169 people killed at work last year: Safe Work Australia

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 6 November, 2022 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

While the fatality rate of workers in Australia has decreased by 35 per cent over the past 10 years, 169 people were killed at work in 2021, according to new data from Safe Work Australia.

Vehicle collisions accounted for 38 per cent of all worker fatalities and machinery operators and drivers had the highest number of fatalities by occupation (68 fatalities).

Furthermore, 96 per cent of worker fatalities were male and the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry had the highest worker fatality rate (10.4 per 100,000).

The Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2022 report also found there were 130,195 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia and body stressing was the leading cause of serious workers’ compensation claims (37 per cent).

Safe Work Australia said work-related mental health conditions are one of the costliest forms of workplace injury, leading to significantly more time off work and higher compensation paid when compared to physical injuries and diseases.

Mental health conditions account for a relatively small but increasing proportion of serious claims, rising from 6 per cent of all serious claims in 2014-15 to 9 per cent in 2019-20.

In 2020-21, the largest share of such claims related to anxiety or stress disorders (36 per cent) or reaction to stressors – other, multiple or not specified (34 per cent).

In 2019-20, the median time lost for mental health conditions was 30.7 working weeks per serious claim, compared to 6.2 working weeks per serious claim for physical injuries and diseases.

The median compensation paid was $55,270 per serious claim, compared to $13,883 for physical injuries and diseases, while the median time lost (in working weeks) for mental health conditions has increased markedly in recent years, from 18.8 working weeks in 2015-16 to 30.7 working weeks in 2019-20.

In 2020-21, there were also 474 accepted workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19, while the age group with the lowest frequency rate was workers aged 35-39 years, at 5.2 serious claims per million hours worked.

“Work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses have a devastating impact on workers, their families and the community,” said Safe Work Australia CEO, Michelle Baxter.

“Through our analysis of data and research, we are gaining better insights into future work health and safety and workers’ compensation challenges.

“The changing nature of work and workplaces, the shift in workforce demographics and the evolution of new technologies present new risks but also provide us with new opportunities to improve WHS in a changing world.”