Safe Work Australia has attributed the high number of work-related fatalities to unsafe design of machinery, plant and powered tools.

New data released by Safe Work Australia for the period 2006-2011 indicates that these workplace fatalities could have been avoided if safe design principles had been adopted by businesses.

Of the 523 fatalities examined in this study, 36 per cent or 188 fatalities were found to be either definitely or possibly design-related, based on reports by the coroner, prosecution or police, which specifically mentioned design issues as a cause.

Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter observes that good and safe design is the most effective and durable way to keep workers safe, adding that injuries and fatalities at the workplace can be reduced by eliminating hazards during the design of new machinery and equipment or by including an aftermarket enhancement.

The most common causes of design related deaths according to the report included 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 (8 per cent); and driver obstructed vision (8 per cent).

According to Ms Baxter, the findings in this report should act as a serious reminder to all employers and managers to re-evaluate the safety of their machinery.

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