No one goes to work in the morning thinking that it might be for the last time. While some industries are naturally more hazardous than others, we all still assume we’ll be heading home at the end of the working day. At least that’s what we might think. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the case. 190 workers were killed at Australian workplaces in 2017. 16 of them were under the age of 25. Let that sink in for a minute. The reality is some workers have a lot more to worry about than a telling off from their boss. For them, the probability of being hurt or even killed is simply part of their job.
The causes of injury and death in the workplace can be extremely varied. Everything from mechanical failures to stress and exhaustion can play a part. But what are Australia’s most dangerous industries, and more importantly, why? Should workers accept perilous working conditions, or is there something that can be done to change things? Surely, we all have a responsibility to protect our workers and ensure they go home to their loved ones every day?
What are Australia’s Most Dangerous Industries?
The most recent safety statistics from Safe Work Australia have highlighted the most dangerous industries in Australia, and it’s the same three suspects holding top position for consecutive years. Analysis by Finder Insights takes into account the fatalities, injuries and compensation claims to create a risk score for each industry:
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing – with a risk score of 35.2 for 2017, the industry is yet again at the top of the most dangerous jobs list. The sector averaged 16.5 fatalities per 1,000,000 workers in 2017, and initial reports show 19 so far in 2019 alone. The industry sees an abundance of workers’ compensation claims, over 3,600 in the year 2016-2017. The most common cause of injury is sheep, beef cattle and grain farming.
- Transport, postal and warehousing – another repeat offender, the industry has a risk score of 23.6. The industry averaged 18.7 fatalities per 100,000 employees along with 8,330 serious injury claims in 2017. Preliminary worker death figures show 28 in the sector. The most common cause of injury is car crashes due to the volume of time on the road and the need to deliver items quickly. Injuries due to muscle stress when carrying and lifting are also significant.
- Construction – the construction industry has a risk score of 18.7. The sector was responsible for 30 deaths in 2017 and saw a shocking 13,280 claims made. Jobs such as earthmoving, plumbing, carpentry, bricklaying and concreting are the most hazardous.
The numbers speak for themselves, with the rates of fatalities and injuries much too high for the top three most dangerous industries. On a positive note the overall figures have been trending down across the board over the last ten years, but it’s not happening anywhere near quickly enough. In fact, preliminary figures for 2019 show fatalities on the rise again for agriculture, forestry and fishing compared with the previous year.
How Does Australia Compare to Other Countries
The International Labour Organization (ILO), reports that every 15 seconds a worker dies because of a work-related illness or accident somewhere around the world. It is a sobering statistic. Every year there are more than 2.78 million deaths and some 374 million injuries within the workplace. The human cost and economic burden are unthinkable, yet it continues to happen.
The industries that are the most dangerous in Australia are comparable to the rest of the world. Research has shown professions such as lumberjacks, fishermen and farmers to be the most at risk. What’s more, there is a common cause of injury. Long and antisocial hours, remote locations, heavy machinery and extreme weather conditions are primary causes of injuries and fatalities across the globe.
What is Industry Doing to Make Work Safer?
Safe Work Australia leads the development of national policy to improve work health and safety across Australia. According to CEO, Michelle Baxter, the endgame is to make sure workers get home safely. The organisation tries to achieve this by helping businesses put systems in place to keep their workers safe and to feel supported enough to do the right thing. Safe Work Australia has seen a significant level of improvement. The fatality rate decreased by 50% between 2007 and 2017, along with a 31% decrease in the frequency of serious workers’ compensation claims.
However, Safe Work Australia and other organisations can only move industry so far regarding safety standards. While they can create WHS legislation, enforcing it can be challenging. That is why it is our inherent responsibility as business owners to not only meet WHS legislation and industry standards, but exceed them, making our workers safer and avoiding the grave implications of failing to do so.
What Can We Do About It?
It is clear that there is a problem. While there has been a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries at work over the years, there are still far too many. What’s more, the most dangerous industries don’t appear to be getting any safer. Surely, we all have a responsibility to reduce harm and, ultimately, to save lives?
As business leaders, we should all take it upon ourselves to drive safety in our workplace. We need to ensure that everyone knows and follows safety procedures. But, more than that, we need our workers to know their safety is important to us. Machinery, remote locations and long hours should not be killers. It is within our power to reduce the risks, but it has to start with us.