Work-related fatalities have fallen by half since 2007

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.
Friday, 12 November, 2021 - 12:45
Industry news
National News

While 194 people were fatally injured at work in 2020, the rate of work-related fatalities has decreased 25 per cent over the past decade and fallen by 50 per cent since 2007, according to Safe Work Australia’s Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities Australia 2020 report.

It found more than two-thirds of worker fatalities occurred in transport, postal and warehousing (49 fatalities), followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing (46 fatalities) and construction (36 fatalities).

The most common causes of worker fatalities were vehicle collisions (41 per cent) and being hit by moving objects (13 per cent) followed by falls from a height (11 per cent).

The vast majority of workers killed from work-related activities are men (or 96 per cent with 186 fatalities in 2020), and the male fatality rate has remained relatively steady around 2.6 fatalities per 100,000 male workers in the past five years.

This rate is almost half of that recorded in 2007 when the fatality rate for male workers was 5.0 fatalities per 100,000 male workers.

Over the same period, the fatality rate for female workers has decreased, from 0.5 fatalities per 100,000 female workers in 2007 to 0.1 fatalities per 100,000 female workers between 2018 to 2020.

The distribution of fatalities by age has remained relatively consistent over the past five years, and workers aged 55-64 years accounted for more deaths in 2020 than any other age group (28 per cent).

In 2020, workers aged 65 and over had the highest fatality rate at 5.3 fatalities per 100,000 workers (almost four times the overall worker fatality rate of 1.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers) and workers aged 55 to 64 had the second-highest fatality rate at 2.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

Considerably fewer young people (aged under 25 years) were fatally injured in 2020. Compared to the five-year average, the 2020 fatality rate among this group halved (0.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers compared with 0.8).

Manufacturing – also a priority industry under the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 – accounted for the fourth-highest proportion of 2020 worker fatalities (10 per cent).

When accounting for the number of workers in this industry the rate is much lower than other industries (at 2.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers).

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.