Three industries have been responsible for 69 per cent of worker fatalities last year, according to Safe Work Australia research: transport, postal and warehousing (38 fatalities), agriculture, forestry and fishing (37 fatalities) and construction (24 fatalities).

The research also found the most common causes of worker fatalities in 2018 were vehicle collisions (44 fatalities), being hit by a moving object (24 fatalities) and falls from a height (18 fatalities).

The Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities Australia 2018 report found that the fatality rate was 1.1 per 100,000 workers (144 workers fatally injured) last year – a reduction of 62 per cent from a peak of 3.0 per 100,000 (310 fatalities) in 2007.

The large share of fatalities in the agriculture, road transport and construction industries are not due to industry size, but due to disproportionately high fatality rates for these industries.

The five-year average fatality rates for agriculture (13.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers), road transport (13.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers) and construction (2.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers) sit well above the rates for the remaining priority industries, as well as the fatality rate across all industries (1.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers).

Over the period 2014-2018, there were 188 worker fatalities in the agriculture industry (20 per cent of all worker fatalities over the period) and within the agriculture industry, the sheep, beef cattle and grain farming industry group accounted for 57 per cent of fatalities.

Workers aged 65 and over accounted for 31 per cent of fatalities in the agriculture industry, which is double the proportion of fatalities across all industries (15 per cent) over the same period and age group.

Over the five-year period to 2018, the majority of fatalities (69 per cent or 129 fatalities) in the agriculture industry involved a vehicle, and the most common vehicles involved were tractors (23 per cent or 44 fatalities) and quad bikes (15 per cent or 29 fatalities).

In line with these statistics, Safe Work Australia said it focuses on several priority industries:

  • Agriculture
  • Road transport
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Public administration and safety, and
  • Health care and social assistance.

Industries such as manufacturing, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance and public administration and safety have low fatality rates but are included as priority industries due to high non-fatal injury rates (according to the latest Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics report)

The report and data are drawn from a range of sources, including initial reporting of fatalities in the media, notifications from jurisdictional authorities, and the National Coronial Information System.

“While the downward trend in work-related fatalities is encouraging, it is not a cause for celebration,” said Michelle Baxter, CEO of Safe Work Australia.

“Every work-related fatality is a tragedy, and there’s a lot more work to be done.”


Australian Institute of Health & Safety

November 28, 2019