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Work for dole injury reports skyrocket

AAP logoAAP 4/11/2016 Rashida Yosufzai

Daniel Blacket remembers the middle-aged man in the throws of a seizure just 30 minutes into a work for the dole placement.

He had just started gardening at a community centre working for the Newstart payment when he saw the man drop.

"He arrived at 9am and by 9.30 he was on the ground," the part-time dog walker told AAP.

"It was pretty shocking to see this fully-grown man convulsing and shaking."

Mr Blacket says the man, an epileptic, should have never been forced to work for the dole.

But many job seekers who've been out of work for more than a year had no choice, fearing being docked of some $40 a day in welfare payments.

"They turn up. They're dead and walking, but they turn up," Mr Blacket said.

It's not the only time he's heard of such injuries.

As a member of the Unemployed Workers Union, Mr Blacket has received many such reports, including a man who cut his leg working with machinery and another a week after open-heart surgery working in the hot sun.

Figures obtained by AAP show more jobless Australians are being injured on work for the dole placements, with the number of reported accidents increasing more than fivefold over a year.

There were 92 injuries reported in 2014-15 when 54,000 jobseekers participated.

But that figure jumped to 500 in just a year, with more than 106,000 people in the scheme.

Most of those injuries were described as "body or muscular stress" such as lifting or carrying objects.

Almost a quarter suffered from cuts and lacerations or punctures.

Ten per cent either fainted, had a seizure, vomited or had a heart attack, were burnt, injured their head, or suffered from mental stress.

Just over four per cent injured their eyes and more than five per cent were bitten by insects or animals while working.

The Department of Employment attributed the growth in injuries to better education and awareness, saying work health and safety requirements were strengthened in 2015-16.

"A corresponding increase in the reporting of incidents is therefore not unexpected due to the heightened awareness," a spokesman said in a statement.

The department said the recent injuries represented fewer than 0.5 per cent of the total number participating in the welfare-to-work scheme.

It also pointed to a survey showing most people on work for the dole were satisfied with their work environment and work helping communities.

Mr Blacket says while the social aspect of work for the dole has benefits in improving people's mental health, the threat of having welfare docked is stressful.

He claims in one place some people weren't given protective clothing or shoes for the job.

"There was a lot of buck passing."

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