In 2016, the most recent full-year of data, there were 182 workplace fatalities – a rate of 1.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. That was close to half the number of deaths recorded in 2007, when workplace fatalities peaked.
The number of deaths was heavily slanted towards male workers, who accounted for 168, or 92 per cent, of all deaths.
Broadly speaking, older workers are more likely to suffer a fatal accident than younger ones, with the fatality rate per 100,000 workers highest among workers aged 65 and over (5.3), and lowest among those aged less than 25.
However, the rate is affected by the number of workers in those age brackets. The highest number of deaths occurred among workers aged 55 to 64 (46 deaths nationally), followed by 45 to 54-year-olds (41 deaths).
Most dangerous industries
Agriculture, forestry and fishing was by far the most deadly industry in Australia, taking 44 lives in the year – a rate of 14 deaths per 100,000 workers.
However, the highest number of deaths was attributed to the transport, postal and warehousing sector, where 47 lives were lost. Its fatality rate (7.5) was much lower though, demonstrating the sizeable difference in the total workforce of both sectors.
There were also 35 deaths in the construction industry, the only other sector to record double-digit fatalities.
Rounding out the top four was electricity, gas, water and waste services, which suffered eight deaths.
On the flip side, three sectors recorded zero workplace deaths in 2016. These were wholesale trade, accommodation and food services, as well as financial and insurance services.
Most dangerous occupations
Unsurprisingly, it is on-the-ground employees who account for the bulk of workplace fatalities. However, managers are not immune.
According to the figures, machinery operators and drivers are the most likely to suffer a fatal accident, accounting for 62 deaths for the year.
This was followed by labourers (40 deaths) and technicians (26 deaths), while a total of 24 managers were killed while at work.
Professionals accounted for a further 14 fatalities, while there were three deaths each among community/personal service workers and sales workers. One death was attributed to clerical and administration staff.
Causes of workplace deaths
Employers looking to improve the safety of their workforce should look primarily to vehicles, which contributed to 45 per cent of all fatal workplace accidents.
The next most common cause of death at work was from being hit by moving objects (29 per cent), and a further 14 per cent of workers died as the result of them suffering a fall, trip or slip.
Heat, electricity and other environmental factors accounted for 11 per cent of deaths. The remaining people killed at work died as a result of sound and pressure or hitting objects with a part of their body.