11 December 2020

What your organisation can take away from key WHS statistics Australia 2019

After a long downward trend in workplace fatalities Safe Work Australia’s Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2020 has recorded an uptick for 2019 across all states, signalling the need for greater controls and caution. Here is a summary of some of the key findings, along with how our Gallagher Workplace Risk practice can help your business with safety management.

Australia’s annual workplace fatality rate has steadily fallen by 53% from its 2007 peak of 300+ deaths. The 2019 death toll, however, was 183, up from 144 in 2018, with moving vehicles accounting for the vast majority of fatalities (43%), followed by falls and objects being dropped from a height. Machinery operators and drivers were most at risk, recording 72 fatalities in 2019.

What 2019 workplace fatality statistics mean for employers

Any increase of incidents is disturbing, but the role of moving vehicles and their over-representation in fatality statistics show the need for heightened safety measures and protocols on work sites, with only appropriately qualified drivers operating specific classes of vehicles.

The most risky industry sector recorded is agriculture, forestry and fishing (9.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers), and transport, postal and warehousing (8.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers). Labourers are more at risk than technicians and managers, with community and personal service workers moving up to the next highest category, highlighting the need for increased risk management at all levels of employment across all industries.


“At Gallagher, our team of specialists has been involved in supporting employers across all industry sectors with a key focus on risk management and injury prevention,” says Gallagher National Head of Workplace Risk Vivienne Toll.

“In this past year we have also worked to support clients that have experienced workplace fatalities. This has long lasting impacts on employers, workers, the impacted family and community involved.

“Hazard identification and risk management are essential requirements for all businesses to prevent injury and ensure that workers go home safely.”

Vivienne Toll, Gallagher National Head of Workplace Risk


Trends in workplace injuries and illnesses

Unlike the upsurge in fatalities, statistics for serious insurance claims for work-related injury and disease show a continuous downward trend from 2001 to 2018‒19, with body stressing accounting for 36%, slips, trips and falls for 23% and being struck by moving objects for 16%. Overall 72% of claims were for injuries and 28% for disease.

Just as not all exposures are not immediately apparent in some sectors, the nature of work-related injury or illness may not be obvious. Notable additions to occupational risks included increased incidence of reports of mental stress. Even before COVID-19 mental health conditions were being recognised and reported at increasing rates and in the 2019 report mental health conditions accounted for 9% of recorded claims.

“Employer reporting statistics and compensable claims data have illustrated a trend upwards in mental health injuries and claims for several years. This year COVID-19 uncertainty and the increased community conversation about mental health has made occupational stressors and psycho-social risk factors an even greater focus for employers,” Toll says.

“Regulator focus and the new international safety management system standard (ISO 45001) also place an increased emphasis on worker mental health. Gallagher has the expertise to help you identify and manage this risk.”

Also of concern is the emergence of greater incidence of injury and illness in occupations not usually regarded as risky. Surprisingly, at 18% for both groups, serious claims involving community and personal service workers, and technicians and trades topped the rates for machinery operators and drivers (14%), coming second after labourers (24%).

Industry sectors also reflect this increase in claims for injury or illness by traditionally lower risk occupations, with health care and social assistance, and arts and recreation included in the top 6 highest risk industries. Agriculture, forestry and fishing represent the highest number of claims; followed by manufacturing; then transport, postal and warehousing services; then those involved with health care and social assistance ahead of construction; with providers of arts and recreation services in 6th place on the injury risk list.

Toll points out: “While the impact of fatality on workers' families, co-workers and the broader community is undeniable and usually associated with industries such as agriculture and transport, all industries have the capacity to inflict serious and permanent injuries on workers.

“Serious injuries and their impacts are more frequent than workplace fatalities and can have equally distressing effects on workers, their loved ones and co-workers. The best approach for any employer to prevent these potential impacts is to identify the hazardous tasks associated with your business and come up with a critical risk control program to manage the risk and protect your people.”

How we can help

Every organisation relies on its people as a key asset and business owners are naturally concerned with taking care of their workforce, reducing injuries, preventing fatalities and improving their safety culture. To achieve this it helps to have the benefit of external expertise. The Gallagher Workplace Risk practice can help businesses improve their safety culture by

      1. conducting health and safety audits of your workplace and making risk control recommendations
      2. helping you to identify the hazardous and critical risks in your business and developing a risk control program to manage this
      3. establishing best practice board and Leadership reporting frameworks to improve visibility of identified risk for executives and officers
      4. running officer due-diligence briefing sessions and risk management workshops to help executives understand and meet their legal compliance obligations
      5. assisting in analysing incident trends to inform strategy and resource appropriate interventions to protect your workers.

Take the first step — contact us to find out more about reviewing your organisation's health and safety. The Gallagher Workplace Health & Safety offering encompasses everything from safety mentoring and training through to health and wellness programs, hazard and risk profiling, and incident management and investigation.

Connect with us to find out more about the Gallagher Workplace Risk team.

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Further reading

Workplace risk

What are my obligations for protecting my business’s workers?

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