Nearly 100 Australians have been killed at work in 2018 so far, and it’s only September. But some industries are more risky than others.
Transport, postal and warehouse workers have the most unsafe work environments, followed by workers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries, new numbers from Safe Work Australia reveal.
So far, 29 transport and warehouse workers and 27 from the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry have died at work.
However, that’s an improvement on last year’s figures for the same period. Over that period, 44 transport, postal and warehousing workers and 29 agriculture, forestry and fishing workers died on the job.
Construction, manufacturing and mining workers also have unsafe jobs, with 31 workers in these industries dying at work this year, followed by electricity and wholesale trade workers.
Why is transport work so deadly?
Speaking to Yahoo Finance, the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Michael Kaine said it’s no surprise that transport is again Australia’ deadliest industry.
“The high numbers of transport workers killed so far this year is shocking and correlates to Safe Work Australia’s final tally last year of 65 transport workers killed on the job,” he said.
“Sadly, we know these statistics are not the full picture: not all transport workers deaths are recorded as workplace deaths. Horrific injuries are also a major problem in our industry.”
Transport workers including track and delivery drivers and transport operators are under “intense financial pressure” from supermarkets, online retailers and online manufacturers.
This can lead to stressed and fatigued workers required to drive long hours, skip mandatory rest breaks and even speed, he said.
“Just two weeks ago two truck drivers from the same transport company were killed in a head-on collision in Queensland.
“The company involved had previously been investigated for fatigue breaches, the type of safety risks which leads to fatal truck crashes, and had several charges laid against it in 2012 which were eventually dropped last year.”
According to a Macquarie University report, unsafe loads, unsafe schedules and an “inability to raise safety concerns without jeopardising their jobs” are all major factors in truck driving’s dangerous reputation.
It found 80 per cent of truck drivers work more than 50 hours a week, with 10 per cent working more than 80 hours. It also found nearly one in five drivers would not report being pressured to falsify their work diary, citing job security a major concern.
The Federal Government removed the road safety watchdog responsible for setting pay and conditions for transport workers in 2016.
“This watchdog had the power to hold wealthy companies at the top to account for low cost contracts which are leading to the high death toll,” Kaine said.
“We have now seen more than 430 people killed in heavy vehicle crashes since this destructive move by the government, while the number of transport workers being killed is also too high.”