Workplace fatalities unacceptably high and costs of injuries at work very high
- Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation
Two new reports published by Safe Work Australia show that despite Australia recording its lowest number of work-related deaths since 2003-04 (216 deaths*), the total cost of work-related injury, illness and disease can now be assessed at more than $60 billion.
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten today publicly released the two reports:
- research on work-related fatalities titled Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2009-10; and
- research on the economic cost of work-related injury and disease titled The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09
The Minister said the expert research in Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2009-10 showed Australia recording its lowest number of work-related deaths since 2003-04. In the reporting period of 2009-10, a total of 216 workers died tragically from injuries incurred while working.
“The findings show that we are making some progress in reducing the number of Australians killed each year at work. But of course any work-related death is still one too many. What we need is real change in all workplaces so people feel confident to speak up about safety issues and indeed where necessary tell the boss the bad news,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Gillard Government is concerned that the transport, construction and agriculture industries remain a particularly high risk for workers and bystanders. These industries are priority areas for action under the new work health and safety strategy for the next decade, due to be released in the second half of 2012.
“The distressingly high incidence of truck related injuries and fatalities brings further evidence to why it is so important for Parliament to pass the Road Safety Remuneration Bill being debated in the House of representatives this week. Safe rates for truck drivers is all about safe roads.”
The Minister also highlighted the other report The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09 estimates the total cost of work-related injury, illness and disease for the 2008-09 financial year at $60.6 billion or 4.8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
“Work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities have a huge impact on Australian society. They can physically and mentally affect workers, colleagues, employers, families and the community. This latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy. Workplace safety is not just about avoiding human tragedy it is also about reducing economic cost for the nation,” he said.
“Work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities have a huge impact on Australian society. They can physically and mentally affect workers, colleagues, employers, families and the community. Workplace safety is about avoiding human tragedy.
"In addition, this latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy – in the order of billions of dollars.
“These are the reasons why improving work health and safety is a real priority of this Government.
“This year the Government is launching the new national work health and safety strategy that will provide action areas to focus our efforts on and targets to reduce the number of Australians who suffer from work-related injury, illness and disease each year. Together with the new harmonised work health and safety laws, this strategy will form the framework for this key area of reform.”
Some key findings of the reports include:
- Truck related incidents account for one in three deaths. In the seven years of reporting, 567 workers have died in truck-related incidents.
- 310 workers on agriculture properties have died since 2003-04. There were 83 deaths involving a tractor, 39 involving aircraft and 26 involving all-terrain vehicles or quad-bikes.
- Nearly a third of the agriculture workers who died were over the age of 65, three times more than older workers killed in other industries.
- In addition to the 216 workers who died of work-related injuries in 2008-09, 79 workers died while commuting to or from work, and 42 bystanders died as a result of someone else’s work activity. A total of 356 bystanders have been killed since 2003 - 95 were killed in a vehicle incident involving a truck, and 30 were pedestrians hit by a truck.
- In terms of the cost of work-related injuries, the figures are estimates based on the human cost of work-related incidents and include loss of earnings, loss of human capital, medical and social welfare costs, costs of training and staff turnover.
- The cost of injuries report shows significant cost to the Australian economy but only represents one aspect of the costs associated with work health and safety. Compliance and prevention activities also have an economic dimension but are factors outside the scope of the study.
- Further work health and safety costs not included in the study include workplace incidents where no human costs were incurred including near misses, property damage and loss of goodwill.
- The costs associated with work-related injury or illness can be direct, like workers’ compensation premiums and workers’ compensation payments or indirect including lost productivity, loss of current and future income and the cost of providing additional social welfare to injured and incapacitated workers.
“It is important to recognise the areas where we need to improve work safety standards and to celebrate those workers and employers who actively contribute to saving lives in the workplace,” Mr Shorten said.
The Minister will be hosting the 7th Annual Safe Work Australia Awards at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 26 April. These awards recognise the outstanding efforts of everyday Australian who are helping to reduce work-related injury, illness and disease and increase safety awareness.
*Note: The 216 workplace deaths figure does not include those categorised as industrial diseases such as asbestos related fatalities.
More information on the reports and can be found at www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au