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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 557


Senator CROWLEY —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the dramatic and increasing numbers of cases of repetitive strain injury among keyboard operators in the Commonwealth Public Service? Can the Minister provide any figures from the various departments? Can the Minister say whether the Government is concerned at those figures and what steps are being taken to address the problem ? Will the Minister consider passing this matter to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission for further consideration and recommendations?


Senator GRIMES —The Government is aware of the high incidence of repetitive strain injuries among keyboard operators in the Commonwealth Public Service generally. As I think Senator Crowley knows, the figures vary considerably across the various departments. I noted during a hearing of an Estimates Committee the other night that in a couple of departments a very high percentage of people working on keyboards had suffered some form of repetitive strain injury. The Government and the Public Service Board are extremely concerned about this matter. As honourable senators know, during the last year or so actions have been taken through the introduction of ergonomic furniture and new work patterns to improve the situation. We do not yet know just how much those actions are likely to succeed.

There is much to be investigated in this area. For example, it is very difficult to understand, why there is an apparently much higher incidence of repetitive strain injury in this country than in some European countries and particularly the United States of America where the introduction of keyboard machines has been just as rapid and just as extensive as in Australia. I shall obtain for Senator Crowley the figures from each department. I shall certainly refer to the Minister for Health the honourable senator's concern and the possibility of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission looking at this problem, as I believe it probably is doing now. As I have no details before me, I believe that this question can best be answered by my referring it to the Minister.