A new report has investigated the health and safety concerns of Australian educators.

A survey of nearly 5000 members of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union found that 51 per cent had experienced an occupational health and safety incident in the previous year.

The staff from schools, TAFEs and other education services were asked to rate their workplaces on features that should keep people safe at work, such as access to occupational health and safety (OHS) training or OHS being a priority.

People in primary and special schools rated their workplaces highest, while TAFE workers rated their workplaces the lowest.

Reporting their experience of work-related injury or illness, those in Disability Services Centres said they were involved in more incidents, on average, than other groups.

Respondents reported high levels of work overload and moderate levels of work-related burnout, with 55 per cent of all respondents reporting that they have experienced injuries or illnesses in the past year that was either work-related stress or another mental health issue.

Work pressure, workloads that increased or changed, and the demands of looking after students with personal difficulties were common causes of stress.

Researcher Professor Helen De Cieri said the report showed workplaces with a commitment to health and wellbeing would have safety dividends, with individuals experiencing fewer injuries and illnesses.

“Essentially we want to shift the focus of workplaces from counting the cost of injuries and illness to better work practices that prevent incidents, with more attention to OHS leadership, equipment and resources, and access to health and safety training,” Professor De Cieri said.

“We’ve developed and piloted a practical survey tool that employers can now use to help them identify areas for health and safety improvement, people who are more at risk in the workplace, and steps to prevent incidents from occurring.

“It’s also important to highlight that it’s not just about physical injuries and illness, but also mental health issues and wellbeing in the workplace.”

The survey tool is called the Organisational Performance Metric (OPM), which can be used to assess employees’ views of how healthy and safe their workplaces are.

Details on the survey methods and results are available in the full report, accessible in PDF form here