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Safe Work lists trucking as most dangerous

Road freight remains the most dangerous sector in Australia, despite significant drop in the fatality rate in recent years

By Brad Gardner | October 4, 2013

The road freight industry remains the most dangerous sector in Australia, despite a significant decline in fatality rates in recent years.

A new report from Safe Work Australia on health and safety in the road freight transport industry has revealed there was a 48 per cent drop in the annual number of work-related fatalities between 2006-07 and 2010-11.

The number of fatalities fell from 58 to 30, reducing the incidence rate from 38 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2006-07 to 19 in 2010-11.

“Despite this, fatality rates in the road freight transport industry were roughly 10 times higher than those for all industries across the eight years up to 2011,” Safe Work Australia says.

The report shows males in the 35-44 and 45-54 age brackets accounted for most of the fatalities between 2003-04 and 2010-11.

“Notably, there were 82 deaths of male workers aged 55-64 years and 17 aged 65 years and over – together representing just over one quarter (28%) of all work-related fatalities in the industry,” the report states.

Of the 352 work-related fatalities in the eight years to 2011, 78 percent occurred while the person was driving on a public road. The most common cause was hitting a stationary object, followed by rollovers and being hit by a moving vehicle.

There were 49 fatalities from loading and unloading, which accounted for 64 per cent of fatalities that occurred at a location other than on a public road. Safe Work Australia says the most common fatality was being hit by falling objects (15 fatalities).

“Most of these fatalities involved a truck driver being struck by an object falling from the truck being unloaded or from the forklift being used,” the report says.

There were 13 fatalities in the eight years to 2011 from being trapped between stationary and moving objects.

Safe Work Australia says the incidents were mainly due to the hazards of manoeuvring trucks and trailers, the presence of other vehicles in the vicinity, the use of loading bays and ramps, and vehicle mounted cranes.

Safe Work Australia also looked at the number of compensation claims between 2002 and 2011. The report shows there were around 4,000 non-fatal serious workers’ compensation claims requiring a week or more away from work each year during the period.

Incidents involving manual handling or falls covered the bulk of claims, while the rate of claims increased with age.

“Male employees aged under 25 years had the lowest incidence rate (32 claims per 1000 workers) while males aged 65 years and over had the highest rate (41),” the report says.

The most common types of injuries were sprains and strains (45 per cent), followed by fractures (13 per cent) and contusions (8 per cent).

Safe Work Australia says the median cost of a claim for the road freight transport sector was consistently higher than all industries by between $300 and $1,500 between 2002-03 and 2010-11.

“The median time lost from work for employees in the Road freight transport industry was consistently higher than the all industries figure by between 1 and 1.8 weeks over the period,” the report states.

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