Victorian workplace death toll on the rise

Friday, 12 January, 2018

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There was a rise in Victorian workplace fatalities throughout 2017, with older workers and farmers over-represented in this number.

A total of 27 Victorians lost their lives as a result of an incident at a workplace last year — the highest toll since 2009.

This includes 14 deaths from incidents on farms, which is the highest number of farm fatalities since 2004.

Tragically, the first Victorian workplace death of 2018 also occurred on a farm. A stock agent in his 50s was trampled to death while drafting cattle on a farm at Georges Creek near Albury Wodonga.

WorkSafe Victoria Head of Operations and Emergency Management Adam Watson said the horrific 2017 toll showed that employers and workers needed to think more constructively about what they could do to improve safety at work.

"This toll is more than a statistic. It represents families and friendship circles missing loved ones, workplaces devastated by the death of a colleague and local communities left with a gap that can never be filled," Watson said.

"Employers and workers need to focus on how they can contribute to making their workplace safer. Who would hesitate to take steps to improve safety at work if it meant saving the life of someone they cared about?"

While the circumstances of each fatality varied, the failure to identify and adequately manage hazards was a common theme, especially on farms and where vehicles were involved. In addition, older workers continued to be over-represented in the statistics.

"Employers, particularly those using farm vehicles such as quad bikes, need to remind their workers to recognise risks and prioritise safety before attempting a task," Watson said.

"Age and experience can never be an excuse to forget about safety. Nine of the people who died last year were over the age of 65, and 23 were aged 45 or older.

"Many of those who died were doing tasks they have done many times before, so it is important that everyone takes the time to plan their day with safety in mind.

"Together we must do more to reduce this terrible toll."

Of the 2017 fatalities:

  • 20 occurred in regional Victoria and seven were in greater metropolitan Melbourne;
  • 16 involved vehicles or mobile machinery;
  • the eldest was a 98-year-old resident of a nursing home who fell while being transferred from a bed;
  • the youngest was a six-year-old boy, who died after falling from a ride at the Rye Carnival in April;
  • all but two were males;
  • nine were aged 65 or older;
  • no deaths were recorded among workers aged from 15–26.

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