UnionsWA has commented on the recent release by SafeWork Australia of the latest data on work fatalities in Australia, including WA. These are the most reliable figures available on work fatalities and provide data on work fatality rates per 100,000 workers over five years to 2015-16. They show the fatality rate in WA worsening from 1.5 in 2011-12 to 1.7 in 2015-16. Over these years, WA is the only state or territory in Australia where the work fatality rate both deteriorated and has been worse than the national average.
Owen Whittle, Assistant Secretary UnionsWA said:
“Over the past five years, our is work fatality rate in WA has actually worsening and remained much higher than the national average.
“In 2015-16 the rate of work fatality per 100,000 employees in WA was 1.7, more than 50% greater than the national average of 1.2.
“Over the past five years the national rate of work fatalities fell from 1.4 to 1.2, while in WA that death rate grew from 1.5 to 1.7.
“Any fatality, at work or otherwise, is a tragic loss for family, friends, co-workers and communities.
“In 2015-16 this report recorded the work-related deaths of 23 West Australians.
“The West Australian economy relies on industries that are inherently dangerous – construction, mining, transportation and agriculture being among these.
“Everyone – working people, unions, employers and governments - have a role in preventing work fatalities.
“The McGowan Government has a task before it to make up for the tragic inheritance left by the Liberal Government, which, time and again failed to address outdated safety legislation and never moved beyond consultation.
“The previous government cut funding to WorkSafe, including a cut in funds for WorkSafe Inspectors and sat idly by as work fatalities worsened.
“A number of urgent reforms are needing, beginning with correcting the poor quality of collection of work fatality statistics by WorkSafe in WA, which hides work fatalities that occur on our roads.
“The McGowan Government has announced it will back harsher penalties for those who break our work health and safety laws, it is vital that these pass the Legislative Council controlled by the Liberals and minor parties.
“WorkSafe inspector positions cut by the Liberals, should be refunded.
“Without a strong and proactive WorkSafe inspectorate more and more safety incidents will not be investigated leaving WA workers at risk of unscrupulous employers.
The Safe Work Australia Comparative Performance Monitoring Report 19th (Part 1) is available online here.