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Workplace deaths – a background.

Information on global workplace fatalities is not reported or collected in a standardised fashion. Formed in 1919 the International Labour Organisation (“ILO”) is an agency of the United Nations and attempts to bring together governments, employers and workers from 187 member states. The ILO maintains statistics on workplace injuries and fatalities but recognises that in many countries workplace accidents and deaths are significantly under-reported. In joint research between the ILO and a couple of Finnish universities it was estimated that in 1998 there were 350,000 workplace deaths across the world. This research found that Morocco was the most dangerous country to work in as it recorded 48 deaths per 100,000 workers. In more contemporary research the ILO found that in 2015 there were 38 deaths per 100,000 workers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.    

Fortunately, Australia is a relatively safe country to work in when compared to many of its international peers. Australia has a well-established workplace health and safety system that includes comprehensive legislation, well equipped regulatory bodies and an effective legal system. Despite this Australia records a horrifying number of workplace deaths each year and we can all agree that one workplace death is too many. Based on current workplace fatality figures provided by Safe Work Australia every two days an Australian is killed at work or while carrying out their work. Preliminary data confirms that in 2020, 182 Australian workers were killed at work and 183 workers were killed at work in 2019. These figures specifically exclude workers who die from natural causes, self-inflicted injuries, diseases not caused by one’s work environment or medical intervention. More specifically, in 2017, Western Australia recorded 1.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. This was the third lowest worker death rate behind Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. The Northern Territory recorded the highest figure with 5.1 deaths per 100,000 workers.