Fatalities in the workplace

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Fatal accidents in the workplace not only affect the person involved, they also cause distress to colleagues, employers, friends and family members. We take a look at the impact of workplace fatalities in Australia and the occupations and industries with the most dangerous and hazardous work conditions.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry experienced the highest rate of work-related fatalities in FY2009/10. Take out life insurance to protect your family's financial future.

Workplace fatalities in Australia - a snapshot

In Australia, workplace fatalities include workers (both employees and self-employed) who suffer a fatal injury at worki. A report released by Safe Work Australia, Australian Work-related Injury Experience by Sex and Age, 2009-10, revealed that in 2009-10 638,400 workers reported they had incurred a work-related injury in the last 12 months – an injury incidence rate of 57.9 per 1,000 workersii.

In FY2009-10, 111 people died in workplace incidents, with the vast majority (95%) being meni. Of the 111 deaths, 9 were female. The data also revealed that the majority of deaths (49) occurred in the 35-54 years age group. 29 of the people who had died were workers aged 15-34 years and the remaining 33 were aged 55 years and overi.

Industries with high rates of workplace fatalities

In FY2009-10, around 80% of workplace fatalities occurred in the goods producing industryi.The five industries with the highest number of work-related fatality in FY2009/10 were Construction (28 deaths), Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (26 deaths), Manufacturing (15), Transport and Storage (14) and Mining (6).

While the Construction industry witnessed the highest number of deaths during this period, the highest fatality rate was recorded in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry. In FY2009/10, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry had a fatality rate of 6.9 (deaths per 100 thousand workers in that industry) with 26 workers and 1 bystander suffering from a fatal injury. This rate was almost double the rate in the Mining industry (3.5 deaths per 100 thousand workers) and almost three times that of the Construction (2.8 deaths per 100 thousand workers), and Transport and Storage (2.7 deaths per 100 thousand workers) industriesi.

Industries that had consistently low rates of fatality over the seven year period between FY2003-04 and FY2009-10 include:

At risk occupations

According to the Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2009-10 from Safe Work Australia, Intermediate Production & Transport Workers were found to have the highest number of worker fatalities (36 fatalities) of all notified worker fatalities in FY2009-10iii. Workers identified within this occupation include: road transport drivers, operators of moving and stationary plant, and machine operatorsiv.

Occupations such as road transport drivers and machine operators were found to have the highest number of worker fatalities in FY2009-10.

Other occupation groups that made it into the top five highest number of fatalities included Tradespersons and related workers (23 fatalities), Labourers and related workers (21), Managers and administrators (15) and in fifth place Farmers or farm managers (10)iv.

Causes of fatalities

Between FY2003-04 and FY2009-10, the four most predominant causes of death in all notified workplace fatalities were 'vehicle incidents', 'being hit by moving object', 'falls from height' and 'being hit by falling objects'v. Two thirds of all notified worker fatalities over the seven-year period can be attributed to these four causes.

During this period, 'vehicle incidents' were responsible for 21% of all notified worker fatalities and accounted for 23 deaths in FY2009-10vi. 'Being hit by moving object' accounted for 17% of all notified worker fatalities and contributed to 17 deaths in FY2009-10vi. The 14% of work-related fatalities were caused by falling objects, which also contributed to 17 deaths in FY2009-10vi. 'Falls from a height' accounted for 15% of all worker fatalities between FY2003-04 and FY2009-10 and 18 deaths in FY2009-10vi.

While the number of recorded workplace fatalities has decreased by 26% since FY2008-09iii, workplace fatality is still a real risk. While not all occupations are eligible for cover, don't risk jeopardising the quality of life you have worked hard to build for you and your family. Get a quote for life insurance today to see if you are eligible and help to secure your family's financial future in the event of death or permanent injury.

i Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Work and Health, Australian Social Trends, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features20Jun+2011

ii SafeWorkAustralia, 2012, Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age, 2009-10, p.vii, http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/578/NotifiedFatalitiesStatisicalReport2009-10.pdf

iii SafeWorkAustralia, 2011, Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2009-10, p.v http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/578/NotifiedFatalitiesStatisicalReport2009-10.pdf

iv SafeWorkAustralia, 2011, Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2009-10, p.6 http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/578/NotifiedFatalitiesStatisicalReport2009-10.pdf

v SafeWorkAustralia, 2011, Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2009-10, p.8-9 http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/578/NotifiedFatalitiesStatisicalReport2009-10.pdf

vi SafeWorkAustralia, 2011, Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2009-10, p.8 http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/578/NotifiedFatalitiesStatisicalReport2009-10.pdf