Last Updated: 07 September 2010
NEEDLES IN HAYSTACKS
When VOID launched in May 2006, the process of gathering data into workplace deaths in Australia and South Australia was, to say the least, incredibly difficult. It literally was akin to trying to find needles in a haystack.
This has improved somewhat in the last couple of years in that the data is more available than it was in 2006 but still there is much that can be done to improve the way departments around Australia handle this information. There was no consistent approach to how these departments gathered their data, nor was it possible to compare how the various states performed because of the vast differences in how workplace deaths were classified.
It was and still is a confusing process, albeit with a push for a more harmonised national system, perhaps this will change too. The creation of SafeWork AUSTRALIA may well push for a more uniform process but as yet, this doesn’t appear to have happened.
HOW STATISTICS ARE GATHERED
Once again this varies a great deal from State to State and it would appear as per recent events, that even SafeWork SA may change their view on what constitutes a workplace fatality and what does not.
For example, a fatality which occurs in the event of an accident on the road, will not be always be recorded as a workplace fatality. That was highlighted in recent months when a truck driver died delivering a load to the rather controversial DESAL PLANT in the South of Adelaide.
It seems odd that this driver’s death was not listed as a workplace fatality when we have cited similar fatalities having occurred on 15th December 2007 at Gillman; 6th July 2005 at Mannum; 4th May 2004 yet another truck driver died as a result of a road accident. Further to this, we have recorded deaths of a Music Teacher dying when the car left the road on the 19th May 2005. Likewise on the 24th April 2005 a working director was killed when another vehicle hit his car.
See - this system is just simply random and confusing. The vehicle is their workplace if they are at the time of their death, performing workplace duties.
Another death associated with the DESAL PLANT was that of Allan O’Neil. The public was only made aware of this by means of media activity. It would appear that SafeWork SA declared this death non work related. How so? The worker was found on site. He was employed at the site. How is it this one crawled out of the realm of recognised workplace deaths?
One might have hoped that our statistical process of identification would become less tainted as time goes on but it seems there is a long way to go before we have anything reliable to go by.