Poor design putting Australian workers at risk

Published 22 Nov 2014

Organisations are risking the lives of employees by using poorly designed machinery and powered tools, new analysis has claimed.

A Safe Work Australia report revealed that 523 accidental deaths occurred in the country's workplaces between 2006 and 2011. Of these, over one-third (36 per cent) were 'definitely' or 'possibly' due to shortcomings in equipment or plant design.

For this to be the case, either the coroner, police or prosecution had to mention design problems in their reports. The death was also considered design related if there was an existing solution to the issue that could have been easily implemented to prevent an accident.

Michelle Baxter, Safe Work Australia's chief executive officer, said 188 individuals could still be alive today if proper design principles were effectively enforced.

"Good design - safe design - is the most effective and durable way to keep workers safe," she explained.

"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."

Preventing death by design

The most commonly reported design issues were inadequate guarding, which comprised 21 per cent of all incidents, and lack of roll-over protection structures or seatbelts at 15 per cent.

Other problems included:

  • Having no residual current device (12 per cent)
  • Lack of interlock (8 per cent)
  • The obstruction of a driver's vision (8 per cent)

Ms Baxter said organisations should examine their existing protocols to see where to make improvements that could protect workers from injury or worse.

"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," she explained.

"An inexpensive modification or aftermarket add-on could save a worker's life."

A death or serious injury can have a devastating impact on families, causing emotional and monetary strain. To ease some of the financial burden, there are various options available to those affected by workplace accidents, including income protection cover and death benefits.

Not only do these policies cover circumstances that occur both in and out of the workplace, they are sometimes accessible via a claim on your superannuation fund. To learn more about superannuation disputes, please contact a specialist lawyer in this area who can guide you through the intricacies of making a claim.

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