The construction industry has one of the poorest OHS records out of all industry sectors in Australia, with three workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers and 8.1 serious claims per million hours worked, according to recent Safe Work Australia data.
The nature of work in the construction industry means it is a relatively high-risk industry and this is reflected in both the comparatively high level of fatalities and serious workers’ compensation claims (accounting for 16 per cent of fatalities and 11 per cent of serious claims).
The construction industry is identified as a national priority to reduce the number and rate of fatalities and serious claims in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.
It accounts for 9 per cent of total employment and includes three sub‑industries: building construction (including both residential and non-residential); construction services (including site preparation, installation services, completions services); and heavy and civil engineering construction.
The construction services sub-industry accounts for the majority of workers in the construction industry, which is reflected in both the number of fatalities and serious claims.
Over the four years from 2013 to 2016 this sub-industry accounted for just under two-thirds of fatalities (62 per cent) and serious claims (63.7 per cent).
Within the construction services sub-industry, site preparation services, electrical services and concreting services were particular areas that involved fatalities and injuries.
Accounting for the size of the workforce, the heavy and civil engineering construction sub-industry recorded both the highest fatality rate (5.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers) and serious claim frequency rate (13.4 claims per million hours worked).
Construction and mining labourers accounted for the highest proportion of worker fatalities (22 per cent or 27 fatalities over the four-year period), followed by electricians (11 per cent or 14 fatalities), bricklayers, carpenters and joiners (8 per cent or 10 fatalities) and mobile plant operators (8 per cent or 10 fatalities).
In relation to serious claims, construction and mining labourers also accounted for the highest proportion of serious claims (17 per cent or an average of 2,195 claims per year), followed by bricklayers, carpenters and joiners (14 per cent or an average of 1,790 claims per year), and miscellaneous labourers (14 per cent or an average of 1,765 claims per year).
Falls from a height accounted for the largest proportion of fatalities (30 per cent) within the construction industry, followed by being hit by falling objects (15 per cent), and vehicle incidents (15 per cent).
With regard to serious claims, the main cause of injuries was muscular stress from lifting, carrying or putting down objects (16 per cent of claims), followed by muscular stress while handling objects (14 per cent), and falls on the same level (13 per cent).
At the sub-industry level, falls from a height and muscular stress while lifting, carrying or putting down objects was the main cause of fatalities and injuries respectively in both building construction and construction services.
By contrast, in the heavy and civil engineering construction sub-industry, being hit by moving objects was the main cause of fatalities and muscular stress while handling objects was the main cause of injuries.