No one immune from workplace tragedy

Victorian employers and workers are being urged to consider the lasting impact of workplace trauma after the tragic loss of 66 lives in 2021.

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Published: 21 February 2022

This terrible fatality toll includes 43 people who died from workplace incidents and 14 people who succumbed to a disease contracted in the course of employment.

Another five people lost their life last year as a result of a work-related transport accident, there were three deaths following work-related medical incidents and one worker lost their life due to an alleged criminal act.

In addition, more than 23,000 workers were injured seriously enough to have a claim for compensation accepted last year.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Officer Colin Radford said no one in the community was immune to the devastating consequences of a death or injury at work.

"Hundreds of Victorians have just spent their first festive season without a loved one by their side because of a workplace death," Mr Radford said. "Many others are themselves dealing with the pain and suffering from serious and often life-changing injuries suffered at work."

"We need every workplace to take the time to properly assess their health and safety risks and plan how to eliminate or manage them, because failing to do so can lead to tragedy."

The 2021 workplace fatality toll was down from 73 the previous year.

Mr Radford said high-risk sectors, including manufacturing, construction and agriculture, would continue to be targeted by WorkSafe inspectors, who made more than 39,000 visits to workplaces across the state in 2021.

"It's simply unacceptable that we are seeing the same industries feature prominently in workplace deaths and serious injuries year after year," he said.

"WorkSafe is committed to working towards a future where no one loses their life at work, including by taking strong enforcement action against those ignoring their health and safety obligations."

Of the 2021 workplace fatalities:

  • There were 40 deaths recorded in metropolitan Melbourne while 26 occurred in Victoria's five regional areas, including nine in the Barwon South West region.
  • Manufacturing was the deadliest industry with 14 fatalities followed by construction with 13 deaths and agriculture, forestry and fishing which had nine fatalities.
  • Long-term contact with chemicals or substances was the top cause of death accounting for 12 fatalities, including five related to asbestos and four related to crystalline silica; falls from height led to nine deaths; and falling objects were responsible for eight fatalities.
  • Vehicles and machinery were involved in 21 fatalities and were again the most dangerous hazards in Victorian workplaces.
  • There were 63 males who lost their lives compared to three females.
  • More than two-thirds were aged 45 or older at the time of their death.
  • The youngest, an eight-year-old boy, was among three members of the public to lose their life in a workplace incident.
  • The deaths of four workers were related to COVID-19.