As part of annual safety week activities, South Australia’s Minister for Industrial Relations, John Rau, launched a workplace fatalities counter (on the right of the webpage). Rau said in a media release that
“As Safe Work Week begins in South Australia, we are reminded of the nine workers who have not returned home from work this year….. In a similar way to the reporting of the road toll, providing this information is a reminder to us all that we must make every effort to ensure this number does not rise.”
The comparison with the road toll is an admirable aim and one that some have advocated for but there are other potential metrics that may have had more impact.
The media release states that
“Of the 800,000 workers in South Australia, one is injured every 30 minutes. Every 90 minutes, one worker develops a work-related illness.”
Given the comparative rarity of fatalities perhaps the injury and illness data would be more effective particularly if the personal and social impact of each of these incidents was noted.
Even more effective could be a cost ticker which records the dollar value of the injuries and illnesses. The figure will only be an estimate but Rau’s media release states the national economic impact (A$60.6 billion or 4.8 per cent of the Australian GDP) and he says:
“This cost is borne by workers, their families and the broader community, including business,”
Every workplace fatality is a tragedy and, although people accept that these fatalities are preventable, people need to feel that they can do something to prevent injury. It would be easier to broaden this communication through a wider range of measures – injuries, illnesses, and business costs.