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New statistics reveal continued fall in workplace fatalities

Queensland workplace traumatic injury fatalities decreased by 12 percent from 34 fatalities in 2015-16 to 30 in 2019-20, according to figures released this month.

The statistics, released by Safe Work Australia in its Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2020 report and Comparative Performance Monitoring report, reveal a national decrease over the same five-year period of five per cent, from 148 to 141.

The figures show that while the serious incident rates in Queensland increased five percent from 11.9 to 12.5 per 1000 workers, between 2014-15 and 2018-19, preliminary data for 2019-20 indicates a turnaround with a marginal decrease of one per cent over the year for Queensland, and a four percent increase nationally.

Queensland has already surpassed the national target of a 20 percent cut in worker fatalities due to injury. Some of the changes can be attributed to the impact of COVID-19 on attendance at the usual workplace, work hours and employment levels.

Of the priority industries in 2019-20, serious injury claim rates were highest nationally for agriculture, forestry and fishing where the state rate was 9.6 claims per million hours worked. In Queensland, the agriculture, transport, and construction industries experienced a reduction in serious claims per million hours worked over the year to 2019-20, with the largest decline at 22 per cent for agriculture, followed by transport (10%) and construction (4%).

While serious injury frequency rates in Queensland have stabilised over the year to 2019-20 based on preliminary data, claim rates are continuing to be influenced by increasing average claim durations. Potential reasons for this increase in the average workdays lost:

  • After the introduction of the common law threshold in 2013, lawyers shifted their focus from workers’ compensation common law to other insurances such as motor vehicle accidents and superannuation insurance. However, since 2019, the superannuation industry introduced longer waiting periods for access.
  • There has been more focus by insurers on improving return to work rates. This means longer claim durations as workers access better levers of rehabilitation.
  • Along with the steady increase in primary psychological claims, which rarely involve less than five workdays lost, there also has been an increase in injured workers developing secondary injuries (including psychological and psychiatric), prolonging claims.

Further information

Read the Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2020 and Comparative Performance Monitoring reports.