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National Safe Work Month is back again this October. Workplace health and safety should be one of the biggest priorities in any company. Having good WHS policies and regulations in place means that employees feel safe at work, boosting productivity and overall wellbeing and happiness. On the flip side, a workplace with substandard WHS practices can cause poor mental health, physical injuries leading to a loss of production, poor employee retention and a loss of money.
Driving is one of the most dangerous tasks an employee may do. This is because the employee is now off work grounds and is surrounded by factors uncontrollable by their manager. In 2020, vehicle collision was the number one cause of worker fatality. This was followed by being hit by a moving object, which includes vehicles. Simply put, vehicles were involved in the top two causes of worker as well as bystander fatalities.
Let’s walk through the most recent annual Safe Work Australia report that covers work-related fatalities for the year of 2020¹.
In 2020, 194 workers were fatally injured at work – three out of four fatalities involved a vehicle. The top three causes of worker fatalities were vehicle collision, being hit by a moving object and falling from height (in that order). The top three industry categories with the most worker fatalities recorded were transport/postal/warehousing which had 49 fatalities, agriculture/forestry/fishing which saw 46 fatalities and construction which recorded 36 fatalities.
Fatalities by State
Despite New South Wales recording the highest number of worker fatalities at 53 deaths, it was the second safest state to work in. The Australian Capital Territory had the lowest worker fatality rate per 100,000 workers and was the only state to record less than 1.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers. The Northern Territory had the highest worker fatality rate of 4.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers, followed by Tasmania with 3.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers.
Fatalities by Gender
Of the 194 workers that were fatally injured in 2020, 96% were male and 4% were female. From 2007, the fatality rate for male workers nearly halved from 5.0 to 2.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers. However, there have been no significant changes in the male worker fatality rate in the past five years. In the same period, the fatality rate for female workers decreased from 0.5 fatalities per 100,000 female workers in 2007 to 0.1 fatalities per 100,000 in 2018-2020.
Fatalities by Age
As with previous years, the age group that recorded the most worker fatalities was the 55-64 age group, accounting for over one in four fatalities. However, the 65+ age group had the highest fatality rate per 100,000 workers. The age group with the lowest fatality rate was the under 25s followed by the 25-34 age group. Notably, the fatality rate of under 25s halved from 0.8 per 100,000 workers in 2019 to 0.4 per 100,000 workers in 2020. Other than this, there have been no significant changes between the fatality rates from 2019 and 2020 in all other age groups.
Fatalities by Industry
As mentioned, the industries that recorded the highest number of fatalities are transport/postal/warehousing, agriculture/forestry/fishing and construction. Of the 194 worker fatalities in 2020, almost half of the fatalities were in the transport/postal/warehousing and the agriculture/forestry/fishing industry. However, the industry with the highest fatality rate was the agriculture/forestry/fishing industry which had 13.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers. Transport/postal/warehousing followed as second with a rate of 7.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers.
Notably, over the five years ending 2020, 70% of fatalities in the agriculture industry involved a vehicle, with tractors and quad bikes the most common vehicles involved. Similarly, over 75% of fatalities in the road transport industry were due to vehicle collisions in the same period of time.
An evolving industry is the gig industry. However, gig workers seem to constantly be in the spotlight for the wrong reasons with multiple reports of delivery workers being injured due to the lack of protection and training from their companies. Of the recorded nine food delivery workers that died over the past two years, all fatalities involved a collision with another vehicle.
While the national fatality rate has decreased significantly since 2007, there is still much to do to keep all Australian workers safe. There is no better time than Safe Work Month to talk about WHS with your colleagues and employers. Read more about WHS here and find out how our WHS-focused driver education program ‘Drive It Home’ can keep your employees safe.
To find out more about our programs click HERE.
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