Falls from Height Remain a Leading Hazard for Australian Workers


One wrong step can have fatal consequences for those doing their job above ground level. Recent data released by Safe Work Australia shows that the risk of falling from height is still a genuine and serious danger for workers in various industries across the nation, from agricultural labourers to truck drivers.

Such falling accidents were responsible for 11 percent of all worker deaths during the span of statistical analysis. The report, titled “Work-Related Injuries and Fatalities Involving a Fall from Height, Australia,” was published in October 2013 and covers an eight-year period from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2011.

“While there has been no improvement in the number of fatalities or the fatality rate in the past eight years, comparison with figures from 20 years ago shows that the number of workers who die each year due to a fall from height has halved,” according to the report.

An examination of workers’ compensation claims reveals that Australians submitted over 7,000 claims for serious injuries in the 2010-11 year alone. Claims are considered serious if the victim was unable to work for a week or more following the incident. Falls from height caused 29 deaths in that same period, out of 232 fatalities reported throughout the eight-year duration of the study.

Safe Work Australia also found that serious injuries are more prevalent in certain sectors. The construction industry saw a total of 41 fall-related fatalities in the three years between 2008 and 2011. This number accounts for 37 percent of the national total, according to the report. Painting workers ranked number one in falling deaths according to occupation, closely followed by plumbers and truck drivers.

There is also a stark difference in gender statistics. Roughly 75 percent of serious from height claims were from males, and men accounted for an overwhelming 98 percent of fatalities. The study’s authors attribute the lopsided numbers to the fact that men are more likely to work at height compared to women.

The Safe Work data also shows that workers above the age of 45 were involved in over two-thirds of fatal falling incidents. Individuals over 65 accounted for nearly half of all fatal falls involving a ladder. Two deaths were reported from falls of less than one metre from ladders, and both were in this age group.

Almost half of all injury claims were for a sprain or strain, while around a quarter reported fractured bones, according to the report. Damage to the knees, back and ankles accounted for 46 percent of serious injury claims.

Safe Work Australia emphasizes the need for safety for those working with heights. Even seemingly simple tasks like accessing shelves and climbing up the side of a vehicle can have permanent repercussions, which is why businesses and workers alike are encouraged to employ safety measures to prevent falls from height on the job.

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