WorkCover NSW lists transport as high risk industry in new report

By: Jason Whittaker

The transport and storage industry has been labelled high risk after a report into New South Wales’ work fatalities revealed

The transport and storage industry has been labelled high risk after a report into New South Wales’ work fatalities revealed road and rail drivers are most likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

WorkCover NSW’s latest statistical bulletin, compiled over the 2006-07 financial year, shows the transport sector has a higher than average incidence of workplace injury and death.

According to the findings, 26 percent 1,000 road and rail transport drivers were involved in a fatal accident in 2006-2007, well ahead of the 19.1 percent figure for agricultural and horticultural workers and 13.6 percent for construction and trade persons.

The injury incidence was also high, with the report showing 24.9 percent of 1,000 workers suffering strains, sprains, fractures or diseases.

While the 137 work-related deaths show a 34 percent reduction since 1987-88, fatalities and injuries remain alarmingly high in the transport and storage industry.

The fatality rate during the 2006-07 financial was 13.1 percent per 1,000 workers, well above the 4.7 percent which is the average.

Furthermore, 3,192 transport and storage workers were injured, equating to 24.6 percent injuries per 1,000 workers. The average rate, according to the report, is 14 percent.

WorkCover has placed the transport and storage industry in the high risk category because its figures are at sharp odds with the average across the State.

Although the fatality rates in the mining and agriculture sectors rated higher, those industries lost four and eight workers respectively as opposed to the transport and storage sector, which accounted for 17 of the 137 fatalities.

And in a sign current safety programs may be failing the industry, the report has collated figures over a 10 year period from 1997-98 to 2006-07 and found of the 741 workplace deaths, transport and storage topped the list with 183 fatalities. The majority of fatalities were from vehicle accidents, which were 139.

The report also found males were most likely to be injured, the 21.8 percent per 1,000 figure ranking fourth behind agriculture, mining and manufacturing. Females, however, did not represent a high incidence of injuries.

The industry has also made the top 10 in disease-related fatalities, such as heart attacks. According to statistics compiled over 10 years, transport and storage workers came in third, behind manufacturing and construction.

While the cost to families is huge, the transport industry continues to suffer on a financial level as well. Of the total $525 million lost during the financial year to injuries, transport lost $102 million, putting it in the top three of those occupations that incurred the highest gross cost.

Businesses in total also suffered from manual handling injuries.
"Manual handling injuries in 2006-07 cost $165 million and involved 78, 279 weeks in time lost," the report says.

Minister for Industrial Relations John Della Bosca says the injury rate for all workplaces remains too high and more must be done to bring it down.
"We should not underestimate the importance of workplace safety," he says.

"Safe workplaces are productive workplaces and they help further reduce the pressure on workers compensation premiums."

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