Australia’s Most Dangerous Occupations

Katherine McCallum
Feb 22, 2024
min read
Australian construction workers working outside on a high rise building in the sun

Across Australia, 195 people lost their lives in work-related incidents in 2022, a statistic that equates to 1.4 in every 100,000 workers. We’re taking a deep dive into the numbers to find out Australia’s most dangerous jobs, and what can be done to minimise the risks. 

Industries with the top fatalities

Using statistics from the Work Health and Safety Department for 2022, the industries with the most fatalities during that year can be found below. 

Transport, Postal, and Warehousing

Fatalities (2022): 67 Fatality Rate: 9.5 per 100,000 workers

Those working in the transport, postal and warehousing sector face substantial risks of workplace fatality.

  • High-Risk Jobs: Truck drivers, delivery drivers, forklift operators, and warehouse workers.
  • Leading Causes: Vehicle collisions, being struck by moving objects, and falls from heights.
  • Serious Injuries: Broken bones, spinal injuries, and internal organ damage.

Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

Fatalities (2022): 44 Fatality Rate: 14.7 per 100,000 workers

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing are very dangerous occupations in Australia. Workers in these sectors are very vulnerable due to the following:

  • Examples Of At-Risk Jobs: Farmers, farmworkers, forestry workers, and fishers.
  • Leading Causes: Vehicle accidents (tractors, quad bikes), contact with machinery, falls, and being struck by falling objects or animals.
  • Serious Injuries: Crush injuries, amputations, and head trauma.


Fatalities (2022): 27 Fatality Rate: 2.2 per 100,000

While the fatality rate is lower than the industries mentioned above, construction work still face significant risks.

  • At-Risk Jobs: Builders, labourers, electricians, roofers, and plumbers.
  • Leading Causes: Falls, being struck by falling objects, electrocution, and coming into contact with moving machinery.
  • Serious Injuries: Spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and fractures.

Public Administration and Safety

Fatalities (2022): 11 Fatality Rate: 1.2 per 100,000

Additionally, public administration and safety roles often involve unpredictable risks.

  • At-Risk Jobs: Police officers, emergency services workers, firefighters, and security personnel.
  • Leading Causes: Vehicle accidents, assaults, exposure to hazardous situations and substances.
  • Serious Injuries: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burns, and physical trauma from assaults.


Fatalities (2022): 10 Fatality Rate: 1.2 per 100,000

Manufacturing environments also present various hazards for their workers.

  • At-Risk Jobs: Machine operators, factory workers, and assembly line workers.
  • Leading Causes: Contact with moving machinery, being struck by objects, exposure to chemicals and hazardous substances.
  • Serious Injuries: Amputations, crush injuries, burns, and respiratory illnesses.


Fatalities (2022): 7 Fatality Rate: 2.4 per 100,000

Mining is also very dangerous due to the very nature of the work.

  • At-Risk Jobs: Miners, equipment operators, and drillers.
  • Leading Causes: Entrapment, vehicle incidents, explosions, and exposure to harmful substances.
  • Serious Injuries: Crush injuries, respiratory diseases, and hearing loss.

Important Note: These are just a few examples of Australia’s most dangerous occupations. Risks can also vary greatly between specific job roles within each industry.

Administrative and Support Services

Fatalities (2022): 6 Fatality Rate: 1.4 per 100,000

Administrative and support services jobs might seem safer, but there are still risks.

  • At-Risk Jobs: Cleaners, security guards, office workers, and facilities maintenance personnel.
  • Leading Causes: Slips, trips, and falls, exposure to hazardous substances (cleaning chemicals), assaults (especially for security personnel), and vehicle accidents.
  • Serious Injuries: Broken bones, muscle strains, chemical burns, and head injuries.

Electricity, Gas, Water, and Waste Services

Fatalities (2022): 5 Fatality Rate: 3.0 per 100,000

Workers in the utilities sector face potentially life-threatening hazards.

  • At-Risk Jobs: Electricians, linesmen, utility workers, and waste management workers.
  • Leading Causes: Electrocution, falls from heights, contact with heavy machinery, vehicle accidents, and exposure to hazardous materials.
  • Serious Injuries: Severe burns, amputations, paralysis, and respiratory problems.


Looking over the above data, most of the deaths took place in the transport, postal, and warehousing industries with 67 deaths recorded. However, the highest fatality rate was found in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries, with 14.5 out of every 100,000 workers losing their lives. Coming in third place is the construction industry, with just shy of half the fatalities compared to the agriculture sector. 

What makes these industries so dangerous?

To find out why workers in these sectors are more at risk than others, we need to look closer at the causes of death that were recorded. 

The two most common causes of death, equating to 55% of all fatalities in that year, came from vehicle collisions and incidents with 81 deaths, and being hit by moving objects, with 26 deaths.

While it may seem odd to look at both of these statistics side by side, a striking correlation becomes apparent when you consider the types of incidents that come up in both categories. Vehicle collisions are rather self-explanatory, but under “being hit by moving objects”, the Work Health and Safety Department also counts workers on foot that have been hit by moving vehicles. 

So, should road safety and vehicle safety in the workplace be improved to minimise deaths within high-risk jobs? The answer is not as simple as you may think. Most fatalities happen to workers in the transport and postal industries, and if we are to assume that the most common cause of death among them is incidents involving vehicles, whether they are behind the wheel or not, then we need to look at who may have caused these deaths. As postal workers and transport workers are often on our country’s streets, the likelihood is that they were not killed by another colleague, but instead were at the mercy of other road users and the general public.

The other 45%

There are also some key takeaways from other causes of death that are not the top two. The next most common causes of death were death by falling objects, and falling from a height, two things that again have a correlation.

This means that occupations that involve working at a height, such as in the construction and forestry industries need to make sure they carry out thorough risk assessments, as well as ensuring all workers have the correct protection such as harnesses and hard hats to protect them from falling and unwanted projectiles. 

Being trapped, either by moving machinery or between stable and moving objects is also one of the most common causes of death among workers. This could be caused by a number of situations, including a completely separate category of the rollover of a non-road vehicle, which resulted in 10 deaths in 2022 alone. These statistics express the need for workers and their employers to have greater vigilance around the workplace, especially when working long shifts as the focus and alertness of workers can start to wane.

How does Queensland stack up compared to the rest of the country?

The statistics we have been looking at come from the national figures, but you may be wondering how Queensland compares against other states in Australia for workplace fatalities.

Out of the 195 deaths recorded, 49 of them were in Queensland, with a fatality rate of 1.4 in 100,000. This puts it at the second-highest number of deaths in Australia, with New South Wales having the highest total at 51. Queensland sits in third for the fatality rate, as the Northern territory sits at 2.1, and Western Australia at 2.2. 

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