Workplace deaths on the rebound, latest figures show


Australia's workplace deaths rate, in which the transport and logistics sector has a leading position, appears to be increasing again. <br /><br /> The most recent preliminary Safe Work Australia (SWA) figures show up to September 18, about a third of fatalities this year was within the transport, postal and warehouses sector, at 41 of the 128 recorded, compared with 119 recorded deaths for this time last year.

By Rob McKay | September 21, 2012

Australia's workplace deaths rate, in which the transport and logistics sector has a leading position, appears to be increasing again.

The most recent preliminary Safe Work Australia (SWA) figures show that, up to September 18, about a third of fatalities this year was within the transport, postal and warehouses sector, at 41 of the 128 recorded, compared with 119 deaths for this time last year.

More generally, the figures show that, at 92 percent, men were more prone to die on the job and of those 41 percent are in the 45-54 age group.

The transport rates appear little changed from a complete SWA set of figures released in March in the Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2009-10 report.

"One-third of the workers who died in 2009-10 were working in or around a truck," that report states.

"Two-thirds of these involved a crash, with single vehicle crashes accounting for 26 of the 70 truck-related deaths in 2009-10.

"A further 13 workers were killed when two trucks collided.

"Over the seven years of the [statistical] series, 567 workers have been killed in truck-related incidents.

"Of these, 438 were truck drivers, 16 were passengers in trucks, while 57 workers were in cars or utilities and 48 workers were on foot when they came into contact with the truck or its cargo."

Machinery operator and driver deaths at work were more than a third higher that the next most dangerous occupation, that of labourer, and more than twice as much as the next sector, technicians and trades workers.

Managers are not immune to the scourge, in fourth place at about 15 percent of fatalities.

Despite the higher rate this year, work-related fatalities have trended down since 2006-07, from 300 to 216, the 2009-10 report shows.

Truck drivers recorded 19 fewer deaths in 2009-10 at 41, compared with the previous year and 32 less than the peak of 73 deaths in 2007-08.

Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon this week called on state road authorities, workplace accident investigators and state coroners to launch "full and thorough investigations" into recent trucking fatalities.

"Driving a truck is Australia’s most dangerous job," Sheldon says, with Coles again a target of his ire.

"Trucking accounts for almost one in every three workplace fatalities, despite the fact that less than 2.5 percent of the population are employed in the industry.

"Every year 330 people die and thousands are injured as a consequence of unfair and often unrealistic expectations and demands from big clients like Coles.

"Too often truckies are forced to drive too far, too fast and for too long just to put food on the table for their families."

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten used the start of construction of a memorial to fallen workers – the National Workers’ Memorial - to highlight workplace safety law harmonisation.

"The model work health and safety laws are a significant improvement on previous OHS laws and now operate in five jurisdictions," Shorten says.

"This means that more than 58 percent of Australian workers have been covered since 1 January 2012.

"The memorial will include eight columns each representing a state or territory – making one memorial. I see this as a fitting representation of our work to harmonise health and safety legislation, nine different jurisdictions – one model law.

"It is my firm view that we must keep working to make sure the remaining states that have not yet harmonised their legislation do so."

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