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Workplace Fatalities: The Statistics

When you consider the working conditions across the globe, it will come as no surprise that workplace injuries do not simply occur in Australia. Furthermore, with the increasing globalisation of companies workplace injuries have become an international concern. However, unlike developing countries where workplace injuries and fatalities  are unlikely to be recorded, in western countries such as United States of America, Europe and Australia, we have the benefit of statistics that record workplace injuries and fatalities. Those statistics can help us to assess how poorly or well managed are our workplace health and safety laws. Such statistics matter because these countries offer the benefit of laws that are aimed at protecting employees and finding negligent employers liable.

So how does Australia compare with America and Europe?

America – workplace fatalities

In 2012 in the United States of America, the number of recorded workplace fatalities was 4,628. In the year 2000 it was 5,920. And working back from there to 1993, it was 6,331. This figure may seem at first quite high, but it ought to be kept in mind that this is a figure against a population that is far greater than Australia’s. In 2010, the US Census reported the population at  308.7 million people.

What could also be seen from these workplace fatalities figures is that there has been a steady decline in number over the past two decades. Why is that?

In America, workplace health and safety laws are governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.  Those laws – much like the laws in Australia – are aimed at promoting employers to follow through on their duty of ensuring a safe workplace for employees, and ensuring they are free from hazardous risks.

This legislation has been enacted since 1970. The manner in which it is enforced by the Department of Labor may have some influence over the decline in workplace fatalities. For example, there may be more education around the laws over the years. There may also be more prosecutions against negligent employers, which are published in the media and which deter similar behaviour by other employers. Or perhaps employers are realising that keeping workers safe is just good business.

Another noteworthy aspect of the statistics is that the highest rate of fatalities occurs in transportation accidents. This is similar to the position in Australia. This statistic perhaps highlights the risk on a global scale of workers in industries that rely on transportation.

Europe – workplace fatalities

In Europe in 2012, the number of workplace deaths was 3,878 . This figure was apparently 850 less than in 2008. Again, there appears  – over the years that workplace fatalities have been recorded – to be a steady decline in the figures. Furthermore, similar to the position in Australia and America, the fatalities at work typically arose from transportation accidents.

The European Union also recognises the benefits of workplace health and safety laws.  One of the governing treaties of the union, called the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, has an article (Article 153) which states that the union shall support the Member States’ activities in the area of workplace health and safety. Ultimately the aim of the European Union is to encourage focus on and improvement toward a safer workplace.

Australia – our statistics

So how do we compare to the European Union and America? In 2012 there were 212 recorded workplace deaths. And in 2013 there were a total of 186 workplace deaths. However, our population is far less than America. In 2013 the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded our population at 23,130,931. Therefore our workplace fatality figure was at 0.85 deaths in every 100,000 people. In America, the workplace fatalities was 1.49 people in every 100,000 people (based on 2012 figures). Comparatively, it could then be said that Australia has a far better statistic in this area.

Even so, no worker nor their family should face the risk of not coming home from work. Even one workplace fatality is one too many. It’s essential that Australian workplaces take every precaution to ensure that their employees return home safe and sound at the end of the day.

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