Workplace Safety Statistics in Australia

Here are work health and safety (WHS) trends by the numbers from Safe Work Australia.

national safe work month badgeOne of the core functions of Safe Work Australia (SWA) is to develop and maintain an evidence base to inform WHS and workers’ compensation policies and practices.

Yearly, it publishes key work health and safety (WHS) figures that present an overview of the latest national work-related injury, disease and fatality statistics.

(Theme and branding belong to Safe Work Australia. Used under Creative Commons 4.0.)

 

What the SWA report covers

The limitations of the scope of the report are as follows: 

  • Work-related fatalities are compiled from the work-related traumatic injury fatalities data set which provides national statistics on all workers and bystanders fatally injured at work. They are aggregated from a range of sources including, but not limited to: 

  • Initial reporting of fatalities in the media or on relevant authority websites such as police, road authorities and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau  

  • Notifications to Safe Work Australia from the jurisdictional authorities 

  • National Coronial Information System, which provides confidential access to coroners’, police and other investigative reports 

  • Work-related injuries and diseases are compiled from the National Dataset for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS), which covers information on workers’ compensation claims from the jurisdictional workers’ compensation authorities. The data only include serious claims, where compensated injury or disease resulted in one week or more off work. 

The most recent version of the report was released on 25 October 2021. It mostly covers finalised data up to 2020, and preliminary data for 2021.

For your convenience, we have tabulated the annual statistics with a brief description for each set of figures. Click on the image previews to view them. The links will take you to the actual images hosted on the SWA website.  

creative commonsThe key statistics in this article are directly taken from and attributed to Safe Work Australia under Creative Commons 4.0. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

Work-related fatalities

Here are the latest figures from SWA based on preliminary estimates subject to update by authorities: 

  • 2021: 89 (as of 30 September) 

  • 2020: 182  

Overall, documented fatalities due to occupational causes have significantly decreased since the 2007 peak, but are slowly rising again since the 2018 trough.

(Excludes work-related fatalities resulting from diseases, natural causes and suicides)

From 2016 to 2020, many more males suffered work-related deaths than females.

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016

 

The highest number of work-related deaths were recorded in New South Wales, though Northern Territory saw the highest fatality rate at 4.6 deaths per 100,000 workers.

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016

 

Most deaths every year were the result of vehicle collisions (eg. car, truck, aircraft, boat, loader, tractor, quad bike etc.). From 2016 to 2020, the third leading cause of death was falls from heights (except in 2019, when it was tied with “being hit by moving objects” as the second leading cause of death).

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016

 

Most fatality victims were machine operators and drivers or, essentially, those who work with or near vehicles (top cause of death, see the previous figure).

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016

 

“Agriculture, forestry and fishing” were the industries where most fatalities were recorded, although we’ve seen a steady decline since 2016. On the other hand, we’re seeing more deaths from “Transportation, postal and warehousing”, and it almost closed the gap with the top spot in 2019.

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016

 

Work-related injuries and diseases

Here are the latest figures from SWA based on preliminary estimates, subject to update by authorities. 

Overall, the number of documented injuries and diseases due to occupational causes is decreasing.

 

There were significantly more serious claims filed in 2018-2019 compared to the preceding years, although there were barely any significant changes in: 

  • Frequency rate (serious claims per million hours worked)

  • Median time lost, at roughly 6 weeks per serious claim

  • Median compensation paid at an average of $11,500 per serious claim

2019 - 2020
2018 - 2019
2017 - 2018
2016 - 2017

 

“Body stressing” and “falls, slips and trips” have remained the top two mechanisms of incident.

2018 - 2019 2017 - 2018 2016 - 2017

 

Roughly 3 out of 4 serious claims filed resulted in injuries, most of which were classified as traumas to the joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.

2018 - 2019 2017 - 2018 2016 - 2017

 

The injuries were mostly to the upper and lower limbs.

2018 - 2019 2017 - 2018 2016 - 2017

 

In terms of occupation, those who filed for serious claims were mostly labourers, followed by community and personal service workers and machinery operators and drivers.

2018 - 2019 2017 - 2018 2016 - 2017

 

Similar to the fatality statistics per industry, those in “agriculture, forestry and fishing” sustained the most injuries and filed for serious claims. Manufacturing comes in as a close second from 2017 to 2019.

2018 - 2019 2017 - 2018 2016 - 2017

 

We'll monitor the SWA’s release of updated information and amend the figures accordingly. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter below so you don’t miss the update.