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49% DECREASE in workplace fatality rates over 10 years reported by Safe Work Australia


The workplace fatality rate decreased by 49% in the 10 yrs from 2007 to 2017.

Safe Work Australia compiles national statistics on work-related injury fatalities. These statistics are based on workers’ compensation data, fatality notifications from jurisdictions, the National Coronial Information System and the media.

Work-related fatalities resulting from diseases, natural causes, suicides and the deaths of people undertaking criminal activity are excluded.

To download and read the full SWA report, go to:

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1709/em17-0212_swa_key_statistics_overview_0.pdf

The final statistical breakdown by state is not yet available for 2017, however the figures for 2016, based on fatalities per 100,000 workers show the highest figures from NSW followed by Queensland then Victoria.

Gender risk statistics

Total number of deaths at 182 are reflected in 168 male and 14 female deaths.

Age risk statistics

Highest risk group by age are;

  • over 65 year olds [5.3 fatalities x 100,000 workers], followed by

  • 55-64 age group [2.6 fatalities x 100,000 workers],

with the lowest figures being;

  • under 25 yr old workers [0.8 fatalities x 100,000 workers], and

  • 35 – 44 yr olds [0.9 fatalities x 100,000 workers].

Occupations and industries

Machinery operators and drivers have more than double the fatality statistics [x 100,000 workers] than the next classification being labourers followed by managers.

This is also reflected in the industry classification with the industries operating fixed and mobile plant and equipment on a day-to-day basis and as a critical part of day-to-day operations featuring more thain the top risk industries.

What assumptions can be drawn from this data?

Data can be interpreted in many ways. Here’s my interpretation.

  • Generally plant operators and labourer roles are male dominated occupations that may account for the higher male fatality rate.

  • With technology has come more sophisticated safety mechanisms and various interfaces, electronic warning systems and other safety lockout/tagout devices on mobile and fixed plant. This may have contributed somewhat to the 49% drop in fatality rates over 10 years.

  • In terms of the younger workers having the lowest fatality rates and the oldest working age group having the highest fatality rates, it’s hard to predict a clear root cause. Whilst older workers are more skilled (particularly plant operators), fatigue factors could be an influence/contributor in the aged fatality group particularly in labourer and plant operator roles.

  • Other external factors to take into account is the advancement in medical sciences and emergency response protocols that have taken what would have been a fatality 10 years ago and could now be a serious injury (as apposed to fatality).

Whatever the interpretation, the good thing, if there is anything good about talking ‘fatality’ is that there are now 49% less fatalities in the workplace than there were 10 years ago.

Something must be working.


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