high wages and more time off work. The biggest contributor to claim costs is weekly wages.

Source: *WorkCover Queensland data FY 2014-15

WorkCover Queensland Customer Services manager, Matt Cross said a positive influence in the stay at work rate of 70% is the success of medical and rehabilitation services on site.

“It’s a service that’s rarely offered in other industries and works well in mining because it quickly connects workers with medical services and treatment that aids recovery,” he said.

The earlier someone gets their injury assessed and starts treatment, the better. This helps workers understand what tasks they can do and guides employers in selecting the most appropriate suitable duties to get them back to work.

However, there is a wealth of research that proves that injured workers are less likely to return to work in any capacity the longer they stay off work.

The Australasian College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Royal College of Physicians, in their report titled Realising the health benefits of work, states that if someone is off work for:

  • 20 days, the chance of ever returning to work is 70%
  • 45 days, the chance of ever returning to work is reduced to 50% and
  • 70 days, the chance is then again reduced to 35%.

The report adds that early return to work reduces the risk of long-term disability and improves quality of life. This adds weight to the fact that injured workers who are offered suitable duties are twice as likely to return to work.

WorkCover Queensland strongly encourages workers and employers to explore suitable duties programs or host employment opportunities to ensure workers recover at work or return to work quickly.

Keeping skills within the industry

Matt says the cyclical nature of the mining industry can further complicate a worker’s long-term employment prospects, even if they are fully fit.

However, there are simple strategies available to help get injured workers back to work quickly and keep their skills within the industry, including:

Stay at work

  • Use onsite medical and rehabilitation services
  • Arrange medical appointments and treatments quickly for staff
  • Arrange training, learning and development or different duties until workers are well enough to return to their previous role
  • Look beyond their existing role. What else could they do that adds value to the company and makes them feel valued, too?

Early return to work

  • Even if they can’t return to their pre-injury role, what other jobs are available where the worker can maximise their capacity?
  • Focus on what the worker can do, not what they can’t do when identifying suitable duties.

WorkCover Queensland’s Recover @ Work (R@W) program

  • If a worker can’t return to their pre-injury role, and suitable alternative duties are not an option, WorkCover can place a worker with a host employer
  • WorkCover matches injured workers with host employers to place them at the host workplace for a short-term period
  • These placements help retain skilled workers within the industry and helps the recovery process.

Matt adds that keeping someone at work not only helps with their recovery but reduces the possibility of exposure to potentially costly common law claims.

“The key driver to someone pursuing a common law claim is having no job to return to at the end of a statutory claim,” he said.

“By thinking outside the box and identifying appropriate alternative roles, mining employers could drive dramatic shifts in the industry in areas such as staff retention, injury cost reductions, improved productivity, and accelerated return to work outcomes.”

More information


Contact your Relationship Manager

Call us on 1300 362 128.

Last updated
05 July 2016