Australia continues to experience a long-term decline in workplace fatalities. Last year Australia achieved the lowest fatality rate in the 15 years since measurement began (144 fatalities). And according to the 2018 Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities Australia report, fatalities have fallen 62% from a peak of 3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007, to 1.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2018. 

Here’s a snapshot of improvements across different industries, job types, age, gender and more…

In 2018 more than two thirds of all workplace fatalities occurred in three high-risk industries. However, all three of these priority industries experienced a decline in fatalities from the previous year, and fewer fatalities than their 5-year average. 


Fatalities also continued to fall in construction this year – with 24 deaths to date* compared to 27 at the same time last year.  

Job type 

Machinery operators and drivers, and labourers** are two of the most at-risk job types for workplace fatalities in Australia. Fatalities continued to decline for people performing these jobs in 2018. 

  • 51 machinery operators and drivers lost their lives at work in 2018 – 11% fewer than the 5-year fatality average for this type of work.

  • Labourers experienced 36 deaths during 2018 – down 10% on the 5-year average of 46. 

Injury mechanism

Vehicle collisions and falls from height are two high-risk mechanisms for workplace fatality in Australia – both of which saw a decline in fatalities in 2018. 

  • Falls from height caused 18 fatalities in 2018, down from a 5-year high of 29 deaths in 2015. 

  • Vehicle collisions caused 31% of worker fatalities in 2018, below the 5-year average of 35%.


Workplace fatalities fell across all age groups in 2018 – except for young workers aged 25 and under.


In 2018, 94% of workplace fatalities affected men. However, the fatality rate for male workers has been in decline for the last 11 years, falling from 5 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2007, to 2 fatalities in 2018.

Location, location, location

Both fatality rates and the total number of fatalities fell in 2018 for all Australian states and territories*** – except for the ACT which remained unchanged. 

Room for improvement?

Collectively, these statistics confirm that safety in construction and many other industries is heading in the right direction. But while this trend is encouraging, it’s important to remember that any workplace fatality is tragic – and with 152 Australian workers killed at work to date* in 2019, there is still a long way to go towards achieving zero harm.

Although vehicle collisions fatalities declined slightly in 2018, almost one third (31%) of worker fatalities in 2018 were still caused by this type of incident. There is still much room for improvement, and more must be done to reduce this risk.

Young people are also over represented in workplace fatalities, with incidents increasing 5% in the last year. And although workers aged 65+ account for just 4% of the Australian workforce, they accounted for 13% of worker fatalities in 2018. These age groups must be a priority focus for future workplace safety initiatives. 

Are workplace safety incidents declining in your industry? What types of incidents present the greatest risk for your workforce? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn

* 2019 statistics to date taken from 5 December 2019

** Labourer job type includes construction and mining labourers

*** Fatality rates refer to the location where fatalities occurred

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