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Media release: Law firm calls for more action on worker fatalities

April 28, 2021
Media release

Media Release
April 27, 2021
For immediate release

Queensland personal injury law firm Smith’s Lawyers are encouraging employers and workers to take a minute silence on April 28, to remember Australian workers who lost their lives on the job for Workers’ Memorial Day.

Queensland holds the unfavourable position as second worst state in the country for workers fatalities, behind NSW, despite a steady decrease in the nation in the past decade.

The latest official data from SafeWork Australia shows that 183 Australian workers died at work or because of work in 2019 – an increase on the previous year from 146. Queensland fatalities accounted for 41 of those deaths, which was also an increase from 39 in 2018 for the state.

Smith’s Lawyers founder and Principal Lawyer Greg Smith said these numbers are frankly too high.

“The statistics show that one Australian worker died every two days from a work-related injury or illness,” Mr Smith said. “The number should be zero. While we’re on the way there, there’s still more we could be doing to prevent work-related deaths and injuries.”

The Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report published in late 2020 also shows that of the 183 deaths throughout the year, 177 were men and six were women.

The three industries that made up a combined 62 per cent of worker fatalities were the transport, postal and warehousing (58), agriculture, forestry and fishing (30) and construction (26) industries.

“These are our truck drivers, couriers, warehouse workers, crop and cattle farmers, builders, carpenters, plumbers,” Mr Smith said. “Jobs which we wouldn’t be able to live without.”

All occupations, except for labourers, reported increases in deaths in 2019 from 2018. Most notably, machinery operators and drivers, which almost doubled.

“Sixty road and rail drivers died on the job in 2019 compared to the previous year,” Mr Smith said.

“Farmers and farm manager deaths also increased to 23 in 2019 from 15 in 2018,” he added.

Having seen first-hand the impacts worker deaths and injuries have on the families left behind, Mr Smith said it’s important to take time to reflect on workplace health and safety policies to ensure safety is the number one priority.

“Every day we get calls from people whose lives have been turned upside down because of an accident at work that’s left them without an income or facing large medical bills,” Mr Smith said.

In the lead up to Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28, Smith’s Lawyers are encouraging employers and employees to take a proactive stance on improving workplace health and safety policies to reduce risk of injury or death.

Mr Smith reflects on the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws three years ago but says there’s still more that workers and employers can be doing to reduce instances of workplace deaths and injuries.

“Everyone deserves to feel and be safe in their workplace. Everyone deserves to come home and eat dinner with their families every night,” he said.

“And in the age of COVID-19, we’re also honouring our essential workers who keep our country moving forward.

"We’re thankful for supermarket workers, truck drivers, nurses, doctors, teachers, farmers, builders, scientists working on treatments and vaccines, first responders and the many millions of Australians who’ve lost their jobs and livelihoods because of COVID-19.”

Preliminary data shows 177 Australian workers were killed at work in 2020, and as of April 15 this year, that number is already 29.

Additional information about Workers’ Memorial Day 2021

  • Workers’ Memorial Day is a day to remember those killed, disabled, injured, or made unwell doing what everyone has the right to do – work.
  • It’s also an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and promote improvement of workplace safety.
  • It takes place annually around the world on April 28 and is also commonly known as World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
  • This years’ theme, as set by the International Trade Union Confederation is Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right.

ENDS

Media Enquiries: Lacee Froeschl, Marketing Coordinator on lfroeschl@smithslawyers.com.au or 3223 5602.

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Amanda is an Associate Solicitor and Practice Group Leader for Smith’s Lawyers, based in our Gold Coast office.

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Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation.

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