Safe Design Saves Lives

Work-related fatalities associated with unsafe design of machinery, plant and powered tools, 2006-2011 report indicates a high number of work-related fatalities could have been avoided if risks had been eliminated through safe design.

The report released by Safe Work Australia revealed of the 523 fatalities examined in this study, 36 per cent or 188 fatalities were found to be either definitely or possibly design-related. This means that design issues were specifically noted in the Coroner’s, prosecution or police reports or that there are existing solutions for these design issues that could have been applied and might have prevented the fatality.

“It is awful to think that the 188 people who lost their lives could still be with us if safe design principles were used,” said Michelle Baxter, Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer.

“Good design—safe design—is the most effective and durable way to keep workers safe. If we can eliminate hazards and risks during the design of new machinery and equipment or by including an aftermarket enhancement then we can reduce injuries and fatalities in the workplace.”

According to the report the most common causes of design related deaths were:

  • inadequate guarding (21 per cent);
  • lack of roll-over protection structures/seat belts (15 per cent);
  • lack of residual current device (12 per cent);
  • lack of interlock (eight per cent), and
  • driver obstructed vision (eight per cent).

“The findings in this report should act as a serious reminder to all employers and managers to re-evaluate the safety of the machinery they use. An inexpensive modification or aftermarket add-on could save a worker’s life,” said Ms Baxter.

Healthy and safe by design is one of seven action areas identified in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.

For more information on safe design or to download the report Work-related fatalities