2020 work fatality statistics point to progress

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Safe Work Australia’s (SWA) Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report for 2020 has revealed a 50 per cent decrease in workplace fatalities across the transport, postal & warehousing (TPW) industries, but details indicate more work is required given TPW fatality rates have only fallen slightly more than the five-year average.

Using fatality rates as a measure, the report’s 2020 statistics indicate a decrease from 15.5 per cent to 7.8 per cent from 2007. TPW recorded 49 deaths in 2020 – three more than agriculture, forestry and fishing and thirteen more than construction.

All three segment (seen as the most dangerous for workers) combined accounted for 68 per cent of all industry fatalities.

The vast majority of workers killed from work-related activities in 2020 were men at 96 per cent (186 workers). The report states, “this rate is almost half of that recorded in 2007 when the fatality rate for male workers was 5 fatalities per 100,000 male worker.”

Whether a downturn in work during the Covid-19 pandemic can be equated for a reduction in overall fatalities remains to be seen, as the SWA report states Covid-19 statistic were “outside the scope of this report.”

The report adds: “There were complex effects from the pandemic that affected Australia’s Work Health and Safety environment during 2020. The statistics in this report should be considered in that broader context particularly when comparing with data over previous periods.”

Out of 194 work-related fatalities, 41 per cent (80) of worker fatalities were the result of vehicle collisions, while 13 per cent (25) were the result of workers being struck by a moving object. 75 per cent of all combined fatalities involved a vehicle.

Bystanders amounted for 65 per cent (22) involving moving vehicles and 21 per cent (7) being struck by a moving object.

The report states that in 2020, 67 machinery operators and drivers were killed, representing 13 per cent of total worker fatalities by occupation – down 26 per cent from 2019, but consistent with the five-year average of 34 per cent between 2016 and 2020.

Around three quarters (76 per cent) of the 67 machinery operators and drivers killed were road and rail drivers, according to the report.

Of all 194 national fatalities, NSW and Victoria recorded the highest at 53 and 51 respectively, but these figures only represented 1.3 and 1.5 of fatalities per 100,000 workers. Conversely, the Northern Territory only recorded 6 fatalities, but delineated 4.6 per 100,000 workers.

The full SWA report can be found HERE.

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